With over 5,000 cameras covering every inch of the field, Super Bowl 50 was a huge production. Yet, in spite of all the technology that goes into making the game a success, the Super Bowl began with a simple coin toss. You would think, with all the advances we have had in the world, we could figure out another way to decide things besides a coin toss. And it’s just not in sports. According to news reports, the delegates from at least six different precincts in the recent Iowa Caucus were settled by a toss of the coin. That’s right, our democracy has come down to heads or tails. The assumption of fairness in a coin flip is that each side is equally weighted so you have a 50/50 chance of winning. After all, they are two sides of every coin.
That’s an interesting saying, is it not? “Two sides of the same coin.” Heads and tails, totally different sides but part of the same coin. Two things that are closely related, though seemingly different, are said to be two sides of the same coin. For example, some parents teach their children with rewards while other parents teach their children with punishment. The “coin” is “teaching children.” One side of the coin is rewards and the other side of the coin is punishment. Rewards / Punishment: Two sides of the same coin.
In today’s text, Jesus discusses two sides of the same coin. The context is His Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:17-49). The “coin” is how to treat other people, especially people who mistreat you. Specifically, the “coin” is how you treat your enemies (see Luke 6:27). One side of the coin is showing mercy. The other side of the coin is evaluating outcomes. On the one hand, don’t judge. On the other hand, strive to produce good fruit in your life. And, if possible, in the middle of these two sides, judge yourself and your own motives.
The Sermon on the Plain
After spending all night by Himself, in the mountains, praying, Jesus chooses His Twelve Apostles (Luke 6:12-16). At the foot of the mountain, on the plains (or plateau) His disciples (more than 12) were waiting for Him. Throughout the night a large crowd gathered on the plains and waited with Jesus’ disciples. When Jesus came down from the mountain and onto the plain (or plateau), He gathered His disciples around Him and began teaching them while the crowd listened. Jesus’ main audience was His followers. His secondary audience was the larger crowd that was listening.
The first part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain consisted of four blessings followed by four corresponding warnings. Next, Jesus tells us to love our enemies and then tells us exactly how to love our enemies. In His instructions on loving our enemies He gives us the Golden Rule—“Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31), and the Silver Rule—“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). In Luke 6:27-36, Jesus shows us how to love our enemies. Now, in Luke 6:37-45, He explains how to show others mercy in the same way God has shown us mercy.
First, let me share the two sides to this coin of mercy. HEADS: We have not been called to judge others. TAILS: We have been called to produce good fruit. Keep these two things in mind as we move forward.
Right after Jesus commands us to be merciful as God is merciful, He tells us how to show mercy. There are four things we can do to show others the same type of mercy God has shown us. First, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged” (Luke 6:36a). Not being judgmental gets to the very heart of showing mercy. This is one side of the coin. The idea here is deciding for yourself that the other person needs to be punished. It doesn’t mean we can’t take a stand and call something wrong that is wrong. It means it is not our place to determine the punishment of the wrong doer. We are not the judge and jury, God is! My responsibility, even if the other person is guilty, is to show mercy because when I have been guilty God has shown me mercy. A second way to show mercy is, “Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned” (Luke 6:37b). One reason we cannot determine someone else’s punishment is because we don’t have the right to say to the other person, “You are guilty!” We don’t have the right to pronounce judgment on anyone. Again, only God has that right.
Instead of judging and condemning our enemies, we are to show them mercy. We are to, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37c). Forgiveness is huge! Forgiveness means we don’t hold the wrong someone has done to us against them. It means we let the past be the past and move forward toward reconciliation. Forgiveness frees us to move into a brighter future. Not forgiving makes you bitter instead of better. Here is a sobering truth: If you don’t show others mercy, God will not show you mercy. If you do not forgive others, God will not forgive you. All of us like to receive forgiveness, but very few of us like to give forgiveness.
A fourth way we show mercy is to “Give, and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38a). Generosity is a mark of a true follower of Jesus. We freely give mercy. We freely give forgiveness. We freely give the other person, even our enemies, the shirts off our backs (see vv. 29-30). We freely treat people the way we want to be treated, not the way they have treated us. We freely give blessings. We freely give prayers. We freely give kindness. We freely give out of our abundance. We freely give out of our need. We freely give, whatever is necessary, to meet the needs of the other person. We freely give goodness, knowing that doing good is the only weapon that can overcome evil (see Romans 12:21).
How much should we give? Jesus continues, “A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38b). Our generosity is to be overflowing. As we give to others, the same amount we give will be given to us, plus more. It is important to point out that this illustration has nothing to do with generously giving financially to someone else’s ministry so you will be financially blessed beyond measure. Rather, it has everything to do with giving mercy and forgiveness and kindness and goodness to other people, especially people that have mistreated you, specifically giving these things to your enemies.
