12012 51st Ave NE, Marysville, WA (Meeting at the Seventh Day Adventist Church) Worship services: Every Sunday at 10:00am / 6:00pm (1st, 3rd and 5th Sunday)


The Privilege of Worship


Or, Why the Woke Have No Forgiveness, No Fruit, and No Fun
Matthew 7:1-6
January 9, 2022
Lord’s Day Worship
Sean Higgins


Introduction

As one of the shepherds I am burdened for the body, jealous for you against the world’s attempts to make you miserable. Within the last ten years—which happen to overlap the years we’ve been busy cultivating a Trinitarian community of worshipping, maturing disciples who acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord over all the world—the accuser, the devil, the evil one, has been cultivating his offspring into an angry, envious, self-righteous mob. By God’s grace, even in and through our liturgy of worship, we do not see the seeds of “woke” sprouting in our church. But, not only do I desire for you to be ready and protected in heart and mind if/when the woke attack, I honestly am doing everything I can to make each of you, and all of us together, a bigger target. We don’t have the problem on the inside, but I pray that we would provoke those on the outside.

Our pastors considered taking an entire Sunday seminar to talk about wokeness, though again, this is not an error that we see within the flock, so it didn’t seem as pressing. But as we take time at the beginning of each year to refresh our understanding of Lord’s Day worship, I can’t help but think that God is using our liturgy to keep us from going woke. That it isn’t critical is not a coincidence.

Woke is an exhausting worldview that will get worse in our culture without a gospel revival. Maybe you’ve never heard the word “woke,” you certainly are dealing with expressions of it, through companies and colleges and Congress and commercials. I couldn’t dream of providing an exhaustive explanation or exhaustive examples, let alone a prophetic vision of how much suffering we’re in for. But again, I want you to understand how our liturgy of worship is a privilege, with a bunch of sub-privileges necessary attached, and how that privilege is exactly a provocation to many of our cultural neighbors, including, sadly, many professing Christians, pastors, and churches.

I’m going to start with a part of the Sermon on the Mount, the judgy-pants, plank-in-the-eye part, then define what woke means and demonstrate how wokeness is anti-gospel, and then call all of us to embrace our privilege in worship, which includes confessing our sins and rejoicing in our God-given forgiveness and fellowship and fruit.

Planks and Pigs – Matthew 7:1-6

Maybe Matthew 7:1 is the most quoted verse in the Gospels next to John 3:16. It may also be a 7:1 misuse:use ratio, and that’s by both those who profess to be Christians and those who don’t. That’s an important piece: men who don’t believe the Bible, but who are familiar enough with it to borrow its morality, use the parts they want in their own defense.

The men and women listening to Jesus were culturally saturated in categories close-ish to God’s commandments. These Jews conversed in the vocabulary of righteousness, and, following in the path of their teachers, had more problems with self-righteousness than unambiguous unrighteousness. They loved to judge by surface standards, which Jesus confronted as missing the heart of the matter (think: anger, lust, loyalties, 5:21-48). Righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees and scribes, who were precise and pretentious (5:20). Theirs was for show, so Jesus condemned “practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them” (6:1), whether that was in donating to charity (6:2-4), chanting on the street corners (6:5-14), or in gloomy-faced intermittent fasting (6:17-18). They wanted to be seen, they wanted the reward of a higher social score.

At the same time, they were concerned about quality of life, about worldly status, about money and clothes and food (6:24-34). Their treasures showed where their hearts were (6:21).

After all that Jesus said, “Judge not that you be not judged” (7:1). As the rest of the paragraph makes clear, this is not about covering your eyes and turning off your brain, but it’s about knee-jerk, with emphasis on the jerk part, judgmentalism. It’s about being quick to climb the ropes and jump off the highest one with a bionic (or, ironic) elbow of superiority.

Verse 2 points out hyper-critical judgments are like a blind man throwing boomerangs; they come back hard.

Verse 3 points out how ridiculous/laughable it often is: he’s got a log in his eye. That is a funny picture. A “log” (ESV), or “plank” (NIV) or “beam” (KJV) is a big piece of heavy timber, the kind that holds up a roof, a rafter, that would certainly be bigger than a man’s head. The analogy is hyperbole, and humorous. It’s a joke. The plank-eyed man is somehow focused on another man with a speck or splinter in his eye. Verse 4 continues the joke, how can you even see around the log? It’s funny, and it’s hypocrisy.

