biblical principles, biblical rules, biblical standards, condemn, criticize, determine, evaluate, Holy Spirit's teachings, illuminator, judge, Pharisees, questionable behaviors, questionable practices, rebuke, Scribes, Sermon on the Mount, sin, unrighteousness, white-washed tombs
Have you ever been on the receiving end of someone’s “Judge not, that ye be not judged” comment, and immediately realized that this person, in essence, was using Christ’s words to scare you into backing off from addressing that person’s inappropriate action(s) or sinful lifestyle? Indeed, many religionists, atheists, agnostics, believers, public figures, friends, enemies, and/or family members are very quick to say: “Don’t you judge me, because Jesus says, ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged.’” The people who especially are most fond of using this Scripture are the ones who are trying to defend their inappropriate actions, questionable practices, or sinful lifestyles.
Christ’s “Judge not, that ye be not judged” Sermon on the Mount words often have been abused just as frequently as they have been quoted. Most of the time, this verse is taken out of context and misused by people who need to prove that the Holy Bible supports their “questionable” practices/behaviors.
However, when we study the full context of Jesus’ “Judge not, that ye be not judged” statement, we will see that Christ makes this comment after He publicly has rebuked the Scribes and the Pharisees for their hypocrisy: for being white-washed tombs (having an outward appearance of “righteousness”), when inwardly, in their hearts/human spirits, they were rotten to the core (cf. Matthew 5:20ff; Matthew 23:27). Thus, passing judgment on the Scribes and the Pharisees “unrighteousness” is the main theme of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. As Christ publicly deals with the Scribes and Pharisees’ “unrighteousness,” He makes it clear to His Jewish audience that these religious law experts and teachers’ self-righteousness never would be permitted in the Kingdom of Heaven. For sure, the end result of every person’s self-righteousness is “condemnation.” That’s why today’s people should not get it twisted, by assuming that Christ’s “Judge not, that ye be not judged” pronouncement means that NO ONE has a right to judge!
As a matter of fact, when Christ says in Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” He is continuing His STRONG rebuke of the Scribes and the Pharisees’ blatant hypocrisy, for Christ declares, in the verses that follow Matthew 7:1, that the same standards, rules, principles, etc., they (the Scribes and the Pharisees) use to judge others’ sins/unrighteousness will be used to judge their own sins/unrighteousness. The Scribes and the Pharisees’ unrighteousness, then, should be the reason why they should pay more attention to finding out how they can extricate their own sins (beams in their own eyes) before they try to judge other people’s sins (specks in other people’s eyes) [cf. Matthew 7:1-5].
Thus, in Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus is teaching us today that judging another is wrong when our judgment is hypocritical—when we, like the Scribes and Pharisees, strain our water so that we will not swallow a gnat, but then we swallow a camel! Without a doubt, Christ’s message to us is that He does not want us to be like the Scribes and Pharisees who wear their righteousness on their sleeves. Once again, these religious hypocrites are, as Christ says, “…whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27, NIV). For this reason, our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of hypocrites, or we, like them, will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven!
Now, there also are some people who would like to argue that because we are “called” to be fishers of men—called to show others the way to Christ—that we have no right to judge others, because, after all, Christ says to “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Fore sure, God through Christ has given us the responsibility to help others see the Light, but He also has commanded us to lovingly correct people when they sin, or when they engage in “questionable” practices/behaviors. Thus, when Christ says “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” He is NOT saying that we are NEVER to judge people, because right after He finishes His condemnation of the Scribes and Pharisees’ hypocritical judgments Christ then commands His Jewish disciples to make a judgment. He tells His Jewish followers to not give what is holy to the dogs and to not cast their pearls before swine (cf. Matthew 7:6). Now, how would the disciples know who is a “dog” or a “pig,” unless they make judgments about who is or is not a “dog” and/or a “pig”?
Then, in Matthew 7:15-20, Christ once again commands His disciples to judge by being observant. They were to be on the lookout for false prophets, whom Christ says His disciples will know by the “fruits” the false prophets produce. Once again, there is no way anybody could watch out for false prophets, who come dressed in sheep’s clothing, which hides the fact that they are actually ravenous wolves, if a person is not permitted to make judgment calls about who is a false prophet—judgment calls that are based on biblical standards, rules and principles that confirm whether or not the “fruit” a false prophet is producing is the genuine God sanctioned spiritual fruit!
Indeed, in Matthew 10:12-15 and Acts 13:42-46, the Word of God teaches us that we must judge between those who are “worthy” and those who are, figuratively speaking, “dogs” and “pigs.” This command to judge, however, often is tough for us to follow, especially when people try to intimidate us with Scriptures like “Judge not, that [we] be not judged,” in the hope that they will succeed in getting us to back off, which is just what many of us do when we have no in-depth understanding of the context in which Christ spoke His “Judge not, that ye be not judged” statement.
For sure, it would be impossible for us, “who are spiritual” to “gently” restore those who have been “caught in a sin,” if we do not have the right to judge both who is spiritual/righteous and who has committed a sin (cf. Galatians 6:1). What’s more, before we can ever become true fishers of men who have been sent to make disciples of the unsaved people, we first have to be able to make a judgment call about who is a lost sinner or a saved believer. There is no denying that even today, as it was for Christ’s original disciples, where the Body of Christ’s spiritual matters are concerned, in order for us to teach today’s lost sinners we have to be able to determine (judge, evaluate) who is lost and who is not.
What is the bottom line? The bottom line is that it is NOT biblically correct to say that NO ONE has the right to ever judge someone else, for there are numerous examples in the Holy Bible that confirm that believers have the right to make judgment calls. However, what believers are cautioned against doing is making hypocritical judgment calls.
Since born again, saved people have been made righteous by Christ, and since the Holy Spirit has been put in them to mature them, spiritually speaking, through His progressive sanctification process (if individuals are cooperating with Him), and since the Body of Christ/CHURCH has many spiritually righteous believers in it, then, certainly, righteous people can make righteous judgment calls that are based on established biblical standards, rules, and principles. The Apostle John confirms this statement to be the truth when he also tells believers to “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24, KJV).
Moreover, for example, in those cases where the Holy Bible is not clear or exact about how to deal with certain behaviors or activities, the Holy Spirit is the illuminator as well as the judge. Indeed, the Apostle John tells us that we “…have an anointing from the Holy One, and [we all] know the truth” because “…the anointing [we] received from him remains in [us], and [we] do not need anyone to teach [us]. But as his anointing teaches [us] about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit…” we are capable of making righteous judgments as long as we remember and apply what the Holy Spirit “…has taught [us]…” and “…remain in him” (1 John 2:20 and 27, NIV). Then in 1 John 4:1, Apostle John tells us to “…not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (NIV).
Finally, “Judge not, that ye be not judged” is not applicable to everyone. For sure, there will be times in believers’ lives when judging the sinful lifestyles of others will be absolutely necessary. In those times, believers should never shrink from their responsibility, just because someone is trying to bully them into backing off. Instead, believers should know what the whole Word of God says about judging, and then govern themselves accordingly.