Judge not…

Matthew 7.1 says (in a rough NA27 translation):

Judge not, in order that you might not be judged.

This is a popular verse to be thrown around in a variety of situations and by a variety of people. How are we to take this verse? Blind direct reading is not necessarily the best way to go. If after doing appropriate exegesis on the passage (and surrounding passages) we come to a literal, direct reading, then so be it. But what if it isn’t as direct?

July’s Christianity Today has two articles that jumped out at me. One is on the division of Christ (which I will post on another time) and the second was on this famous question: “To Judge, or Not to Judge” which has encouraged me to post my thoughts on the subject. Roger E. Olson attempts to answer the question and my thoughts seem to match his fairly well. These are my thoughts and I will point out Olson’s when he says something particularily well.

In today’s culture, everyone is interested in tolerance. We are to tolerate everything and everyone. The problem with that logic is that if you follow it to conclusion, we are to tolerate murder, rape, terrorism, and on and on. Tolerating people is one thing, tolerating their (and my) sin is another. But if I don’t tolerate people’s sin, the ol’ “Judge not” comes out. I think we need to take a look at the passage in which 7.1 resides, Matthew 7.1-6 (NAS):

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 alook 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. 6 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.

A few things stand out to me here. First is that verse one is not suggesting “don’t judge at all” it is suggesting that “don’t judge people to take the judgement off of you”. That becomes fairly clear as we read verse two and following. Verse five makes that especially clear by saying that if you realize your own sin (the log in your eye), you will be able to more aptly help the sin in your brother (his speck). Olson says “he is warning people against heaping criticism and condemnation on others without being willing to examine one’s own behavior.” Indeed. Olson goes on to suggest that we should not neglect other texts, especially those coming from Jesus (makes pretty good sense to me!). So let’s do that.

John 7.24 (NAS):

“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.

Ah, that seems to add a little more clairity. Matthew suggests that before we judge we must look at our own sin first. Then John chimes in and adds that our judgement must be righteous. A very literal reading of the Greek would read: “Judge not according to sight, but by right (or just) judgement: judge.” (μὴ κρίνετε κατ᾽ ὄψιν, ἀλλὰ τὴν δικαίαν κρίσιν κρίνετε.) This means that if we deal with our sin properly and don’t hypocritically look at someone else’s sin, we can judge. But what does that judgement look like? It must be righteous. If it is to be righteous, it must come from God. In order for it to come from God, we must pray, meditate, discuss, read the Bible, read other wise sources, and pray more. If God’s Word is clear on a subject, it is pretty safe to say that using it would be part of righteous judgement. All of this must still be done with our own sin in mind. But the fact that we are fallen should not hinder us from trying to get rid of sin (in both us and others).

The actual act of judging must be done humbly. In order to be humble we must be open about our own sin with the one we are “judging”. If that is not done, we would be acting hypocritically. But make no mistake, we must confront those who are sinning. If sin wasn’t dealt with (in ourselves and those around us), depravity will truly take hold. But does this mean we should judge those outside of the church / Christianity?

In 1 Corinthians 5.12-13 (NAS) Paul rhetorically asks:

For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.

Paul is saying we do judge those in the church (and rightly so) but those outside of Christianity are not to be held to the same standard (or rubric if you will). While we may be able to point out sin to those outside of the church, we are not to judge what they do, for “those who are outside, God judges.”

So what do we do with all of this? First, Christians are not to judge non-Christians. BUT this does not mean we should support or condone behavior we consider to be sinful. Remember, love the sinner, hate the sin. There are appropriate ways to do this (as well as very inappropriate ways that should be avoided). Just damning someone is definitely not the way. Second, we are to keep Christians accountable. If someone claims to be a Christian, they should be encouraged to act that way and that may involve discipline and correction (again, while always keeping your own sin in mind and out on the table).

Olson ends thusly:

eventhough the context of Matthew 7 may not require it, one is justified in thinking that Jesus does not want us to take God’s place in determining individual persons’ ultimate spiritual fate…

Indeed. Judging is a dificult subject. Holding people accountable is important, but being humble and having yourself held accountable is just as important. We all need correction, let those around you help.

