Luke 6:37-42: Thou Shalt Not Judge!
The eleventh commandment is ‘Thou shalt not judge!’ At least in our modern pluralistic context where all religion is now equally irrelevant this is deemed to be a cardinal rule. At times it seems as if the only thing people know about Jesus teaching is that He taught that we should not judge. It is to this section that we turn now in the Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6:37-42. Key to understanding this section is the context. Jesus has divided the people of Israel into two groups, the godly and the ungodly, but here is how the first century context differs with our own. In the first century everyone was religious. The poor, hungry, weeping and persecuted prayed, worshipped, attended synagogue and the temple but so did the rich, happy, sated and loved. In the first century the comparison was not between the religious and the non-religious but rather two different types of religion.
Christ was deeply critical of the prevailing form of Judaism in the first century as it had lost its moorings and was no longer recognisable as the worship of the OT. Sure it had all the external forms, and in many ways it was more zealous in the externals than former generations, but it was no longer a way of serving God that flowed from grace but rather a form of religion natural to the sinful self. We can glean several characteristics of this religion that provokes the curse of God from Jesus criticisms. Matt. 23:3 they preach but do not practice; v4 says they laid heavy legal burdens on God’s people; v5 talks about their exhibitionism; v6 talks about their social climbing. Jesus describes how they invent ways of lying and breaking oaths, how they are scrupulous with minor matters but neglect love and justice. He talks about how their external religion has every appearance of restraint and discipline, but internally they are full of greed and indulgence. He talks about how they persecute those who speak God’s word. Our portion adds further descriptions that square with a hypocritical and legalistically oriented man-made religion; judgementalism and prejudice instead of mercy and generosity being the default way of relating to others. It is on this tendency that Jesus turns His sights.
Jesus has been describing what Kingdom love looks like in v27-36. We highlighted in our look at that love how it differs from the type of thing that was going on in the name of love in first century Judaism. Love was being defined by race, generosity was given to the deserving, favours were done to friends not enemies. In this section Jesus is continuing to pick on the loveless nature of bad religion and in particular picks up on one of the main features of man-made religion, judgementalism. We will be looking at this section under three headings. In v37-38 we want to look at how Jesus warns of the danger of being judgemental as He highlights how God will respond to it. Secondly, in 39-40 we see a warning about following these false teachers who mislead in this judgemental form of religion. Thirdly, Jesus calls for the remedy of self-examination to overcome this judgementalism.