Are we wrong to judge?
If you have already answered that question in your mind before you have read this post you have already made a judgement. Now depending on on what your answer was will depend whether you were right or wrong to pass that judgement according to yourself.
How did you conclude your answer? You would have to quickly weigh up in your mind each side of the argument and then leaned toward one or the other depending on what satisfies your criteria for what is “right” and what is “wrong.”
I am approaching this question from a Christian perspective here. It came up on a Facebook discussion about false teachers and this quote was brought up. I had not really thought of this in depth until this online conversation. I would have quoted this verse in the exact same way for the exact same reasons before I started thinking about it.
The verse in Question
Here is the verse everyone knows and quotes: “Judge not, that you be not judged” very short, very precise. This is part of the Lord’s sermon on the mount. A very meaty passage where Christ expounds biblical truths and puts the finger on major issues. Now we need to look at the four following verses to give this verse more depth and context.
2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
So the question is, is verse one of Matthew chapter 7 telling us not to judge people? Lets look at these verses and others in the bible and see.
Paul’s guidance on Judging.
First of of all I am not denying there are countless warnings about judging. But if we look at the example of Paul and what he says to the Corinthians we find a revelation on when and what is right to pass judgements about.
“I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?” 1 Corinthians 6:5
Paul is assuming there should be someone to judge here … is he not? Notice the “Between his brethren part” The bible differentiates between judging those who are outside of Christ and those who are in Christ. Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 – 12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person. So Paul is clearly stating God will judge the world but as the body of Christ we need to keep ourselves and our brothers and sisters in check.
Paul lists a host of sins in Chapter 5 that we should act on judgement on when fellow Christians are committing such acts. So we must need to judge at times.
Aha! You may think we have come across those many contradictions in the bible. One verse tells you not to judge then another verse does. What are we to do?!
For starters Gods word does not contradict itself. Our understanding may be lacking to understand the fullness of God’s Word which is why we feel there are contradictions. But that is an aside.
What did Jesus mean then?
I believe Jesus isn’t telling us not to judge. I believe He is telling us “If you don’t want to be judged yourself don’t judge.” And he is warning if we do we will be judged to the degree we have passed judgement.
How can I conclude this? Well that passage from Matthew clearly says “First remove the plank…” Jesus says before we judge anyone else we should look to ourselves, judge our selves and remove the plank in our own eye. You see judging is actually a humbling experience for those who are passing judgement, or rather should be. And then Jesus says “once you have removed your plank then go and help remove your brothers speck” So we are given the go ahead to judge our brother once we have dealt with ourselves.
So Jesus isn’t forbidding judging here. He is warning us of what we should be prepared for if we do go and judge and he is giving clear guidelines of how we should go about it. In a humble way realizing our own shortcomings.
“Benefits of Judging, are you serious?” You may be thinking to yourself. But if we think on Paul’s guidance there are. Basically if we do not let our brothers and sisters in Christ Judge us then it is left for God to do. Now that is a sobering thought. If we are hardened to the voices of our brothers and sisters who are highlighting something we need to deal with within ourselves we move ourselves into the realm of God’s judgement.
This is part of the reason why the body of Christ is so vital. That is why God made the Church, so we are all accountable to each other. We need to be consistently Judging among ourselves between ourselves highlighting whats wrong and exposing things and bringing them to light. Why? Because if we do not God will highlight them and purge them from us – when God is moved to take action like this it is serious. So we do not want to provoke God to wrath which is why the Church is there to keep us under Grace.
But more importantly it is a way to keep the Church pure and a shining light. It helps to uphold the witness of the Church in the world today. I believe people have shied away from this for decent reasons in their opinion or misunderstanding to the detriment of the witness of the church today, it is because we have been too shy to keep our house in order in fear of judgement on ourselves that in some parts of the world the witness of the Church has diminished.
I believe the main reason people are afraid to do so is because of a lot of misconceptions. Now some people just aren’t the kind of people who can do something like this, I would put myself in that category but I think we need to be more bold. At the end of the day it is Christs name that is put on trial due to our actions or even inaction.
I believe the main misconception which holds people back from doing this is how people regard judging synonymous with condemning. This is not so. Judging is correctly highlighting what is wrong, condeming is what follows the Judgement. Now that we have no right to do that. If our judging ever leads to condemnation something is wrong.
When we judge our brothers and sisters it is to give them the opportunity to turn from their evil way so that they will turn from the path that will destroy them. It is a loving action which diverts their path from imminent danger should they choose to heed.
So we can see judging should humble the one judging, and is designed to save the one being judged from the destructive path they are on.
How should we judge?
When we need to but always with humility. We should never come with arrogant pride to highlight someone else’s shortcomings when we have plenty of our own. It should always be done from a heart of love because you want to see the person free from the destructive path they are on before they hurt or damage themselves or anyone else.
Should everyone in the church be doing it? Maybe not the best idea unless it is radically needed ie – heresy is being preached. If you know of someone who has slipped into sin and needs help and you are not alone, probably you should lovingly take your concerns to the elders or pastor or someone else in authority in your church. If it is about the elders or pastor or someone in authority. Most established churches have a group of individuals so you could talk to, maybe another elder, about it.
I hope this has you thinking, it certainly has got me thinking about the whole subject. Remember to Test everything against Gods word and you will not go wrong. – Especially what I say!!!!