Part 3: “Judging: What do the words ‘Do not judge…’ in the Bible Really Mean?
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is a log in your own eye? 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.” Matthew 7: 1-5
We’ve all heard the phrase before. The words are often appropriately used, misused, and abused. Indeed there are Pugilists within the Pews who impinge their will on others. They throw darts, shimmer with scornful eyes, toss grenades, and stir emotions. Amid their attempts to be holy, the tyrant from within snarls aloud. With wolverine claws, internal organs are disemboweled of anyone who sins differently than they do. These ogres come in all shapes and sizes. They are distant spectators, personal friends, and occasionally even family members. Nevertheless, these perpetrators wear the badge “Christian.” Though a select few, these patrons render an unbearable taste in the mouth of many that can last a lifetime.
Yet there are two sides to this coin that must be recognized within this segment of Junk Christianity. Everyone understands the church-combatant with a bone to pick. However, there is also the individual who fancies the victim role- defeatism is their M.O. Consequently, anyone who crosses their path cockeyed must be one to condemn strangers to Hell. In other words, the phrase has been grossly battered as some people have made false claims. Furthermore, the world of “political correctness” has levied this scripture as their shield and safe-haven from anyone who disagrees.
All in all Matthew 7:1 might be the most quoted, and quite candidly, the most misquoted verse in the Bible. Even folks who know nothing about Scripture can recite this particular text. Both Christians and skeptics alike are guilty of this infraction, as our self-centered natures routinely surmount the best of us and overlook the rest.
Typically, when an individual bears an agenda, the approach is to only promote a fragment of a text. Take for example the good ole tattoo debate among Christians. People who have a disdain for ink will quote Leviticus 19: 28 “You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead, nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the Lord.” The writings of this passage were addressing the practice of ancient pagan rituals. Moses continues in instructing Israelites to not round off their hair or shave the edges of their beards. Both of these directives were pertinent to the people and culture in 1445 B.C.
If one cannot get tattoos based off this verse, then men everywhere must no longer trim their facial hair either. Rationally stated, unless one’s purpose for ink is to worship the dead or practice heathen-like ceremonies- biblically there is no issue. More than likely though, Granny Boo at the end of the row does not know this, or simply could care-less. She very well might use any means necessary to keep her grandchildren from appearing like a walking magic marker.
But there is a problem. This is how confusion is stirred. Decades ago, one generation decided that only whores and crooks should get tattoos. Consequently, the verse was taken out of context to further a “cultural norm.” Even to this day, the truth is muddled among the multitudes. This is why biblical context is critical. The “who, what, when, where and why” must always be considered. You cannot read the Bible through only a 21st Century lens and expect to make sense of the text. Details such as: time, audience, culture, and original languages of the scripture are vital. Pugilist Christians and Atheists hate this fact because they’d rather hand pick verses to spur their cause. One rule to live by when studying the Bible, is to consider the twenty verses before and after any single scripture, to fully understand the entire framework. No reasonable person would ever take a single stanza out of Shakespeare or Lord Byron to further a personal agenda without giving the background of the story first. Scholars everywhere would object if the two conflicted. Neither should we do this with the Bible.
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2: 3-5
So what do the words “Do not judge…” actually mean? Let’s dissect. Matthew is the writer of the Book of Matthew, written around A.D. 50. He was a tax-collector in this time- today’s equivalent to a crack cocaine dealer who sells drugs in front of an elementary school. However, Jesus chose him to be a disciple. The audience is believed to be the Greek-speaking Jews that trusted in Jesus as their Messiah. The overall main idea of this Gospel might be phrased as “Christ Jesus is the everlasting King of all Kings.” Chapters five through seven have become recognized as the Sermon on the Mount. Here, “Jesus primarily dealt with themes connected with the interior spiritual life (attitudes in giving, prayer, fasting, materialism, and anxiety…).” David Guzik
“The Sermon is a masterful exposition of the law and a potent assault on Pharisaic legalism…” John MacArthur.
Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus was not promoting universalism, or acceptance of all lifestyles or teachings. The entire passage establishes this clearly. Nor did Jesus prohibit judgment of others. Instead, He insists that the judgment be biblical, and not done with a critical spirit. Furthermore, one must be prepared for this same standard to be applied to them. “This is a powerful motivation for us to be generous with love, forgiveness, and goodness to others. If we want more of those things from God, we should give more of them to others. According to the teachings of some rabbis in Jesus’ time, God had two measures that He used to judge people. One was a measure of justice and the other was a measure of mercy. Whichever measure you want God to use with you, you should use that same measure with others.” David Guzik
“As the context reveals, this does not prohibit all types of judging (vs. 16). There is a righteous kind of judgement we are supposed to exercise with careful discernment (John 7:24). Censorious, hypocritical, self-righteous, or other kind of unfair judgments are forbidden…” John MacArthur
Yes. The word “judge” has a very negative connotation- but doing so according to what the Bible states is appropriate. Yet there is a particular manner in which this exchange must occur. Quite candidly, this is where Christians have failed miserably. Love, grace, humility and respect must be placed before every single word. Too often the goal is to shove God’s Word down another’s throat in hope of gagging the person into concession. All the while our own depravity is dismissed. Likewise, do not approach with a God-complex. Condemning another person to Hell never accomplishes any good. Engage. Actively listen. Give the individual your undivided attention without making assumptions. Point to Jesus. Finally, the environment is critical. Facebook, texting or other electronic mediums are not the best venue to handle these conversations–emotions are too heightened. Pretend like its 1995 and have a face to face conversation.
“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22
Personally, I do not believe these difficult interactions are meant for everyone. This point is not necessarily biblical, but rather an evidential argument based upon the many failed attempts I’ve witnessed by well-intentioned folks. Allow those God-ordained individuals to handle situations where a true rebuking of lifestyle choices needs to be made. This might be a minister, distinguished layman, or a mature believer that the Lord strategically places in another’s life for a specific reason, perhaps even to help them see the sin in their lives and turn with a repentant heart back to the father.
“For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” 2 Corinthians 2:15
“The command ‘Stop judging others’ does not refer to judging in a court of law, nor is it a blanket statement against critical thinking. Believers should be discerning and make certain judgments. For example, Jesus said to expose false teachers (Matthew 7: 15-23), and to admonish others in order to help them (Matthew 18: 15). Paul taught that we should exercise church discipline (1 Corinthians 5: 1-5). But followers of Christ should not be critical or condemning in their attitudes toward others. A judgmental, critical spirit differs radically from love. A believers’ special position with Christ does not give them a license to take God’s place as judge. Those who judge in that manner will find themselves judged likewise by God. As God will have mercy on the merciful, and forgive those who forgive, He will condemn those who condemn.” (Life Application, New Testament Commentary, pg. 34)
Matthew 7: 1-5 undoubtedly is the most misunderstood passage in the Bible. Everyone knows the phrase, “Do not judge…” In the end though, Christians are called to hold each other accountable. Nevertheless, our approach is critical. A Christ-like attitude and compassionate spirit are essential for these difficult conversations. Believers must serve as a reflection of Christ Crucified. He is the litmus test for Christianity. Love…grace…humility…and respect must be conveyed. Our ears must be attuned to the other person, and our hearts must be in harmony with the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, God’s Kingdom is not furthered- only our personal agendas.
Part One- Christian Marriages: Pornography & the not so sacred wedding vowels.
Part Two- Judging: What do the words “Do not judge…” in Matthew 7: 1-5 really mean?
Part Three-The Pugilist within the Pews: The Christian judger and hypocrite.
Part Four- Christian None’rs: Following Christ from the couch.
Part Five- The Shallow Surface Preacher: The breakdown of the podiums and the withering pews.