God Bless and Shalom
Now judge away…

Categories: Religion, Theology
  1. salmypal
    July 15th, 2005 at 07:15 | #1

    This is an excellent essay. I just read something the other day that asked, “How long do you tolerate the intolerant?” Yeah.

  2. July 15th, 2005 at 08:31 | #2

    I posted a link to the article on Division this morning on my blog, though I didn’t comment on it. I guess great minds think alike. Thanks for the wonderful insights.

  3. July 15th, 2005 at 13:03 | #3

    Darn. I just spilled coffee all over my dog! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!
    Kidding - great blog - I learn a lot!

  4. July 15th, 2005 at 14:36 | #4

    You are doing such good work, my son. Keep it up until I return, or you die.

  5. July 15th, 2005 at 17:51 | #5

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving such a gracious comment. I must say that I am impressed with your post here. I was thinking about doing a similiar post but you captured my thoughts so closely. Great exegesis and great post idea. Such a hard subject in today’s culture but probably one that we need to be challenged on. I am going to post you as a blog resource on my blog.


  6. July 16th, 2005 at 00:12 | #6

    Thank you all for your comments, they really do mean a lot to me! It is such a difficult subject that is hard to know how to deal with or handle. Even using the word “judgement” is dangerous I think because people can get very defensive (I know I can!) We can then either skirt around the issue all together, use other terms like “being held accountable”, or we can take a look at what is causing the defensiveness. There may be appropriate times for each of those options (although I think skirting the issue is not a very wise thing to do), but dealing with the issue straight on, I feel is the best way to go, even if it causes pain on both sides.

    …and You said “I know that this will hurt but if I don’t break your heart then things will just get worse. If the burden seems too much to bear, Remember the end will justify the pain it took to get us there” (Relient K)

    Oh, and thanks for stopping by Jesus…

  7. July 16th, 2005 at 05:47 | #7

    Jesus Christ said you are what you speak from the abundance of your heart.

    Thank you for the sermon on how to address the offences and the guilty offenders in our society.

    I just obey God according to Psalm 82.

    I will never accept the persons of the wicked.
    And I will always say the truth and damn the wrath of the earth.

  8. July 16th, 2005 at 08:45 | #8

    Great post!

    I read an article recently in the Christian Research Journal that really said it all so plainly. We are easily taken in by the “tolerance trick”. In his article “The Myth of Tolerance” Greg Koukl examines how easily we succumb to the trick.

    All views have equal merit, and none should be considered better than another. Don’t you agree?

    Jesus is the Messiah, and Judiasm is wrong for rejecting Him. Oh no! Can we say thaaaaaaaaat?

    Koukl wrote those statements on the board in a class of high school students at a Christian school. Many immediately objected to the second statement he wrote. “You can’t say that, it’s disrespectful. How would you like it if someone said you were wrong!”

    “In fact, that happens to me all the time.” he pointed out, “including right now with you. But why should it bother me that someone thinks I’m wrong?”

    “It’s intolerant” the student replied, noting that the second statement violated the first statement. What wasn’t immediately noticed was that the first statement also violated itself.

    Is not the second statement a view? as is the first statement a view? So both views should have equal merit, no? yes?

    This presents a dilemma. Both views with “equal merit” are contradictory. Koukl says “if all views have equal merit, then the view that Christians have a better view on Jesus than the Jews have is just as true as the idea the Jews have a better view on Jesus than the Christians do.”

    What is the solution? “Be egalitarian regarding persons, be elitist regarding ideas.”

    More at my post: http://susanlprince.truepath.com/2002_12_08_archive.html#85868448

  9. March 3rd, 2006 at 13:59 | #9

    While I cant say I agree 100% I pretty much like how you say it.

  1. July 20th, 2005 at 22:43 | #1
  2. July 20th, 2005 at 23:12 | #2
  3. October 7th, 2005 at 15:21 | #3
  4. November 3rd, 2005 at 15:55 | #4
  5. November 10th, 2005 at 19:16 | #5
  6. May 8th, 2007 at 14:02 | #6

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