In many places in Scrpiture, judgment and mercy are usually found the same context. As well they should be: the criminal when before the judge’s gavel seeks mercy from him. And the Christian when faced with the judicial action of God seeks mercy from their sins. Thus, when we read in Luke 6.37 Jesus’ words concerning judging people, it should not surprise us to find that in the previous verse, Jesus has just mentioned being merciful as the Father is merciful.
Here comes the judge…
Jesus, in v.37, gives us very clear and sober commands: “Do not judge…do not condemn…” And the reason these are so important is because they comoe with promses: “…and you will not be judged…and you will not be condemned.” If we want to find mercy and grace when we stand before the Great Judge, we need not become judges ourselves. Indeed, the half-brother of Jesus, James, picks up on this in James 2 where he couches this under the term “favoritism.” In verse 12-13, he brings the hammer down (pun intended) when he says, “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.” What a said thing it would be to find yourself on the Day of Judgment without mercy from the Judge because you have acted as judge while on earth and because you condemned others while on earth.
I suppose some definition of terms is necessary here. The kind of judging Jesus is talking is not due process for criminals. Certainly this word can carry that meaning. However, when Jesus mentions judging in this passage, it is the idea of critcizing an individual, even to the point of condemnation. Leon Morris picked up on this and wrote, “[Jesus] has in mind not law-courts but the all-too common practice of assuming the right to criticize and condemn one’s neighbor” (emphasis mine). In your mind, you have carried out judgment upon this person and have written them off as somehow falling short of your standard, something you have no right to do. In essence you are saying that that person is not as good as you or does not live up to your standards. And thus, you condemn them, writting them off, passing sentence upon them. Judgment leads to condemnation.
This is the worst place to end up, that is as judge, for you have assumed the role of God. Therefore, all that awaits you is the same condemnation you assigned to another only instead of human judgment, this judgment is passed by divine authority. You have, by your attitude and actions, invited divine judgment and condemnation upon yourself. What a dreadful thing! Thus, do not assign yourself as critic of the world. Allow God to be God.
It must be noted that a person acting as judge and a Christian living their life in such a way so as to “condemn the world” are two different things. You have no authority to assign a person to hell. But you do have authroity from on high to proclaim the gospel. And lifestyle is the best proclaimation of all. If by your faith lived out everyday you condemn the world, you have done no less that Noah when he built the ark out of holy fear. You live your life in reverencial fear of God and his judgment. Hence, the world’s catch phrase of “don’t judge me” really amounts to nothing if you agree with God in word and deed. You have allowed God to judge and not yourself and that is what we are talking about.
Here comes the blessing…
Many a televangelist loves to rip this verse from its context and preach a “name-it-and-claim-it” sermon from it. “Give and it will be given.” Indeed, some of our own brethren have quoted or read this passage just before the plates are passed on Sunday morning. But this verse (38) has a specific context: judging. And therefore, that is what it is talking about.
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.”
Jesus is still emphasizing the necessity to give. What exactly we are to give is not explicitly stated, but I would suggest it is give of ourselves, specifically mercy and forgiveness (both of which are found in this context). And when we give mercy and forgiveness to those who need it, we receive the same back from God, i.e. you give what you get. If you are unmerciful and unforgiving, there is no good measure, pressed down and shaken together which the Father will give to you. How much mercy have you shown to someone in need of mercy? Because that same measure you used toward them will be used toward you. What a sobering word from the Master!
I suppose the top and bottom of this is simply let God do the talking. Let him be judge; your job is to be a beacon of love, mercy and forgiveness to a world which desperately is in need of these qualities. We should never seek the condemnation of another, but should proactive in showing our love, and extending a hand of mercy and forgiveness to the lost.