Judge Not! … and You Will Not Be Judged?

 Second in a three part series

A saying that I heard a long time ago and one which I ever try to keep in mind is: “We judge others by their actions, but we judge ourselves by our intentions”.

In the first part of this article we showed that “Judge Not” does not mean “Not Judging”. The entire context of Jesus’ discourse in Matthew 7 shows this. In this second part of the article we will consider “Not Judging” in regards to Morals and what Jesus had to say about them.

Jesus and Morals

Given Jesus’ strong stance on issues of morality – especially when you consider Jesus’ adaption of the Law, the Torah, to being more than just the literal following of the commandments therein – it is obvious that Jesus is neither telling us to be naïve simpletons, nor wanting, or allowing, us to be accommodating to sin.

Consider The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) and Jesus’ teachings and explanations of them (v13-48). Give serious consideration to how Jesus expounded them – and all this prior to His commandment, “Do Not Judge”.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Matthew 5:7

For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20

You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER ‘ and ‘whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. Matthew 5:21-22

You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28

It was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Matthew 5:31-32

Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes ‘ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil. Matthew 5:33-37

You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. Matthew 5:38-42

You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matthew 5:43-45

In following the logical progression of Jesus’ teaching from The Beatitudes all the way to Matthew 7 and beyond, we can see that it is a complete unit. They are not a collection of pithy little sayings, but a complete teaching.

Not Judging, But Being Judgmental

The entirety of the Gospels, and the context of Matthew 7, show that Jesus is not commanding us not to “judge”, but rather commanding us not to be judgmental or condemnatory. The Greek text of the verse shows that Jesus is commanding us to stop doing something already in progress (and not commanding not to start something), that something in progress being continual criticism and nitpicking.

We are NOT God. We do NOT (especially considering our fallen condition) have the ability to judge someone as to his or her final destination. We do NOT have the right to stand in the place of God. Robert Mounce well notes,

Human nature encourages us to pay far more attention to the shortcomings of others than to our own faults. We tend to evaluate others on the basis of a lofty standard of righteousness that somehow is not applicable to our own performance.[1]

How, then, can we be so judgmental of others, criticising and condemning their actions (or inactions) – their sins – considering we do the same? It is to this “judging” that Jesus says, “Stop It!”

Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2

Jesus tells us to stop being judgmental. For if we continue in such a course of action then the standard which we ourselves set up to criticise and condemn others will be the standard which God will use in our judgment. Jesus goes on to give two rhetorical questions or examples to illustrate this.

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? 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? 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 7:3-5

Can we seriously tell others not to sin, or to stop being so sinful, whilst neglecting to see our own fallen, sinful state? As Jesus said, “He who is without sin … let him be the first to throw a stone” (John 8:7). More than this, Jesus’ illustration clearly shows what type of judging He wants us to stop doing. It is those who are hypercritical in their judgment of others (i.e. their personal lives and sins) who would point out a speck in someone else’s eye (i.e. a small, insignificant, irritation) whilst neglecting a plank of wood jutting out from their own eye. The illustration shows the stupidity and hypocrisy of deliberate fault finding and being critical of others (their faults and shortcomings) when one’s own faults far exceed theirs.

Having said this, however, does this mean that we are NOT to evaluate sin, point it out, or encourage repentance and/or correction? No! Far from it! For it is now – following these verses – that Jesus warns about the pigs, dogs (i.e. the unholy, the unregenerate – especially those who are anti-Christianity) and false prophets (supposed prophets within the Church). Failing to take on board Jesus’ warnings in Matthew 7:6 and 7:15 would be as erroneous as nitpicking the shortcomings of others. J.C. Ryle well articulates the issues concerning Matthew 7:1-11 and judging when he writes,

The first portion of these verses is one of those passages of Scripture which we must be careful not to strain beyond its proper meaning. It is frequently abused and misapplied by the enemies of true religion [i.e. Biblical Christianity]. It is possible to press the words of the Bible so far that they yield not medicine, but poison.

