(At Double Springs Church, we’ve opened up an avenue for our congregation to submit questions regarding Faith, it’s practice, theology…really anything, through our “Ask The pastor” campaign. We’re answering the questions through a Sunday night teaching series, through Wednesday night 2springsU (for questions that can be answered in short order), through one on one discipleship and through articles written here at doublespringschurch.com.)
“Pastor, I’ve got a friend that I love very much who is living her life in direct rebellion to the Word of God. Every time I try to lovingly confront her, she says, “The Bible says, ‘Judge not lest you be judged’ and the conversation comes to an abrupt end. The Bible does say that but it also says that I should love my neighbor as myself and it’s not love to sit quietly and watch as she walks toward the edge of a cliff. How do I respond to her?”
While the most quoted passage of the Bible has in the past been John 3:16, I believe that in our current, “progressive” culture, Matthew 7:1 has probably surpassed it. In the Sermon on The Mount, the Lord Jesus Christ does in fact state…
“Judge not, that you be not judged.”
This passage is most often quoted when a Christian stands with the authoritative Word of God in determining what is sinful and identifies sin as it’s already been identified by God Himself. For example, When a Christian declares immorality is sinful, they are met with the reply, “Who are you to judge? Don’t you know what the Bible says? “Judge not, lest you be judged!“. When a Christian calls out a friend who is living outside of the commands of scripture, they are routinely met with “How dare you! Judge not, lest ye be judged!”. Think for a moment about the following statements…Adultery (in all forms) is sin…dishonoring ones father and mother is sin…homosexuality is sin…What do all of statements have in common (other than being clearly declared in the Scriptures)? The common denominator is that each statement is usually met with the response, “Judge not, lest you be judged”
So, here we are at what seems at first glance to be quiet the paradox. How do we marry the command of our God to preach the clear teachings of Scripture with the idea that we can’t because it’d be judgmental? As always, we must Let’s take a look at the context of Matthew 7:1.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 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? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5
Notice that the point, the context of Jesus’ teaching is that we are not to be self-righteous or hypocritical in our judgment. For example, if I’m living outside the bounds of Scripture when it comes to my marriage, I’d be hypocritical to point out infidelity in someone elses. That would, in fact be sin on my part as I would be making a self-righteous judgment. BUT, as the passage itself dictates, if I removed the “plank” from my own eye, then I could (and should) remove the speck from my brothers eye. I cannot help him WITHOUT making a judgment. So, JESUS Himself is permitting judgment, not condemning it…so whether the Christian judges or not isn’t actually the issue. It’s the type of judgment that we’re making that needs to be at the forefront. Is it self righteous judgment or righteous judgment. That is the real question.
There are several problems with someone citing this verse as “proof” that a Christian should never try to point out sin in someone’s life.
First of all, judgment is commanded be the scriptures – 1st Thessalonians 5:21 ” but test all things. Hold on to what is good” The Word used here for “test” means judge. -Jesus Himself said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves…by their fruits you will know them” Matthew 7:15,20). How can you possibly know who is a false prophet unless you make judgments about their “fruits” (teaching, actions, etc.)?
Second, righteous judgment was demonstrated by Jesus and the apostles – How could Jesus have told the adulterous woman “Now, go and sin no more” if He’d not made a judgment of the sin she’d previously committed? How could he have identified Pharisees as “hypocrites and snakes” without judging their actions? How could Peter, after the Holy Spirit had rushed through the Upper room stand and proclaim to his lost audience that in their sinfulness, “this Jesus, you have crucified”? (Acts 3:36).
Third, notice the absolute hypocrisy of the person who tells you not to judge. What did they just do when they told you not to judge? They judged you. They made a judgment that what you were doing was wrong. I’m not being nit-picky here, just stating the obvious. We all make judgments. We judge the road conditions before we travel. If a man walked up to our homes dressed in black and wearing a ski mask, you’d better believe we’d ALL make a quick judgment there! That’s not sinful…it’s called “discernment”. The wisdom to know right from wrong, good from bad. That’s something every believer is called to in the Scriptures and equipped for as we are indwelt with Gods Spirit upon conversion.
Also – Our God is a God of love, truth, mercy and grace…but make no mistake He is also Judge. A VERY misguided and might I add damning view of God as a ever tolerant, anything goes deity who’d never judge has saturated our culture. I’ve had conversations with those who’ve sincerely said to me, “My god would never judge”…truth is, I agree. Their god would not because he’s a god that they’ve created in their minds to suit their sinful lifestyle. The God of the Bible is Judge of the living and the dead.
Many see the idea of God as judge to be unloving, a revocation of His goodness. Consider this – Suppose a criminal breaks into a home and brutally murders the family within. He’s caught, he admits his guilt and he stands before a Judge. What would you say of a judge that saw his guilt, heard his admission and said, “I know what you’ve done. I know that you are guilty…but I’m a good, loving judge. Go free”. What would you say of that judge? You’d consider him to be barbaric, weak and unloving. You’d certainly never say a judge like that is good because justice was not served.
The fact that God does judge sin is not a revocation of His loving and good character, it’s proof of it. God, because He is good, must judge sin. By the way, He will. Whether you own up to it or not, He will judge sin. That being said, if you’ve not already placed you faith in Jesus alone for salvation, now is the time. If you die in your sins you will be judged according to them. As a Christian, I know that my sin was judged and Gods wrath was poured out on His only Son as He suffered on Calvary. He died in my place. He suffered for my sin. God didn’t turn a blind eye toward my sin, a price was paid, a penalty doled out on the cross.
So, judgment, in and of itself….is NOT sinful but actually essential if we’re truly going to “follow Christ” and advance His Gospel in our individual context. However, there is a right and wrong way to make judgment.
1. Make Sure Your Own House Is Clean Before Telling Someone to Sweep theirs – This goes back to the context of Matthew 7:1-5.
2. You Are Not God, Therefore You Cannot Judge A Mans Heart – “They look at the outward appearance, but I look at the heart.” 1st Samuel 16:7. Only God can know the heart, or the motives of a man. We can’t. Therefore, we can’t cast judgment in that manner. We can and should judge by his actions though. You see, a “tree is known by it’s fruit“. Though we cannot see and judge the root system, we can know a tree by what kind of fruit it is producing. In other words, it’s permissible for Christians to judge what a man does but not necessarily why the man does it.
3. We Make righteous Judgment Through The Word, Not Our Opinions – I have no Biblical authority to cast judgment on a man based on my opinion of him or his action. I do, however, have Biblical authority to judge as I use scripture as my guide. If I’m making judgment based merely upon what I “think” then I’m clearly making self righteous judgments, but if I make judgment that are centered upon the Word of God then what I’m doing is honorable.
I’ve heard this old statement several times and it’s wonderfully true, “It’s NEVER wrong to call wrong wrong when God calls it wrong” – If God has declared it, it’s settled. Christian, you’re never in the wrong for repeating what God has already said.
Christian, never be intimidated by this world. Even when they take a verse out of context and twist it to support their argument (which is what Satan did as well, as you’ll remember). You go forth lovingly with truth.
Soli Deo Gloria!