He who is guilty of wrong is the first person to suspect wrong in someone else. When human beings start accusing, they are not satisfied with simply pointing out the supposed defect in somebody else. They will resort to compulsion to force others to comply with their ideas about what is right. The Jews did this in the time of Christ. Do we still do this today?
Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). When men begin seeking to earn salvation by their own works, it inevitably leads them to pile up human exactions as a barrier against sin. When they see that they fail to keep the law, they devise all manner of rules and regulations of their own to force themselves to obey. This then turns the mind away from God and toward self, resulting in the love of God dying out in the heart and with it, love for our fellow men. A system of human intervention designed to guarantee that people are good, with its multitudinous exactions, always leads its advocates to judge all who come short of the prescribed human standard.
This judging causes a development of an atmosphere of selfish and narrow criticism that stifles the noble and generous emotions and causes men to become self-centered, judges, and petty spies. Such were the Pharisees in Christ’s day. They came out from their religious services, not humbled with a sense of their own weakness, nor grateful for the great privileges that God had given them, but rather, they came forth filled with spiritual pride. Their thoughts centered on themselves, their feelings, their knowledge, and their ways which were better than others.
The Pharisee’s own attainments became the standard by which all others were judged. By putting on, what you might call, the garment of self-dignity and self-righteousness, they mounted the judgment seat to criticize and condemn others. Jesus recorded the prayer of the Pharisee who was just like this in Luke 18:11, literal translation, where he said, “Lord, I thank You that I am not like other men are … .”
The people partook of this very same spirit, which intruded upon the province of the conscience. People began to judge one another in matters that lay between the soul and God alone. It was in reference to this spirit and practice of judging in matters of conscience that Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” In other words, do not set yourself up as the standard. Do not make your opinions, your views of duty and your interpretations of Scripture, the criteria for everybody else in the world. Do not condemn others because they do not come up to your standard of ideals. Do not criticize and pass judgment upon others conjecturing their motives, which you really don’t know.
Notice what the apostle Paul said about this in 1 Corinthians 4:5: “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.”
There is coming a time when everyone in the world will be judged. The apostle Paul says, “… we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ … to receive a reward for deeds done in the body …” (2 Corinthians 5:10, literal translation).
Jesus said a time was coming when nothing will escape from being revealed (Matthew 10:26). That is God’s providence – the One who alone knows the hearts of mankind and the secret motives that impel them to do what they do and say what they say. But we, as human beings, cannot read the heart. We are faulty ourselves and are not qualified to sit in judgment upon others because we are only able to judge from the outward appearance, which is often deceiving.
God knows the secret springs of action. The Bible says that He will judge righteously and with compassion. In Romans the apostle Paul again brings a rebuke to those who are entering on the judgment seat as human beings. Notice what he says: “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things” (Romans 2:1).
Those who condemn or criticize others are also guilty themselves because they do the same things. In condemning others, we pass sentence upon ourselves, and God declares that this sentence that we pass is just and He accepts our own verdict against ourselves. The sin that leads to the unhappiest results is the cold, unforgiving, critical spirit that characterizes Phariseeism. When our own religious experience lacks love, Jesus is not there; the sunshine of His presence is absent. No matter how busy we are in activity for Christ, our zeal cannot supply the lack of love.
Whoever possesses a wonderful keenness of perception in discovering the defects of others is nothing but a hypocrite. The admonishment is to first cast out the log from your own eye and then you will be able to see clearly to take out the splinter from the other person’s eye (Matthew 7:5). You see, it is the one who is guilty of wrongdoing himself who is the first to suspect wrong. When men indulge in this accusing spirit, they are not satisfied with pointing out what they suppose is the defect in somebody else. If milder means fail of making that person what they think he ought to be, they will resort to compulsion. Just as far as lies in their power, they will force other men to comply with their ideas of what is right.
This is exactly what the Jews did in the days of Christ and the apostles and is also what the Christian church has done ever since whenever she has lost the grace of Christ. When the church finds herself destitute of the power of love, which actually is the most powerful thing in the universe, then she has reached out for the strong arm of the state to enforce her dogmas and execute her decrees. When you understand that, then you understand the secret behind all religious laws and legislation that have ever been enacted and the secret of all persecution from the days of Abel to our own time.
Jesus Christ never uses these methods to draw men to Him or to make them righteous. He does not drive men, but He draws them to Himself. The only compulsion that Jesus uses is the constraint of love. The apostle Paul says, “… the love of Christ constrains us …” (2 Corinthians 5:14). In other words, it impels us; it forces us to act. When the church begins to seek for the support of the state, the support of secular power, it is thereby plainly evident that that church is devoid of the power of Christ, the constraint of divine love.
What we need worldwide in Christianity today is to be constrained by the love of Christ, to have His character inside which will impel us to activity for Christ and to do what is right. When we take upon ourselves His yoke, the yoke of obedience and service, there will be no need for someone to crack the whip over us to make us do what is right. Jesus said, if we need something, then we need to go to the Lord and ask for it.
Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:7–11)!
No specific condition is mentioned here. If you feel your need enough to ask, the Lord will hear. Do you hunger for His mercy? Do you desire His counsel? Do you long for His love? Then ask in faith and you will receive. The Lord has pledged His word and it cannot fail. If you come with true contrition, you need not feel that you are presumptuous in asking the Lord for what He has promised. When you ask for the blessings that you need in order that you might perfect a character after Christ’s likeness, the Lord assures you that you are asking according to a promise that will be fulfilled. If you know that you are a terrible sinner, that is sufficient ground for you to come and ask for His mercy and compassion.