So it’s not no judging (see verse 5), but rather it’s no judging from self-righteousness. It’s no judging others first. If there’s self, it should be self-judging, and not second. The hypocrite doesn’t get the joke; he is the joke.

The very next verse may appear to change the subject, but verse 6 applies to the previous five. A self-righteous plank-eyed man, who doesn’t see the irony of calling out others for sins he’s living in, is a pig that will turn on you if you keep trying to help him see it.

Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pics, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. (verse 6)

Just as Jesus is serious about self-righteous, judgy-pants hypocrites who can’t recognize themselves, He is serious about others recognizing them and not giving them more material.

“But,” sister sentimentalism says, “you’re not Jesus. You can’t call other people pigs. That’s not loving.” And I might say, “Don’t judge me.” Or, we could point out, you also aren’t Jesus, so you don’t get to say that He didn’t know what He was doing when He preached this prohibition and acted like it was possible to understand and obey. Do you want to obey Jesus? Love your enemies (5:44), and, don’t give pearls to pigs (7:6). Not either/or, but both-and. Don’t keep giving holy, valuable wisdom and good news to haters. Don’t worry about hurting their feelings.

A man who is listening, sure, help him with his splinter, or his log. But a scoffer? Better watch out that he doesn’t bite you.

The “Worship” of the Woke

Like those in Jesus’ day, and actually, even more so, since in our day we actually have Jesus’ words, too, we live in a generation of men so familiar with biblical morality that they can’t help but use the language to justify themselves and condemn others, mostly to avoid their own hellish guilt. There is nothing new, but at present it’s popular again to practice (a kind of) righteousness before men to be seen, liked, and if you’re lucky to not have your business burned down. It is full of irony, hypocrisy, wickedness, instability, danger, death, and misery.

Unlike a number of labels, “woke” is a self-chosen identity. It’s worn proudly, not like the stains smattered from a derogatory tomato. The term gained popularity in the 2010s, and started with concerns about racism, especially in the Black Lives Matter movement. Woke means to be “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice),” (Merriam-Webster), which is a definition like a trojan-horse with dyspepsia. It has crept into any discussion about every possible way a person could be oppressed.

Karl Marx didn’t coin the term “oppression,” but he did divide the world into two categories: the economic oppressors and the economically oppressed. Note: those are legit categories. Solomon wrote about men having power over other men to their hurt (Ecclesiastes 8:9). But seeing oppression is different than starting with the assumption that oppression must be found, so look harder. Seeing oppression is different than a worldview which says the oppressor/oppressed categories explain every relationship. Seeing oppression, even fighting it, is different than committing your life to becoming the (ironic) oppressor of oppressors.

Woke is a worldview built on “righteous” resentment of privilege, on envy of another’s good(s), and an attempt to find simple, usually surface causes to explain suffering under the sun. It is a worldview that will find faults; the cancel part of cancel culture is not merely a stage toward a Kumbaya hand-holding circle of peace. It is a worldview that demands obedience and sacrifice, namely to level/lower all the high persons. Of course this is impossible. First, this isn’t how God made the world to be; He made hierarchies. Second, leveling is at best only seen at the exact moment the oppressed pass the oppressors on their way to the top.

The “woke” are aware of and even consumed by these problems. The woke think everyone should be woke about the problems. If you aren’t woke, then you are the problem. Denial of guilt is proof of guilt.

What do you do to be woke? You must admit your “sin” of privilege, whether that’s your white skin, that your parents didn’t get divorced, that your gender is male, or that you have a job that pays the bills including your (exorbitant) taxes. You must confess whatever they say are your privileges as sin, feel bad about those privileges, and stop supporting the “system” that promotes some to privilege. Then you must demand that others do the same; you must make disciples (albeit twice the sons of hell, as the Pharisees did in Matthew 23:15).

What do you get out of being woke? You get a sense of satisfaction stepping up to the moral high ground. Of course, you don’t belong there, so any satisfaction is qualified and fleeting; your sense of self is Guilty As Charged. You do not get forgiveness; your sins are too great to be paid in this life, even though you must try. You do not get fruit, because if anything looked like profit that would be privilege which is wrong by definition. You do not get genuine fellowship either. At best you are co-belligerents, fighting the same oppressors, a temporary fellowship based on shared grievances. But there is no happy ending. There is no peace. There is no good news. It is anti-gospel.

