As you read the title of this blog post “Judge Not…?” I would like to venture a guess. In your mind you finished the phrase with these words “…lest ye be judged.” (Even though you don’t make a regular practice of speaking in King James English.)
We are very familiar with these words that Jesus spoke, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” You hear it everywhere – on TV, in print, in evangelistic discussions – it is pervasive throughout our society. My question is – does it mean what many people think it means? What exactly did Jesus mean when He said, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.”? Matthew 7:1
For many people, they think that Jesus was saying that we are never to make any judgments concerning anything – especially judgments against other people. Our society has fully embraced this view, and in large, we are reluctant to say anything negative to anyone regarding their beliefs or behavior. If someone does do that, they would be tagged as being “judgmental”, and once you get hit with that label you are officially one of the worst people in the world. That’s where we are as a society.
This point of view leads people to say things like, “Yeah, he’s a liar and a cheat, but…who am I to judge?” Because to do so, they would be in violation of what many believe is the 11th Commandment – THOU SHALT NOT JUDGE. Therefore, if one was to declare any action sinful or wrong, that person would be guilty of “judging” another and our society sees that as one of the worst things you could ever do.
5 POINTS REGARDING JESUS’ WORDS ON JUDGING
WE MUST EXAMINE THE CONTEXT IN WHICH JESUS SAID THOSE WORDS
We shouldn’t just isolate a particular verse and seek to interpret that verse apart from its immediate context. We should take into account what is written before and after the verse that we are seeking to understand. That will most certainly help us get an accurate understanding of what the author intends to communicate.
In this case, we need to read beyond the first few words of Matthew chapter seven.
Here’s the entire context:
1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Jesus isn’t saying that that we shouldn’t judge, rather He is saying that we shouldn’t judge – HYPOCRITICALLY. He’s saying that the standard we use to judge others will be the standard that is used against us.
He makes a comparison between someone who has merely a speck in their eye, when you have a huge log in your own eye. He’s saying don’t be concerned about their little speck, when you have a much bigger problem of your own. Jesus warns against judging someone else for his sin when you yourself are sinning just as bad, if not worse.
That is the kind of judging Jesus commanded us not to do. We know this because of the context. In verse 5 He calls that person a “hypocrite”, which ironically sounds very judgmental of Jesus. That leads me to the next point.
JESUS DOESN’T CONTRADICT HIMSELF
To call someone a “hypocrite”, aren’t you judging them? You are. How could Jesus tell us not to judge people, but then in the next breath, call someone a hypocrite? Jesus does not contradict Himself – that would make Him a hypocrite! If we look later in the gospel of Matthew, in chapter 23, Jesus makes all sorts of judgments against the scribes and Pharisees.
He calls them:
· “Hypocrites” v. 13
· “Sons of hell” v. 15
· “Blind guides” v. 16
· “Fools” v. 17
· “White-washed tombs” v. 27
· “Serpents” v. 33
· “Brood of vipers” v. 33
Jesus is not telling us not to judge, and then go on Himself to make all sorts of judgments. He’s saying don’t judge hypocritically, but judge with righteous judgment according to truth. That brings us to point #3…
WE MUST JUDGE
Let’s go back to Matthew 7. Look at verse 5: You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Once we remove the log from our own eye, we will then be able to see clearly to do what? Judge. (To take the speck out of your brother’s eye.)
Notice Jesus doesn’t say, “Never mention the speck in your brother’s eye, let alone seek to take it out, because you know you haven’t always had clear eyes.” No, He’s saying we need to judge our brother. We aren’t supposed to be people who never call out sin and never call people to repentance. We must confront sin, and we do that with a tremendous amount of humility, love and respect – always with the intent of pointing people to Jesus, the solution to their sin problem.
Jesus isn’t saying we should never judge, rather on the contrary, He actually commands us to judge!
· “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” John 7:24
· “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” Luke 17:3
Even within our passage in Matthew 7, Jesus instructs us to make judgments.
· “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” Matthew 7:6
As Christians we have to make a judgment regarding to whom we cast our pearls. To know if someone is a dog or a swine, a judgment must be made, right? In fact, much of what is contained in Scripture is about how we need to judge rightly in order to determine truth from error, and right from wrong. It’s critical that we DO judge, otherwise we will believe all sorts of lies and therefore be lead astray.
