Last time I wrote I attempted to set forth what Jesus couldn’t possibly have meant when He instructed us: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). Several of you have mentioned to me that you’re glad that we’re looking into this, and some of you have undoubtedly felt uncomfortably silenced by a “judge not” that was rather indiscriminately hurled in your direction at one time or another. Many thanks as always for the back-and-forth on this subject.
Clearly Jesus is prohibiting judgment of some kind. That’s what we’ll explore today. Sinful judging. Sinful judgments. Based on my study of Matthew, I believe that our Lord is forbidding at least five kinds of judgments.
1. I am not to judge without any basis for judgment.
Jesus is aiming his pointed arrow at the Pharisees here. The Pharisees were professionals at unfair judgment. May you and I not behave like contemporary Pharisees! Make no mistake about it, Beloved: Evangelical churches are the breeding ground for “Pharisee-ism” today. Where there is truth, there is always the potential for that truth to be delivered without grace. (There is at least a little Pharisee in all of us. May God save us from us!)
2. I am not to judge rashly.
The same Jesus who tells us to “judge not” tells us clearly that some judgments are good judgments, and in fact instructs us to make good judgments: “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24). So you and I are to strive to make sound judgments. Settled judgments. Reasonable judgments. Even what Christ practically tells us to do in Matthew 7:5 – to take that huge log out of our own eye first (to see our own sin for what it is) – involves making a sound judgment!
3. I am not to judge with a hypercritical, faultfinding spirit.
The English word “judge” can mean “condemn,” “avenge,” or even “damn.” This kind of judging Jesus clearly prohibits in Matthew 7:1. We must understand the difference between judging (making judgments) and “judgmental-ism” (what we might describe as “being judgmental”). What Jesus condemns is our wrongly sitting in judgment of others, and our condemning them as if we were God. To be sinfully judgmental is to be constantly on the lookout for the faults and shortcomings of other people – and quick to rip them to shreds at the first sign or error or weakness.
In general, the scribes and Pharisees: were exceptionally rigid and severe in their judgment of others; were proud and conceited; were self-righteous (believed they could justify themselves); and (in their attempted self-justification) judged and condemned anyone who was not exactly like them.
4. I am not to judge by a standard that applies only to others.
This isn’t just hypercritical – it’s hypocritical. If it weren’t so deadly serious, the mental picture that we get upon reading Matthew 7:4-5 (the log and the speck scenario) would be downright funny. It makes no sense for me to see someone else’s fault while failing to see my own. Yet this is our universal problem (Romans 2:1-3). I sincerely encourage you to check out that Romans passage. Ouch!
And I will be judged. “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2). I think that perhaps the best medicine to treat my wrong judgment of others is the realization that Christ will one day judge me.
5. I am not to judge beyond my capacity to judge rightly.
I can’t read someone’s heart. I can’t read someone’s motives. Simply stated: I’m not God. In regard to Christ, the scribes and Pharisees: did not like the way Jesus did things at all (it wasn’t their way); did not believe that Jesus represented God’s kingdom in a manner befitting them; and had decided that Christ could not possibly be the promised Messiah. The sad part is this: There He was – the Son of God – in their very midst. But they couldn’t see Him. Their judgments were out of their league, and dead wrong.
In the next blog post, I’ll take up judgments that we must make as Christians.