Should Christians judge? Well, what does the Bible say?
“Judge not, that ye be not judged.” – Jesus
It just sounds best in the KJV doesn’t it?
Alright, confession time. How many of you have said that? Or had it said to you?
Follow up… Without cheating, how many of you know what Jesus says after this?
This is an extremely popular saying and one of the most searched for verses on Google. We all know the words, but we don’t know the context. We’ve totally ripped this out of context, making this one of the most misused verses in the Bible. It’s become a mantra of sorts for those that believe we shouldn’t judge and just let everyone live their lives.
The problem is there’s much more to this verse.
Where This Verse Comes From
You can find this verse in Matthew 7:1 and a slightly different version in Luke 6:37. We will look primarily at Matthew as that one is the more popularly quoted passage. Matthew 7 starts off the last chapter of the Sermon on the Mount. In this sermon Jesus has been giving one of the most detailed and difficult sermons we have recorded. It’s a great read; if you haven’t read it you really should. (Sermon on the Mount)
What Jesus does in this sermon is brilliant. He takes common beliefs and flips them on their head. Areas his audience thought they were doing good in, Jesus shows they still have work to do. Which leads to Matthew 7:1, do not judge. Jesus is addressing an area that the religious elite struggled with. Judging others, I guess some things never change.
What Judging Means
If “Do not judge” means that all Christians are to never offer any moral assessment, to never call out bad or good then we are in trouble. Jesus contradicts that notion many times, included in just a few verses, but we will get to that in a minute. At other times Jesus frequently tells his disciples to “judge” under that definition, Matthew 7:16 and Matthew 18:15 just to point out a few.
If those aren’t judgements what is it that Jesus means by this? Our definition and Jesus’ definition must be different.
Let’s look at the word Jesus uses. The word “judge” can translate “to analyze” or “to evaluate”. At times it can even be translated “to condemn.” In the context of this verse and of the Bible as a whole it’s safe to assume Jesus used this word titling towards us not condemning. In many other places we are called to analyze and evaluate. But condemnation is different.
That’s what the religious of the day were doing; condemning others. They weren’t offering help and they certainly weren’t doing it in love. They were pushing others down so that they looked better. Jesus is directly pointing at their behavior and calling them out.
Unfortunately condemning isn’t unique to the 1st century religious is it? The church is increasingly becoming known for judging the world. No help, just condemnation. We need Jesus’ warning just as much as they did.
What Jesus Really Means
Far too often this verse gets pulled out flippantly. Anytime people point out something in our life we throw this verse at them to show them why they are in the wrong. But we are supposed to offer correction to other Christians. We should not condemn; that’s not our job. But we should point out blind spots and potential errors. Not only is that okay, that’s what love requires isn’t it?
When someone is doing something that is dangerous or potentially damaging what is the loving thing to do? Every good parent analyzes and evaluates their kids right? In essence they judge their kids’ behaviors. They offer correction when need. That’s the loving thing to do.
However, it’s not very loving to condemn. To scold your child and never tell them why is not loving or helpful. To condescendingly tell someone they are wrong, but not offer help or advice out of it is not loving. That’s condemning and that’s what we are called not to do.
The last question to answer is where to direct this healthy judgment. One of the pitfalls Christians often fall into is they judge the wrong people. Often times Christians ignore the sins inside the church, but hyper-focus on the sins of those outside the church. That’s the opposite of our call. We are not to condemn anyone, especially those that are not following Jesus. Rather we are supposed to love them.
We will find ourselves on the wrong end of God’s judgment if we condemn others. The opposite is true if we forgive others, for then we will receive an overflowing of God’s grace.
To clarify this point Jesus gives an illustration.
Specks and Logs
Matthew 7:3-5 is a rather straightforward illustration, but a clear message. It’s a rather funny picture, but a little less funny when you see the poignant truth behind it. The reality is it’s usually easier and, if we are honest, a little more fun to identify other people’s faults rather than deal with our own.
This is what Jesus is getting after. Jesus never says we should not point out the speck. Rather that we should deal with our crap SO THAT we can help others deal with their’s.
So many use this verse as an excuse to not listen about the faults others see in them. But that’s totally missing the point. When someone points something out in your life you should listen carefully. Every follower of Jesus should be getting the logs out of their eyes so they can see more clearly in order to help their brothers and sisters.
Should Christians Judge?
Followers of Jesus have a responsibility to confront erring brothers and sisters. But we must do this in love and without judgement. The point Jesus is making is that in order to help each other out we have to get our lives in order first. In other words the blind can’t lead the blind.
The religious of Jesus’ day (and today) like to point fingers. But that helps no one. What we should do is come alongside each other in love. It’s not judging to help someone see the sin in their life. It’s judging when we condemn them for that sin rather then helping them. There’s a big difference between the two.
What are your thoughts? How have you heard this verse used?
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