Let’s take this out of the theological realm and into a very practical one. Your doorbell rings and you go to the door and look through the peephole only to see a very crazy looking man with a bloody butcher knife in his hand. I would like to think you’re going to make a few judgments. You would judge that this is a very dangerous person. You would judge that your life is valuable to you and therefore make the judgment to not open the door and instead dial 911. You’re not being “judgmental” for that. That’s called judging rightly and exercising wisdom.
Without judging, it would be impossible to drive a car or even walk down the street. “The driver of that car is going to run that red light! I need to get out of the way!” “I shouldn’t walk down that dark alley at this hour; it looks dangerous.” We make tons of judgments each day simply in order to live our daily lives. If you went through life never judging anything, you wouldn’t even be able to read this blog post because you’d be dead already.
EVERYONE JUDGES ALL THE TIME
You’ve been making all sorts of judgments the entire time spent reading this. First, you judged whether or not this article is worth your time. You judged that it’s worth a click. Likewise, others made the judgment that reading this article wasn’t worth their time. It’s not being ‘”judgmental”, it’s just how life goes.
Even while reading this, you are judging whether or not my arguments are sound and my reasoning is valid. It’s called critical thinking (something of which we could use more of). We could say that you are discerning truth from lies, and fact from fiction. You’re judging at this very moment, and that’s a good thing!
TO SAY, ‘YOU SHOULDN’T JUDGE’, IS A JUDGMENT ITSELF
When someone tells another person, “You shouldn’t judge.” That could very easily be turned around and the response coming back would be, “Why are you judging my judging? You shouldn’t do that; you’re being very judgmental.” This is what’s known as a self-defeating argument. It’s actually a logical impossibility to hold this view. It’s like someone who would say, “There’s no such thing as truth.” Really? Is that statement true?
On a Personal Note
Just recently, I had a friend approach me and he said, “Can I give you some coaching?” I knew what was coming. That’s code language for, “I’m going to correct you.” So, I knew a judgment was coming my way, and none of us like to be in that position, including me.
This friend of mine was with me during a recent outreach event. He heard me say something to someone that he thought was at best, insensitive, and at worst, offensive. He was, in effect, judging my interaction with another person at this event. Initially, my response was to get defensive. “Oh come on, what I said wasn’t a big deal...you’re overreacting…I was kidding with them…” etc. You know how it goes, we want to defend ourselves.
However, almost immediately I realized that he was right and I was wrong. I can be careless with my words, and I need to be more careful. So very quickly I acknowledged my error and thanked my friend for the “coaching”. I was grateful that he did what we as Christians should be doing – holding one another accountable by having hard conversations with fellow believers who aren’t exhibiting Christ-like behavior. That doesn’t happen nearly enough.
This was a good discussion between my friend and me. I think there were two keys that made it that way. One was the way he approached me – that is, humbly. He didn’t come at me with a self-righteous arrogant tone to “set me straight”. He came with grace, kindness and love. I expected nothing less from him because that’s who he is, and I appreciate that about him very much.
That made the second key more likely to occur. That is, my response. I could have said something like, “Who are you to judge? Have you always said the right thing your entire life? Oh, so you’re perfect, huh?!?” Rather, by God’s grace, I didn’t respond in my flesh, but rather with acceptance. In the end, I am better off for it.
If he never said anything, I never would have realized my mistake on my own. It needed to be pointed out to me, otherwise I would have missed it. We all have blind spots. So, because of my friend “being judgmental”, I can right my wrong, the church is then strengthened, and God is ultimately glorified in my repentance.
I received what he had for me, and took his correction for two main reasons. One, he was right. And two, I know that I have a lot to learn, and I desire to remain coachable. If we ever get to the point where we think that no one can tell us anything, we haven’t learned the first thing about humility. Even though I didn’t like my friend’s “coaching”, I was glad for it.
Can we handle honest discussions where biblical things like exhortation,
reproof, and rebuke take place without anyone playing the “judge not” card?
I think there are two obligations here: One, the party who presents the rebuke, must demonstrate godly love and kindness in their tone and word choice. And two, the recipient must be willing to learn, and accept correction. If these are both present, we can dialogue with one another in a cordial manner, and even disagree, all the while living in peace with one another as the Scriptures command us.
In many ways, I believe that this issue of judging, like so many others, comes down to an issue of the heart. What is the condition of our heart before God and others?
Please provide your comments below, I would love to hear them!