Part of being merciful and loving others is to recognize our own shortcomings before we condemn the shortcomings of others. The way we treat others will be turned back on us. (38)
Do not judge or condemn and you will not be judged and condemned (37) This verse is often abused as people claim we cannot say any actions are wrong. Yet, Jesus said we can discern right from wrong. But this verse is also often ignored, because we want to point out the failings of others and ignore our own. We are judgmental and critical of others.
Be careful about holding people to standards you cannot meet. Jesus confronted the Pharisees on this. He said they imposed burdens on people they could not bear themselves.
Also, be careful about ascribing bad motives to people who do something you do not like, but which is not necessarily bad. For example, once a dinner, a guest complained about something the pastor had announced during the service, saying he only wanted to get more money. I replied that the guest could not know that to be true. He said it was obvious. I said you cannot know that just from the announcement. The guest asked how I could be so sure? I told him it was my idea. I had persuaded the pastor to do what he did and not for money. Our presuppositions, especially the cynical ones, can lead us to violate the law of Christ.
In contrast, if you forgive others, you will be forgiven. Since we all mess up, this is a great idea. Your turn will come.
This is even in the Lord’s prayer: Matthew 6:12. Jesus said to pray for the Father to forgive us as we forgive those who sin against us. Offering forgiveness to others is a sign of your repentance and faith in Christ, of your membership in his kingdom.
If you give grace and forgiveness to someone who needs it, it will also be given to you. That is, if you are generous in giving grace to someone who asks you for it, you will receive generously when you are in need.
With the measure you use, it will be measured back to you (38) None of us want judgment - we all want mercy! So, extend mercy. When Jesus says it will be given to you in good measure, he is giving an example from the marketplace. It you went and bought grain, for example, the seller might put it in a cone or jar or some other container. If he gave good measure, he would shake it to let the grain settle, and pour some more on top. Then he would press it down and pour some more on top.
Jesus told some parables to illustrate his point. First, he said a blind person cannot lead another blind person (39) This may have provoked a laugh, because you can see what a disaster that would be.
That example of both leader and follower stumbling around has a spiritual application. If you cannot see your own faults, you cannot help another person with theirs. But, Jesus’ statement is also a caution to be careful whom you follow. A person who is harsh and condemning cannot lead you to act like Jesus in giving mercy.
Second, a student is not above his teacher (or else he would not be the student) but, after being taught, he becomes like his teacher. (40) Followers tend to be like their leaders. If you want confirmation of that assertion, pick a cult and study it. Then study a person who devoted himself to learning and obeying Jesus’ words in the Bible and became like Christ. When we follow Jesus, we become like him. If our leaders follow Jesus’ teaching, they will lead us to become like Jesus. If our leaders do not follow Jesus’ teaching, they will lead us into spiritual blindness.
Third, Jesus spoke of a speck verses a log. Human nature sees a small problem in another and ignores its own larger problem. That makes you a hypocrite. (42) First take out your log, then worry about the other person’s speck (42). In other words, know yourself & deal with yourself before you deal with someone else’s shortcomings.
Fourth, Jesus compared the human heart to a fruit tree. A good heart produces good deeds & good words. (43) A bad heart produces bad deeds & bad words. If you speak hatefully, act vengefully and hurt others, you do not have the heart of Christ, who loved his enemies, prayed for them and worked for their good. When your own heart if sanctified by Christ, it will produces goodness and mercy directed to others. Until you get to that point, it is better not to speak to others about their problems.
All of this sounds a bit crazy in our culture doesn’t it?
But Jesus said you must build your life on hearing his words and doing them, counter-cultural or not. That is a foundation of rock that cannot be shaken or broken (48) Think of Job as an example. He suffered horribly, but did not sin.
In contrast, the one (especially who claims to follow Christ) who does not obey Jesus’ words has a house that will crumble and fall when trouble comes. (49)
This is difficult teaching. It is not difficult to understand, but it is difficult to practice. But my prayer is that you will not ignore it because it is difficult. Rather, I pray you will meditate on this passage and grapple with your heart to produce the fruit of following Christ.