“Don’t Judge Me!”

 Mike Johnson

 In society, as well as in the church, people who are in leadership positions have lost their backbone!    Many people have gotten, what might be called, the “Ann Landers/Dear Abby” syndrome. (They wrote an advice column in the newspaperseveral years ago.)  What is this you ask?   This “syndrome” comes from the advice that these sisters (who had advice columns in the newspaper) often gave  when someone, obviously religious,  asks whether they should tell a person who is involved in immorality (such as people living together) that they are wrong.  Their standard reply was, “doesn’t’ the Bible also say “Judge not that you be not judged?”  So what were  these sisters saying?  They were  saying, “it was  wrong for one person to tell another, that they should not be involved in some immoral activity because if they do they are guilty of judging and, after all, the Bible condemns judging.  This attitude is very common, and is a reflection of the timidity of our society!  Even leaders and people who are supposed to have authority have lost their boldness!  People are afraid to take any kind of moral stand regarding right and wrong.  Matthew 7:1 is the passage under consideration.  It says, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”   This passage is greatly misunderstood.

The Bible teaches that we are to engage in some form of judging.    In John 7:24,  Jesus taught “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”  This verse helps us to see that there are some ways in which we are to judge and other ways in which we are not to judge.  Righteous judgment would be that in which the proper standard is used.  The proper standard, of course, is God’s Word.

Further, Galatians 6:1 says that those who are spiritual are to restore those who are overtaken in a fault.  It would certainly take some judgment concerning the fallen person’s state to restore him.  Also, how can we restore the person without telling him that he is in error?  Would a person be guilty of judging, as condemned in Matthew 7:1, for carrying out the responsibility enjoined in Galatians 6:1?

There are various occasions in the Bible where sin was pointed out.  Galatians 2:11-14 reveals that on one occasion Paul rebuked Peter “before them all” for a sinful attitude that he had.  If Matthew 7:1 were interpreted then as many interpret it today, someone would have told Paul, “Paul, you have no right to judge Peter.  You are not God.”  Paul, however, actually had every right to rebuke Peter as Peter was guilty of sin.  Paul also rebuked the people of Athens (Acts 17:16-34) because they were worshiping idols.  Paul was not judging in the wrong sense (as spoken against in Matthew 7:1) but was carrying out God’s will in exposing error.  In the same way, Aquila and Priscilla were not guilty of judging when they took Apollos aside and taught him the truth about the baptism of John (Acts 18:24-28).

II Timothy 4:2 tells us that we are to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.”  How can one accomplish this without some sort of judging?  If we reprove and rebuke today, many would say that we are wrong because we are guilty of judging.  Yet, we would be doing exactly what God said to do.

What about Matthew 7:1?  Does God’s Word contradict itself?  Obviously, it does not.  The solution is found in a closer look at the context of Matthew 7:1.  Verses 3-5 shows us that the kind of judging under consideration is hypocritical judging.  The verses speak of one who has a beam in his eye condemning another who has a speck in his eye.  The text does not justify the beam or the mote but is simply teaching that the one with the beam should not condemn the one with the mote.  This person is told to take the beam out of his eye, and then he can see clearly to take the mote out of the eye of someone else.  Thus, Matthew 7:1 does not condemn all judging.  Instead, it speaks against hypocritical judging.

When we point out a person’s error, we must have an attitude of love and always conduct ourselves properly.  However, to use Matthew 7:1 in such a way as to say that one person must not point out sin or false teaching to someone else is to misuse the passage.  The Bible is the standard that we go by, and Christians have a responsibility to teach others.