Jesus’ illustration relates to the purchase of grain. An honest, generous grain merchant would fill up the measuring container and then press the grain down and shake the air out of the container to make room for even more grain. He would then top it off until it overflowed into the person’s lap. It’s like going inside Twice Daily and purchasing a fountain drink, filling it up, and then slightly banging it on the counter, getting the fizz to die down, so you can place more soft-drink in the cup. A bad grain merchant, like Lays potato chips, will place the same amount of chips in a larger bag, filled with air, and charge more per bag. Then, when you open the bag, and all the air is released, you realize you got ripped off! The point is, our generosity is to be without fizz and without a lot of hot air! As we are generous with mercy and forgiveness to others, God is overly generous to us with His mercy and His forgiveness.
HEADS: We have not been called to judge others. Why? Jesus gives three parables to explain why we should not judge others. The first parable is about two blind men: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” (Luke 6:39) The answer is obvious. The blind cannot lead the blind and the blind cannot follow the blind. What did Jesus mean by this? We are not to judge others because we don’t see clearly ourselves. No matter how much we think we know, we don’t know the whole story. We don’t really know why the other person acted the way they did, or said what they said. We don’t really know what the other person is going through and the difficulties they have in their lives. We don’t know the back-story of other people. We don’t know what other people are thinking. We don’t have the right to judge because we are just as blind, and just as guilty, as the other person.
The second parable is about a teacher and a student: “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). In Jesus’ day, the teacher/student relationship was really a mentor/mentee relationship. A student wasn’t ready to become a teacher until the teacher had taught him everything he knew. Jesus is our Teacher. We are His students, His mentees, His disciples. We are not to judge others because we are still a work in progress. We still have a lot to learn.
The third parable is about having something in your eye: “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?” (Luke 6:41) Jesus’ exaggeration is intentional. He compares a tiny piece of sawdust to a large plank. We point out minor faults in someone else’s life (a speck of sawdust) while we have major faults in our own lives (a large plank). We are not to judge others because we have issues in our own lives we need to address. My grandfather used to say; “When you point your finger at someone you have three fingers pointing back at you.” We seem to judge others for their sins while making excuses for our own sins. We want to condemn others when they do wrong, while condoning our own wrongdoing. The very reason we need to show the other person mercy is because we desperately need mercy ourselves. The very reason we are to extend forgiveness to others is because we so desperately need forgiveness ourselves. Jesus continues this parable by saying, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye. You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Luke 6:42). Judging someone else is harsh and cruel. But when we first admit our own faults, remove the plank from our own eye, receiving mercy and forgiveness ourselves, we can then gently, and lovingly, without condemnation, remove the speck from our brother’s eye.
The Other Side of the Coin
HEADS: We have not been called to judge others. Now it is time for the other side of the coin. TAILS: We have been called to produce good fruit.
Right after Jesus makes it clear we are not to judge because we have our own issues to deal with, He continues, “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers” (Luke 6:43-44). Instead of worrying about the fruit, or lack thereof, in other people’s lives, we are to cultivate our own soil, making sure we produce the kind of fruit a follower of Jesus is expected to produce. While we are not to judge others, others can judge us by the fruit we produce. While we are not to condemn others, others can condemn us as hypocrites if we see we follow Jesus but don’t produce the fruit of a Christian life.
What type of fruit should the tree of a disciple produce? The Apostle Paul writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). To this list, based on the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus would add encouragement, prayer, mercy, forgiveness, and generosity.
Jesus goes on to say, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). If the eyes are the windows into a person’s soul, words are a window into a person’s heart. You can say you are good and not evil, but how you treat others, especially those who do not like you, tell the true story.
Two sides of the same coin. The coin is, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). One side of the coin, HEADS; we have not been called to judge others (Luke 6:37-42). The other side of the coin, TAILS; we have been called to produce good fruit (Luke 6:43-45). The BIG IDEA in this part of Jesus’ sermon is, in the middle of the coin (if that is possible), lays this truth: Instead of judging the other person, we need to judge ourselves, judge our own hearts and our own motives to see if we are really following Jesus. This is a tough thing to do, but it is necessary.
If you saw another person who claimed to be a follower of Jesus doing and acting and saying the shame things you do, act, and say, how would you feel about their relationship with Jesus? Would you be proud? Would you be encouraged to follow their example? Would you call them a hypocrite? Why do you pass judgment on others, when you do, act, and say the same things?
Why are you following Jesus?
Are you following Jesus?
What is the plank in your own eye? What is your secret sin?
What can you do, this week, to show mercy and forgiveness to the other person?
Are you willing to do it?