This morning we return to our theme for this year called Overflow. We stopped the series as the pandemic broke out and we needed to look at having faith in these difficult times. But I want us to continue moving forward in our faith. As we adapt to this new normal we need to continue to move forward with God, strengthening our faith in him. The theme for this series comes from John 7:37-38.
On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” (John 7:37–38 CSB)
We are seeing Jesus as the one who truly satisfies. If anyone thirsts, come to Jesus and drink and you will find life-satisfying waters. But not only will we find satisfaction, we are to have these streams of living waters flowing out of our hearts to the world. People are to come to us and find the life-giving waters of Jesus flowing from us. So we have asked ourselves this question: what flows out of us? What do people see flowing from us? In our lesson today we are going to look at how mercy and grace are to overflow from us. I want us to turn in our copies to God’s word to a passage that we may not think about being about mercy and grace. But let’s consider Matthew 7:1-5 as our text and let’s look at what Jesus is teaching.
The Key (7:1-2)
Most people know the first verse really well and want to make a big deal out of this verse. But if we do not keep reading we will completely miss the point Jesus is making. Jesus is not getting rid of all judgments. God gave us the scriptures so that we could judge our own hearts and judge our own lives. Stopping all judgments is not the point. The point is for us to look at how we are judging others. Look at verse 2. Jesus says that how you judge other people is how God is going to judge you. Jesus says that how you measure other people is how God is going to measure you. Think about this for a minute. How you choose to look at other people is the way God will choose to look at you. Now we might think that would be a good thing. Maybe we think that we are doing a good job in the way that we look at other people. So Jesus is going to make sure we are not thinking this about ourselves. Look at verses 3-4.
The Problem (7:3-4)
“Why do you seek the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is a log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3-4 ESV)
What does Jesus say is the problem with how we look at other people? The problem is that we find it easy to nitpick all the issues that we see in another person but cannot see our own issues and faults. We have no trouble finding all the problems in another person’s life, but we refuse to see all the problems in our own lives. Ironically, sometimes the problems we see in other people are the same problems in our own lives. But we can only see the other person’s faults and cannot see our own. This is especially true when we have a Bible study or sermon and we hope that some other person heard that lesson. We hope our spouse heard that lesson. We hope our parents or our children heard that lesson. We hope that some brother or sister in Christ heard that lesson. But did we hear that lesson? It is so easy to pick apart the lives of others. But are completely unwilling to apply the same standard to our own lives. Jesus even uses a contrast as he speaks about this. He says you are pulling specks out of other people’s eyes when you have a log extending out of your own eye. Sometimes it gets to the point in our relationships that we want to find specks. We are just lying in wait looking for something else that we can judge that person.
This has become really bad today in our culture where we are looking for every little speck in the lives of other people. Basically, we find specks in the fact that someone does not agree with us. We think it is a mountain that this person does not watch what we watch, vote how we vote, think how we think, act how we act, look how we look, or any other surface level judgment. Unfortunately, as Christians we can easily allow this toxic cultural thinking change the way we think and we start doing the same thing. We start being critical and judging by these kinds of externals rather than looking at other people the way God looks at them.
We need to see that what we are looking at may not be a speck at all. Maybe our log is completely distorting how we are looking at the other person. Now you may be wondering what this has to do with the topic that I said this lesson is about. This area is one big reason why we fail to overflow with mercy and grace. We overflow with criticism and judgment rather than mercy and grace because we are looking for specks in other people’s lives. When we deem ourselves the fault finder of other people’s lives, it will be absolutely impossible to show mercy and grace to others. Rather than making allowances for people, we have found a speck and we are going to make sure everyone knows that this person has a speck. Do you want to be judged this way? Do you want to be treated this way? Then why do we do this in our relationships? Why do we do this with others if this is not the way we want to be treated?
What Jesus Wants (7:5)
So what does Jesus want? Look at verse 5. Jesus wants you to look at yourself before you look at others. If we are going to overflow with mercy and grace, then when we see a speck in a person’s eye, the first thing we need to think about are all the specks in our own eyes. We need to ask ourselves why that person’s speck is bothering us so much. Why are we so consumed with the choices others are making? I think one of the reasons why we like to find the speck in other people’s eyes is because it makes us feel better. It is a method of deflection. I will take your attention off of my life and spotlight the failures of others. Look at how dumb that person is for what they did. It sure does make me look better.
This is also how we defend the specks and logs in our eyes. “I might have a problem, but look at all your problems!” We are really good at this too. Rather than extending mercy, we extend judgment. Rather than extending grace, we extend criticism. So we stare at people’s specks acting like we do not have any specks in our eyes or even logs in our own eyes.
Before you start talking about how everyone else is a screw up, you need to remind yourself that you are just as much as a screw up. There is something liberating about living your life in this way. If someone has a criticism or complaint against you, just own it. You are right. I am a sinner. Notice what Jesus called people who do not do this? He calls them hypocrites. If you do not think you have your own specks and logs then you are hypocrite. We can liberate ourselves from this scourge by just admitting that we are awful sinners. We are judgmental. We are failures. We have fallen short of the glory of God. We have been caught up in things we should not have said or done. Listen to what the writer of Ecclesiastes teaches:
Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others. (Ecclesiastes 7:21–22 ESV)
Notice the model that the teacher gives. The reason you can let go of what others have said about you is because you know you have done the exact same thing. You know you have done it to. You know that you need just as much mercy and grace as the next person.
So comes back to Matthew 7:5. After you have the log out of your eye, is Jesus saying that you now you can judge them? Since I do not have the problem that this person is showing, I have the right to criticize and judge them? No, that is not what Jesus is saying. We need to tie verse 5 back into the first two verses of chapter 7. The big log in our eye is the way we look at people and evaluate their lives. Jesus wants us to look at people the way he does. Use God’s point of view not your own point of view. This would fix much of the world’s problems today. When we look at ourselves first, then we will not be so quick to judge by our judgments and unrighteous thinking but with God’s way of thinking. Only now can we actually help someone. Only now will we be able to overflow with mercy and grace toward people. Listen to what Jesus said earlier in this very sermon.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. (Matthew 5:7 ESV)
If we want God to be merciful to us, then we must show mercy to others. We cannot be what Jesus has called us to be as merciful people until we see the log in our own eyes and focus our attention on removing it first. Now be honest with yourself here. How hard is it to remove your logs and specks from your eye? It is really hard, isn’t it? Think about all the sins and failures you have committed over and over again. Think about all the things you have done that you are sorry for, repented of, asked forgiven for, and then committed again. Think about how difficult this is. Now keep this in mind when we are seeing others with their specks and logs. Look at people the way God sees them, not through the self-righteous lens that we often look at people through. We cannot be gracious until we work on our own logs first. The more we are aware of how much more work God must do in our lives, the more gracious and merciful we will be of others as we see how much more work God must do in their lives.
Think about the Pharisees that Jesus is interacting with on a daily basis. Why were they the way they were? They had logs in their eyes that they did not see which led them to be harsh, merciless, and ungracious people. They did not care about people. They cared only about themselves and judged Jesus harshly. So what are we full of? What is overflowing out of us? Does mercy, grace, and compassion overflow out of us? Or does criticism, judgment, anger overflow out of us? What log is in your life that is keeping you from seeing others clearly? How can you complain about others’ specks when you have logs and specks too?