Woke is a worldview that comes from different worship. From Faultlines by Voddie Bauchum

this new body of divinity comes complete with its own cosmology (CT/CRT/I); original sin (racism); law (antiracism); gospel (racial reconciliation); martyrs (Saints Trayvon, Mike, George, Breonna, etc.); priests (oppressed minorities); means of atonement (reparations); new birth (wokeness); liturgy (lament); canon (CSJ social science); theologians (DiAngelo, Kendi, Brown, Crenshaw, MacIntosh, etc.); and catechism (“say their names”). (Location 1185)

Are there actual racists (those who hate those of other ethnicities)? Are there employers who exploit their employees? Are their political and bureaucratic tyrants? Are there sexual harassers and predators? YES. And these are not splinter size sins.

It is also true that many of our Christian fathers did not ruthlessly and honestly confess their sins and turn from them. They covered their sins, they lied, they did what they said to their kids not to do. Of course this has consequences.

But, destroying another’s property/business/livelihood, physically attacking and beating another man to death, slandering and ruining reputations in the name of what’s right is all plank-eyed false righteousness. Seeking to establish lower expectations for minority groups, refusing medical treatment to people with the majority skin color, expecting minimum wage laws to fix poverty, these and other examples are more planks in the eye. Those with planks are judging based on a wrong sense of self-righteousness, from arbitrary and volatile “laws,” and they are not appeased by Christians feeling bad for them. They are pigs who will turn back to attack you, and then return to wallow in their chaotic mire (2 Peter 2:22).

It was the so-called righteous people who demanded the crucifixion, yet they were a crooked generation.

Our Worship Is Not Woke

Is it a guarantee that we can always judge correctly who’s a pig? No. Can we never know? Then how frustrating is Jesus’ sermon?

What helps us deal with any size wood in our eyes, and what helps us see clearly and get clean, is the good news of Jesus Christ. It is the gospel of God that brings us together every Lord’s Day.

We assemble before God, not a mob of men. We submit to an objective standard, not the traditions or feelings of men. We mourn our sins, according to what God calls sin, as we come to the Savior, who paid the cost for us, saves us from the due penalty, and by grace cleanses our consciences and gives us His own Spirit to sense the Father’s love and peace with us (Romans 5:5). We are brought into fellowship. We are given more privilege, more blessing.

God does not guilt-trip us, as if His goal was to load us up with heavy burdens and cast us into the sea. The Father is generous, gracious; His kindness leads to repentance. He gives us pearls of freedom, forgiveness, fellowship, fruitfulness, even fun.

Conclusion

The “pearls” are unidentified in Matthew 7:6, but couldn’t they include identity as His image-bearers (Call), forgiveness as His children (Confession), food and light from His Word (Consecration), fellowship at His table (Communion), and favor for our weekly work as His representatives (Commission)? He gives us the treasures of mercy, grace, salvation, freedom, hope, comfort, gospel.

The Father is giving His children great blessing, to make others (such as the Jews, Romans 11:11) jealous. This is not necessarily worldly success, though it is not resistant to visible, tangible, generational fruitfulness on earth (like many of the Psalms and Deuteronomy describe). Blessings are seen in how you succeed, and how you suffer, how you rejoice and weep with others, when you win and when you worship, when you lose something you loved because it was right. When He gives and takes away, and you bless the name of the Lord, you are likewise blessed.

To not want God’s blessing in order to not be a target of the woke is to be lukewarm at best, which is the vomit-launching position (Revelation 3:16). It is even less safe to say that you know better than the Father how much of His favor you need.

He gives you pearls, which makes you jealousable and which makes pig-plankers TURN their heads, either in humility to repent from their own sin, or in rage to attack. Rejoice in your privileges, including the privilege of worship, and be ready.


Charge

Brothers, do not hide your light under a bushel. Let the blessings of God on and around you shine brightly; put them on a stand in the center of the room. Remember that God has redeemed you from your sin, He is transforming you from one degree of glory to another, and no one gives privileges like He does.

Benediction:

The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine
upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance
upon you and give you peace.
(Numbers 6:24–26, ESV)