"Judge Not?"

 

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged" (Matthew 7:1)

I often hear this statement of Jesus quoted by non-Christians and professing believers when they are confronted with their sin and refuse to change. Whether people are well-read in the Bible or not, it is amazing how many of them can quote this verse! Ignoring the context of the verse as well as what the rest of the Bible teaches, they take this single verse and try say that it is wrong to judge. What is this verse really saying? Does the Bible really forbid judging others? Let's read the context of this verse:

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 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? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" (Matthew 7:1-5)

Verse one of Matthew 7 seems to be telling people not to judge because if you do not judge, you will not be judged. However, "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad" (II Corinthians 5:10)-everyone will be judged by God. Then verse two tells us that in whatever manner we judge others, we will be judged. Jesus then proceeds to explain HOW TO JUDGE. First, he says, you must take "the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" (Matthew 7:5) and if you do not do that first, you are being a hypocrite. This passage does not condemn all instances of judging others, but it does speak against judging another person IF YOU HAVE A PLANK IN YOUR EYE. What is meant by a plank? Jesus is using an illustration and telling people that if you judge someone else, you better make sure that your life is right first-get all the planks out and THEN you may proceed to CAREFULLY judge (which helps to remove specks from someone else's life). Romans 2:3 agrees with this: "So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment?" The Apostle Paul is saying that whenever you (a mere man) make judgments you better make sure that you do not do the same things. We need to judge righteously, as Jesus said, "Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment" (John 7:24).

We will now move on and examine Scriptures that tell Christians to judge others. Yes, we are actually told by God to judge others; of course, when Christians judge others they must make sure their lives are blameless. I Corinthians 14:24-25 describes an unbeliever who comes into a church service that is operating properly: "He will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be JUDGED by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare." Note that the unbeliever is judged by the church and that judgment leads him to God (I Cor. 14:25). Earlier in I Corinthians 5, Paul makes it clear that Christians are to judge those in the church. Concerning a man who sinned in the church Paul said, "I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present" (I Cor. 5:3). He also said, "What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you." (I Cor. 5:12-13). We are supposed to judge those in the church and if we find sin in their lives, we shouldn't even eat with them (I Cor. 5:11)! The Apostle Paul also said, "Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!" (I Cor. 6:3). And for you Greek scholars, it is particularly interesting to note that when the Apostle Paul discussed judging in I Corinthians chapters 5 and 6, he used the same Greek word that Jesus used in Matthew 7. (This is true in several other instances as well, but I will not examine the Greek everywhere.)

Paul also judged two people named Hymenaeus and Alexander in I Timothy 1:19-20: "Some have rejected these (faith and a good conscience) and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme." Paul judged that they had fallen away so he handed them over to Satan! Another example of Paul judging someone is in II Timothy 4:14-15 where he judged Alexander the metalworker and warned others against him. Truly, "the spiritual man makes judgments about all things" (I Cor. 2:15).

What if Christians do not judge? If a Christian does not point out the sin in someone's life he or she will be held responsible because they kept silent! God said, "When I say to a wicked man, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself" (Ezekiel 3:18-19). Clearly, we have a responsibility to others! Another danger of failing to judge is that you can get deceived more easily if you do not judge. "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (I John 4:1). If you can't judge someone as a false prophet, you may be deceived. The Church of Ephesus was commended for judging false apostles as false: "I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false" (Revelation 2:2).

What about you? Not too many people recognize their responsibility to judge and that includes most professing believers. Before you judge anyone, you must recognize that you need to be living like Jesus (I John 2:6) and overcoming sin in your life (I John 3:3-10) before you should judge (Matthew 7:5). If you are one of the many professing believers who do not recognize the need to live like Jesus or to live above sin I would advise you NOT to judge because you would be a hypocrite.

Are you one of the many people who have quoted Matthew 7:1 flippantly at someone telling them, "You aren't supposed to judge anyone"? If so, you are wrong and in fact, you may have made a wrong judgment about the person you told that to. Many of you have probably been taught as I was that judging is wrong, but in reality it is often the responsibility of a Christian.


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