When our Lord says, “Judge not,” He does not mean that it is wrong, under any circumstances, to pass an unfavourable judgment on the conduct and opinions of others. We ought to have decided opinions: we are to “prove all things;” we are to “try the spirits.” (1 Thess. 5. 21; 1 John 4. 1.) — Nor yet does He mean that it is wrong to reprove the sins and faults of others until we are perfect and faultless ourselves. Such an interpretation would contradict other parts of Scripture: it would make it impossible to condemn error and false doctrine; it would debar any one from attempting the office of a minister or a judge. The earth would be “given into the hands of the wicked” (Job 9. 24): heresy would flourish: wrongdoing would abound.

What our Lord means to condemn is a censorious and faultfinding spirit. A readiness to blame others for trifling offences or matters of indifference, a habit of passing rash and hasty judgments, a disposition to magnify the errors and infirmities of our neighbours, and make the worst of them, — this is what our Lord forbids…[2]

Judging Sin

The Fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22) in one’s life is a result of spending time with God (in prayer) and abiding in His Word; it is a result of a lifestyle of Godliness. The Works of the Flesh (Gal 5:19-21), in contrast, are ungodly. Paul even goes on to say, in Galatians 5:21, that those who continue to practise (Gk. pra,ssontej, prassontes) such things, that is, they continue to live worldly lives, have not been converted, they are not true Christians. Ronald Fung, in his commentary on Galatians, notes,

… the participle [i.e. verbal adjective] prassontes denotes not an occasional lapse but habitual behaviour. Paul warns that “those who live like this” (NIV) will not inherit the kingdom of God. … God’s reign or rule is moral in nature; those who consistently behave in ways that are opposed to God’s nature (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9f.) show thereby that they have not accepted God’s rule through Christ in their lives.[3]

David Garland, in his commentary on 1 Corinthians, well observes that,

Christians are identifiable by their conduct, not simply by their doctrine or verbal professions. If anyone goes by the name “Christian” and is guilty of these sins [4], he or she is to be ostracized.[5]

In reading Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, and his warning about “so-called” brothers, how can we follow Paul’s directive if we do not JUDGE the actions, i.e. lifestyle, of those who call themselves Christians?

But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler– not even to eat with such a one. 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. 1 Corinthians 5:11-13

There is sinning, there is falling short of the mark, short of the standard which God demands; and then there is the deliberate living of a lifestyle of sin. Can Christians sin? Yes. Can Christians fail? Yes. BUT, can someone who disagrees with the standards God has set, and thus refuses to repent, be a true or real Christian? Can those calling themselves Christians be Christians without regarding themselves as being wrong – and God being Right?

A Christian DOES NOT have Jesus as Saviour WITHOUT Jesus being LORD. Either God is the Sovereign King in your life, and it is He who sets the standards – OR ELSE you have not submitted yourself to God, heard or understood the Gospel, understood what repentance truly means. You still regard yourself as lord, master, ruler of your own life and the judge of what standards you should have to meet. Within God’s church a Christian displays his Christianity through his lifestyle – and the standard has been set by God. Those claiming to be Christians who show themselves NOT to be Christ’s should NOT be allowed, I suggest, to partake in the Lord’s Supper; we are not to eat with them – the Lord’s Table is NOT for them (1 Cor. 5:9-13, cf. 1 Cor. 11:27-34).[6]

There is – in the Church – the directive NOT to be judgemental, but equally true is the directive that God’s people are to be holy: something that can only be determined by making a judgement.

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behaviour; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 1 Peter 1:13-19

NEXT we will look at “Not Judging” or “Judging” Teachers, Preachers and Prophets – including those who say they are one or all of these.

Footnotes

1 Robert H. Mounce, Matthew – New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1991), 64.
2 J.C. Ryle, Expositional Thoughts on the Gospel of Matthew (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1986), 62.
3 Ronald Y.K. Fung, The Epistle to the Galatians – The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988), 261-262.
4 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler– not even to eat with such a one. 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.”
5 David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians – Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 187-188.
6 This is not simply a matter of asking non-Christians not to partake of the Lord’s Supper, but specifically not allowing such non-Christians (as the Scripture identifies) to partake. In the Old Testament instituted Passover Moses and Aaron were told “This is the ordinance of the Passover: No foreigner shall eat it” (Exodus 12:43), a pattern and directive which we should note.

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