The condition that you can come to God is not that you have to be holy or that you have to fulfill some obligation first. There is no condition. You can come just the way you are. Although you are not holy, when you come to Him, desiring that He cleanse you from your sin and purify you from all iniquity, then that is the argument that you may come with and plead. We can always come with our great need for deliverance from our sins. Our utterly helpless state makes His redeeming power a necessity and so, if we come presenting our need, our need will be fulfilled.
Notice what the Bible says about this in Job 22:21 KJV: “… acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace.” Just before his death David told his son, Solomon, “If you seek Him, He will be found by you” (1 Chronicles 28:9, last part). So, “If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father … give good things to them that ask Him” (Matthew 7:11, literal translation).
Notice the way this passage is put in the gospel of Luke: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Luke 11:13)! The Holy Spirit is the greatest of all gifts that God can give you. All good things are comprised in this gift. In fact, the Creator Himself cannot give you anything any better or any greater. When we ask the Lord that we might receive the Holy Spirit, we are asking for a gift that with it will bring to us every other gift from God that we need.
When we ask the Lord to pity us in our distress and to guide us by His Holy Spirit, He will never turn away from our prayer. The Bible is very clear that it is possible for a parent to turn away from his hungry child. Everyone who has done very much reading has read awful cases of children who have been abandoned, but God will never abandon those who have a longing and needy heart.
The Lord told people who have felt in their distress that God was not mindful of their need, that they did not really understand His love for them. Notice what He says to them in Isaiah: “Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.’ ‘Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands’ (Isaiah 49:14–16, first part). (Humanity was inscribed on the palms of His hands when they were nailed to the cross.) Your walls are continually before Me” (verse 16, last part). Jesus said that even though a human parent may forget, He will never forget. Every promise in the word of God, therefore, brings us subject matter for prayer and shows us what we may pray for. If God has promised it and we ask with an honest heart, we are going to have it.
It is our privilege to claim these promises and have our sins forgiven when we come to Him in faith and confess them. And He has promised to forgive them as recorded in 1 John 1:9. We may also state to Him not only our need for forgiveness of sins, our need for spiritual help, and strength, and salvation, but we are perfectly free to come to Him with any temporal concern or matter – our financial difficulties, our need for food and clothing, for shelter. Whatever our need is, we are invited to come and ask for it.
We must not forget that when we come and ask for these things from the Lord, as our Father, we are acknowledging that we are His children. If we are His children, then we are going to have our petitions. If we claim to be His children, we have given ourselves to His work. It was those to whom Jesus had said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness …” (Matthew 6:33), that Jesus gave the promise, “… Ask, and you will receive …” (John 16:24).
In summing up His instruction in Matthew 7:12, literal translation, Jesus said, “… whatever you desire that men should do to you, you do even so to them.” This text has been called “The Golden Rule.” In this text Jesus teaches us that our anxiety should not be how much are we going to receive, but rather, how much are we going to give. The standard of our obligation to others is found in what we ourselves would regard as their obligation to us if our situation were reversed. So, in our association with others, we need to attempt mentally to put ourselves in their place, to enter into their feelings, their difficulties, their disappointments, their joys and sorrows. We need to identify with them and then do to them the same way that we would want them to do to us if the situation were reversed. This is the true rule of honesty and courtesy.
In Matthew 22:39 KJV Jesus said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” This is the real expression of the law. This, of course, is the substance of the teaching of the prophets. It is a principle of heaven and it will be developed in everyone who is fitted for the holy companionship of heaven and allowed to go there. The Golden Rule is the genuine principle of true courtesy. Its truest illustration is seen in the life and character of Jesus Christ. When we study His life we see not only softness, not only firmness, but beauty and sweetness that flowed from His very presence. Even the children loved to be around Him and to climb up in His lap.
The same spirit is to be seen in His children. When Jesus dwells in the heart, a divine atmosphere will surround us with a fragrance of purity. No man who really understands what constitutes a true Christian character will fail to manifest the sympathy and the tenderness of Jesus Christ, because the influence of His grace is to soften our hard hearts and to give us a heaven-born sense of delicacy and a true sense of propriety. As with all gifts and blessings of this life, whatever we have that our fellows do not have, places us in debt to that degree that others are less favored. There are people around us who are sick. Some are widowed. Others are orphaned and fatherless. We need to treat them the way that we would like them to treat us if our situations were reversed.
The Golden Rule teaches by way of implication the very same truth that Jesus taught in Luke 6:38, where He said that “… with what measure you mete, it will be measured to you again” (literal translation). Simply stated, whatever we do to others, whether good or evil, will surely react upon ourselves, whether in blessing or curse. Whatever we give, we are going to receive again.
The earthly blessings that we give to others are often repaid in kind. What we give often does come back to us even in this world, sometimes in four-fold measure. But, besides this, all gifts are repaid in God’s eternal time of reckoning, both the good and evil. If I impart evil, that evil will return to me again. Any person who has been free to condemn or discourage or bring hardship upon others will, sooner or later, in his own experience, be brought over the same ground where he has caused others to pass. He will feel the same that he has caused others to feel.
The standard of the Golden Rule – whatever you wish that men would do to you, you do to them – is the standard of Christianity. Anything short of that is not true Christianity, but a mere deception. A religion that leads men to place a low estimate upon other human beings, human beings whom Jesus estimated to be of sufficient value to give His life for, is a spurious religion and not Christianity. If we slight the claims of the poor, the suffering, and the sinful, we prove ourselves to be traitors of Jesus Christ. When men or women take upon themselves the name of Christ, calling themselves Christians while denying His character, they have little power in the world and the name of the Lord is blasphemed because of these things.
Friend, we need to ask ourselves a question, especially if we call ourselves Christians. Is my religion real? If my Christianity is real, am I manifesting in my life and practice the principle of the Golden Rule?
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.