Throughout time, people have had the tendency to judge other people by different standards than they judge themselves. Within the church this is also true. The sins, faults, and shortcomings of others are often judged harshly while glaring sins in one’s own life are ignored. Someone has wisely said “We need to deal with the faults of others as gently as our own.” Jesus knew our tendency to judge with unbalanced scales would always be a problem for people; therefore He gives plenty of warnings to judge all things righteously. Judgement itself is not really the problem, but it is the type of judgment we often use that is at issue. Judgment should always we discerning and compassionate and free of hypocrisy to the greatest degree possible.
We cannot make “righteous” judgments until we have the right view of God. Many who do not know God at all are commonly passing judgments. Many who could not quote John 3:16, the 23rd Psalm, or The Golden Rule seem to know Matthew 7:1 which says “Judge not that you be not judged.” It has become a mantra for the biblically illiterate generation to justify their own behavior and the behavior of others to whom they are sympathetic. The world likes the adage “I’m ok, you’re ok,” but that cannot be true. It is not true because it would elevate diversity of thought to the place of the highest good over and above God’s Word or any other truth that could be viewed as absolute.
Sadly, many who do not care about the Ten Commandments, the resurrection of Christ, the second coming, Heaven, etc. somehow care about Matthew 7:1. The reason is clear. This verse is used by many to selectively “self justify” themselves, and is further used as a battering ram against anyone who tells them they are wrong.
If we take Matthew 7:1 in its most literal sense we cannot or should not judge anything, but is that what Jesus is teaching? Clearly, no one could make it through a day of their lives without making many judgment calls. In most contexts no one really cares if judgments are made. For instance, consider two people watching a football game. One says, “that coach should be fired!” Does the other one say “Judge not that you be not judged?” How about two people watching a presidential debate. One candidate says something one person watching does not like and he comments “That person should not be allowed to run for President.” Does the other person respond “Judge not that you be not judged?” What about if two people are talking and one says “I think Whataburger makes the best hamburgers around; they are so much better than McDonalds.” Does the other respond “Judge not that you be not judged?” What about a judge in a courtroom rendering a verdict? Does the lawyer for the losing party stand and shout out “Judge not that you be not judged?” What about if two people are talking and one says “I do not believe two men should be allowed to marry one another.” The other responds “Judge not that you be not judged.” Awe . . . Now finally, here is where we are likely to hear this verse quoted! There are plenty of examples that could be used here but we can easily see how selective we are about how that verse is used in our society?
What is really going on here in Matthew 7:1 when Jesus warns about judgment is that He is continuing the same theme of the entire Sermon on the Mount (Mat. 5-7) and emphasizing the necessity of making righteous judgments in all things. Again, apart from a right view of God, there will be no righteous judgments made.
Jesus made judgments all the time. He judged people, He judged places, and He judged things. He is though emphasizing the importance of exercising the right kind of judgment as a part of overall righteous living in all things. Commentator David Turner writes “The Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount clearly would not deny the existence of moral absolutes from which one can make absolute statements about right and wrong, good and evil . . . Jesus Himself makes such judgments.” (David L. Turner; Matthew; BECNT; 205) How then can we be righteous in our judgments? Hebrews 5:14 is very instructive here. “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” The key word here is “Maturity.” Without spiritual maturity we will not be able to make righteous decisions; we probably will not even come close! Right judgment begins with God’s Word; not with us!
We have probably all made statements which were perceived by someone else as passing harsh judgment and condemnation on another and it was not received well. I remember one such time where someone reacted to something I wrote by responding “Only God can judge.” My response to this lady was “You are absolutely right. But, on what basis does He judge?” What I wanted this lady to see was that God has already told us in His Word, the Bible, how He judges all things. It is no mystery; there is no guesswork when it comes to major moral issues. Any ambiguity is only in a person’s mind or can be attributed to their lack of understanding.
When people say we cannot and should not judge things that are clearly discussed in His Word they are, in effect, saying God’s Word is not sufficient on the matter at hand, or perhaps on any matter! That is a grave error. What kind of God would tell us something is wrong in His written Word when He really considers it right or ok? Or, what kind of God would tell us something is good or ok in His written Word when in reality He does not consider it right or ok? Only a very cruel, whimsical, sort of God would mislead the ones He created down the wrong path. Scripture says, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” We can be supremely confident that God will judge all people according to His written, revealed Word. It is the most fair and loving thing He could possibly do.
When we judge with righteous or Godly judgment, we are judging with God’s Word clearly guiding us. With the knowledge we then poses we can help guide others toward the truth. To accept everything at face value and leave people alone in their sins just because they quip “Judge not” is not the most loving thing to do. Jude, in his epistle, warned others to have compassion and save some so as by fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh (Jude vs. 22-23) Satan has fooled and is fooling many into thinking their sins are all ok, and further he has fooled many into believing that acceptance of sin and sinful lifestyles are the most loving thing to do; but God’s Word is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword and can cut through everything else finally making its way to the sinful human heart. It is the heart that needs to be changed. Until the heart desires God, everything else it desires will fail to satisfy. As we judge righteously, we need to remember everything begins with the right view of God.
Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor