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Sawdust, 2x4s and Teenagers

Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

I propose we add an 11th Commandment. The Decalogue seems incomplete for a postmodern culture and an 11th, more culturally acceptable tag on, could provide a welcome reprieve from the harsh tone of the original ten. Here’s what I propose:

“Thou shalt not judge.”

Okay, so I’m being sarcastic here. But, to be honest, I think that many Christians and non Christians today have not only added this commandment to the original ten but replaced them with it. We live in a society that hates being judged and, unfortunately, more and more churches reflect the society’s anti-judgment sentimentalities.

Never mind that the failure to make judgments can lead to the unraveling of lives and of nations. What if another Hitler rose up and began to talk about a lesser race and the elimination of it for society’s “greater good”? Would you make a judgment then?

What if you saw a little girl picking up a bottle of poison and put it to her lips? Not only would you make a judgment but you would rip it out of her little hands before it was too late! Is it any different when we see our Christian young people putting the poison of sin up to their lips? Failure to make a judgment about the situation and then act leads to moral destruction. We can and should do this in a loving way.

Now you may be thinking, “Wait a minute Greg! Doesn’t Jesus command us to refuse to judge others?” Actually Jesus goes farther than that. He commands us to judge properly, to judge without being judgmental or hypocritical. Let’s take a look at his powerful words in Matthew 7:1-5

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

What is Jesus saying here? He is warning us that if we choose to judge others then we too will be judged. He is reminding us that God will use the same standard to judge us that we have used to judge others. He is calling us to refuse to judge others until we have first judged ourselves.

If Jesus was making the point that making judgments in and of itself was a sin then why would His Spirit inspire the Apostle Paul to write these words?

“But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked man from among you.'” 1 Corinthians 5:11-13

This passage commands us to judge sin in the church. But how are we to do it? Here’s where it gets tricky. In 1 Corinthians 5 the Spirit of God commands us to judge those who sin in the church and in Matthew 7 the person of Jesus tells us not to do so hypocritically. We are not to judge someone who’s got a piece of sawdust in their eye while we have a 2 x 4 protruding from our eye socket. We are not to try to deal with other people’s sin when we haven’t dealt with our own. As my momma used to say, “Clean up your own backyard first before you trying to clean up mine.”

To be honest I think that’s where we are losing the next generation of Christian young people. We preach against the sin of internet porn but often are mired in our own sin of materialism. We preach against the dangers of drugs but engage in a workaholic lifestyle that can be as addictive and spiritually destructive as heroin, meth or weed. We tell our teenagers to go to church where they can learn about the love of Christ and then they see us argue all the way there and all the way back in the car. The spiritual distance we have with our teenagers and the teens around us is created by the lumber yard protruding from our collective eye sockets.

Moms, dads, aunts, uncles and concerned Christian adults everywhere before we nag and rag on the next generation let’s have a bonfire. Let’s pull the materialism, selfishness, apathy and arrogance out of our own eyes and then we can make proper judgments about the next generation. And then maybe, just maybe, they will take us seriously when we make a judgment on them.

What’s great about this process is that it doesn’t take perfection, just progress. If teenagers see us trying to live holy lives they will appreciate it and take us infinitely more seriously when we talk to them about living for Christ.

Some of you may feel a little judged by what I have shared in this post so I will share the words of my own pastor with you, “I’m not judging you. I’m just telling you what the Judge said.”

Now excuse me while I take the beam out of my own eye and beat myself silly with it.

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