READ : Matthew 7:1-5
In her February blog, Don’t Feel Bad if You Don’t Feel…Good?, Barbara Kelly wrote about the health benefits of not stressing out about failing to accomplishing our weight and dieting goals. Great advice! She says that this message itself is healthy, especially in the “broader sphere of life.” She calls it “liberating” and says that it frees us to “stop judging ourselves (emphasis added) when we fail to live up to uber-high expectations.” It’s true, sometimes we can be our toughest critic and at other times we are not hard enough, and that’s when those who love us come in and point out where we have fallen short – they judge us.
Have you ever seen that a friend or loved one of yours was making some bad decisions about their life and you tried to correct them? Maybe you were the one making the bad decisions and someone tried to get your attention, often when this happens people will yell out, ‘Don’t judge me!’ and they even go as far as saying that the Bible says that we should not judge. Is that true? Does the Bible really say that we are not supposed to judge people? Well, let us take a look and find out!
In the verses for today we can find Jesus giving a lesson on this very issue of judging one another. Chapter 7 of Matthew’s gospel opens by saying, “Do not judge lest you be judged yourselves” (Matt. 7:1, NASB). This is the verse most often quoted when a person is confronted by someone for their poor decisions. Quite frankly, the verse is sometimes applied correctly, other times not so. In my opinion, I believe that this is one of the most misunderstood issues confronting Christians and non-Christians when it comes to “accurately handling the word of truth” (1 Tim. 2:15, NASB).
The word “judge” which we find in the Bible has several meanings. To judge (Gk. Krino) means “(1) To separate, part, put asunder; hence also to order, arrange. (2) To inquire, search into, investigate.” [This word is full of the thought of trial, or testing, or criticism; but it does not imply finality of decision.] So, basically this word means that a person is evaluating what is presented and then making a distinction between the good and the bad, the right and the wrong; normal and abnormal, here there is no condemnation. On the other hand, to judge (Gk. Krima) means “A decision, decree, judgment”–in New Testament usage, “Condemnation, sentence.” [This word seems not to contain the thought of trial, except in the past. It relates to and signifies sentence.] According to Spiros Zodhiates, Th. D. this is the result of Krino, with this type of judgment there is condemnation.
So Jesus says not to judge (krino) unless you are willing to be judged (krino) yourself. He goes on to say that the way you judge (krima) is the way you will be judged. Again, there are two judgments going on here, one is making a distinction between two opposites and the other is to condemn based on the findings of your evaluation. Jesus is not here opposed to a person judging (krino), but He is against hypocritical judging. If you notice, Jesus moves swiftly from speaking in a general sense about judging others (vss. 1-2) to a more defined judgment (vss. 3-5). In the last three verses He addresses the hypocrite by telling them to not pretend as if they are without fault when they confront a brother (or sister) about their faults and then condemn them for what they have done. “Christ directs us to the proper way of forming an opinion of others, and of reproving and correcting them. By first amending our own faults, or casting the beam out of our eye, we can consistently advance to correct the faults of others. There will then be no hypocrisy in our conduct” (Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament).
As we look at the Apostles Luke and John’s gospels we can farther see the contrast of judging and judgment. Luke records Jesus as saying 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. 38 “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure–pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Luke 6:37-38, NASB). The focus here is on condemnation, not distinction. The reason that this is wrong is because only God is judge in this sense. He alone has the power and authority to hand out sentences for sin. On the other hand, John records Jesus as saying 24 “Do not judge according to the appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24, NASB). So then, as we can see, all judgments are not the same. There is a hypocritical judgment and then there is a righteous judgment.
Too often, we are quick to condemn a person for what appears to be ungodly behavior when we do not have all of the pieces to make a clear distinction between what appears to be and what actually is unChrist-like character in that particular situation. However, when all of the pieces do fit we are still more focused on making the person feel even worst about what they have done than we are about winning them back to a right relationship with Christ. The Word of God instructs us to be more focused on showing mercy than on judging. If we do not show mercy to others we will not be shown mercy because that will have been the standard of measurement that we have established and agreed should be used. “If you forgive…your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matt. 6:14, NASB), but if not then He will not forgive you. The brother of our Lord said it best when it comes to judging others, “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13, NASB). So, does the Bible really say that we can not judge? Absolutely not! However, it does say that our judgment must be righteous and without hypocrisy. It does say that before we can correctly deal with the issues of someone else we must tend to our own faults, and above all else – show mercy.
agsconsulting.com. 11 3 2010. 19 3 2010 <http://www.agsconsulting.com/htdbv5/r2430.htm>.
Barnes, Albert. “Commentary on Matthew 7”. “Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament”. <http://www.studylight.org/com/bnn/view.cgi?book=mt&chapter=007>.
Barnes, Albert. “Commentary on John 7”. “Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament”. <http://www.studylight.org/com/bnn/view.cgi?book=joh&chapter=007>.
Don’t Feel Bad If You Don’t Feel… Good? February 12, 2010 by Barbara Kelley.
Holy Bible, The. “Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973,
1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission.”
Zodhiates, Th. D., Spiros. “Lexical Aids to the New Testament.” The Complete Wordstudy New Testament With Greek Parallel. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 1992. 916-917.