Summary: Working through a difficult passage of scripture on judging others. What did Jesus mean? If it is okay to judge others, what are the tools we need to use to make fair assessments? And, do we judge Christians any differently than non-Christians?
JUDGE NOT, LEAST YE BE JUDGED! (loudly – Like old time Preacher). That sure sounds good from the pulpit, doesn't it? But really. Can we just put an exclamation point after it, chisel it in stone and make it a commandment?
One of the top five questions I’ve been asked over the years by Christians and non-Christians alike is this one. “Aren’t Christians supposed to NOT judge others?” Sometimes they’re angry and accusing and sometimes they sincerely want to know. Sometimes they’ve remembered something about not pointing out the speck in another’s eye when you have a log in your own. It’s a great question but a difficult one to quickly address because the official biblical answer is “Yes and No”.
Matthew 7:1 "Judge not, that you be not judged. 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. 6 "Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.
At first glance VERSE 6 seems out of context here. But it definitely doesn’t fit into the context of what follows in verse seven. And when we look at VERSE 6 more closely, I think we’ll find that it does fit in with the earlier verses on judging others.
We’ll refine this as we go along but the short and quick answer is this: Of course we are supposed to judge others. Judgement is the concept of determining between right and wrong behavior in another person. The word used by Jesus in the Greek is KRINOS meaning simply to decide or determine. So right off we see that we are unable to just lift this verse out of scripture. Obviously Jesus is not saying that Christians should not make decisions or determinations.
The dictionary definition of judgement is this: The evaluation of what is evident in order to make a decision and the secular dictionary uses the words “wisdom” and “discernment” in describing how one should make a quality judgement. Wisdom and discernment are words used to describe Christian qualities and Holy Spirit given gifts. So both the secular worldview and the Christian worldview are tracking together on what we need to have to make good sound judgements. We need wisdom and discernment.
If we were really able to suspend all judgement and become so neutral in our thinking that we no longer made any determinations about things and other people, our life would become unviable, dangerous, and unsustainable. Good judgement of behavior and character must be applied to ourselves and with everyone we come into contact with. We apply good judgement in how we live our life, what we watch on tv, where we are employed, what church we attend and most especially we need to apply good judgement with other people.
Robert was madly in love with Sue. He was a good Christian man who was vulnerable and naive and completely non-judgmental about Sue’s past and wanted to marry her. He knew he’d be her fifth husband. Husbands one and two disappeared without a trace. The death of husband number three was under suspicious circumstances and she was suspected of poisoning husband four but the prosecutor could not get convictions because of lack of evidence. The happy couple go to Hawaii on their honeymoon and they go snorkeling together. To make a long story short, Robert did not use wisdom and discernment in the selection of his new bride and his body was never found.
Darillyn is a happy-go-lucky single mom and a good church-going Christian who refuses to judge anyone. She knows that the man next door was convicted of child molesting. But really who is she to judge another person? She lets the neighbor babysit her children and when the inevitable happens, he is arrested but so is she. She is ultimately convicted of using poor judgement – the actual charge was child endangerment.
Suspend judgement on the internet and you may soon find yourself a victim of identity theft, download a virus that destroys your computer or fall for a scam that drains your bank account and sends all your money to a bank in Nigeria.
You and I both know people – maybe even in our families – maybe even the person whose face we see in the bathroom mirror... People who are still paying the consequences today for poor decisions and lack of judgement. So our God-given common sense shows that we can’t lift the words “judge not” out of the New Testament to make it a standalone commandment.