Some of my posts tend to get me in hot water-other times I just find the hot water and jump right in. One of the most used, most abused, most misunderstood and misquoted scriptures in all of the Bible are the words of Christ recorded in Matthew 7, “Judge not that ye be not judged”. This verse has been used to justify every lifestyle, every bad choice, every rebellious act and every moral stance, scriptural or not. That said it is often used selectively as most of us judge all the time without realizing it. How? Let me count the ways:
I judge thee by where ye live.
I judge thee by the brand of shoes ye wear or whether ye prefer Nike or Adidas.
I judge thee by the length of ye hair (or so I’m told).
I judge ye by how ye votest and who ye support.
I judge ye by where ye worship or which denomination ye claim or the volume and style of ye worship music.
I judge thee because ye judge others.
I judge ye by the color of ye chariot, the color of ye suit, the color of ye spouse and sadly, the color of ye skin.
We are and always have been a very judgmental people. Right or wrong, justified or not, we all do it. But when we are the recipients of what we deem to be critical judgment, we become Bible scholars and quote Matthew 7 in our defense. How silly we are (oh, that was judgmental).
Whenever I want more clarity on a passage for better understanding I refer to the Masters, one being Matthew Henry. He adds this important caveat to this misused verse: “Some cautions about reproving. Because we must not judge others, which is a great sin, it does not therefore follow that we must NOT reprove others, which is a great duty, and may be a means of ‘saving a soul from death’; however, it will be a means of saving OUR souls from sharing in their guilt”. WOW, what an implication! He is saying here that if we are in a position in our own lives to offer reproof but fail to do so, we may share in the guilt of the person whose ways are in error! If you don’t agree, blame the old guy.
Later on in this same passage Jesus goes on to say why point out the splinter in someone else’s eye when you have a log lodged in your own. Of course He is correct in saying that we must be sure to have our own house clean. But contrary to scriptural surgeons who cut and paste, this is not where Jesus left it. CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING! He went on to say that we should first remove the log from our own eye so that we can see better when, and here it is-we remove the splinter from someone else’s eye! And that is where most people fall asleep during the sermon. Jesus didn’t say for us not to reprove, He said be sure we have no skeletons in our closet first, then we can approve. What a difference than the message being posted on social media.
John 7:24 tells us to “judge with a righteous judgment”. Some judge from a self-righteous holier-than-thou approach. In Jesus day these would have been the Scribes and Pharisees. Their motive is condemnation, not restoration. In Galatians 6 we are told that if we see one of our siblings in sin, we (who have clean houses and clear eyes) are to approach and restore them in a spirit of love and mercy with gentleness, understanding that tomorrow it may be our turn to be restored. Again, these passages do not condemn judging or reproof, they simply lay out the conditions by which we are worthy to offer such reproof. No where in scripture will you find the notion that we are not to reprove those who are in error of Holy scripture. We are instead to offer such judgment recalling all that we ourselves have and will continue to be forgiven of in our own lives.
Personally, I feel unfit most days to offer anyone any sort of reproof unsolicited. There are those much more worthy of this responsibility than I. I have forests of my own in my eyes to deal with and more than a few petrified trees. That said, the concept of the Bible advocating a universal Judge-me-not message is just plain, well, unbiblical. I don’t want to share in the guilt of another or be held partly accountable for their spiritual demise. Jesus, the very one whose words are so misconstrued, gave us the perfect example of judging, reproof and restoration in yet another story that is often misrepresented. The woman brought before him accused of adultery was spared her life when Jesus said that those without sin could throw the first stone. They all left to have personal timber-ectomies. BUT, Jesus did not give the woman a free pass, but rather He told her “I don’t condemn you. Now this life you are living, STOP IT-go and stop sinning”, another part that people miss during their Sunday nap.
I’m grateful that I’m not the judge and jury. I don’t want to be. But, as I have briefly laid out according to contextual scripture, we not only can judge, we are compelled in love and gentleness to do just that.