Don’t Judge Me

Jesus teaching 2One of the most often quoted, and frequently abused, passages in scripture is Matthew 7:1. You’ve probably had it declared to you on more than one occasion. It may be you’ve even employed it when you felt attacked by a particularly judgmental individual. In Matthew 7:1 Jesus says this, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”

I’m afraid many folks read that and take solace in the fact that Jesus is apparently saying, despite your actions or their implications, no one has the right to criticize or object to your decisions or lifestyle. You can’t judge me. Jesus said so.

The problem is, that’s not what Jesus meant.

When some people say, “Don’t judge me” often what they really mean is, “Don’t point out, or encourage me to correct, my selfish and reckless behavior.” That is not however, what Jesus was endorsing.

It’s ironic to me that when a person declares, “you can’t judge me” they’re making a judgment call with that statement. They’re judging you as being judgmental.

Often, before trying to discern what a passage is saying it is helpful to determine what it is not saying.

In this passage Jesus is clearly not saying that if we simply remain silent, and never make a judgment call on anyone’s behavior or beliefs, then we can escape final judgment ourselves. John 12:48, 1Corinthians 4:1-21 & Romans 20:12 say that Jesus will judge the life of every man one day at His throne. So clearly He is not saying that we will escape judgment altogether.

Furthermore, if Matthew 7:1 is a total prohibition against making judgment calls then that would include both positive and negative critiques. Judging is not always negative but rather a term we use to describe defining or deciding. It simply means we are assigning meaning and motive to a given action. When we judge something we decide on its merits and benefits. It can be positive or negative.

Judges disqualify contestants from events and they also award trophies. To judge simply means to decide or discern. So if we cannot judge we cannot make negative or positive declarations. This of course cannot be what the text means because we are told in other passages to discern between good and evil, to set a difference between the holy and the profane and to judge with righteous judgment (John 7:24, 1Cor.6:2, Ezek. 22:23-28, Heb. 5:14, James 5:19-20). 2 Timothy 4:2 instructs Elders in the church to reprove, rebuke, and correct sin and error in the interest of provoking repentance and Godliness in the life of fellow believers.

So what did Jesus mean when He said, “Judge not”?

When Matthew 7:1-6 is read in its entirety, the meaning of the passage becomes clear:

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

Jesus was encouraging us to examine our own motives and to avoid hypocrisy before we attempt to deal with sin and errors in the lives of others. He was telling us to use mercy and to be understanding when faced with sin in someone’s life. What Jesus was condemning here was a self-righteous, hypocritical, judgmental attitude that many people take with others. We’re never holier than when we’re confronted with someone who sins differently than we do. Jesus is rebuking that attitude.

I also find it instructive that in the next few verses Jesus encourages the removal of sin from a friends life only after we have been cleansed ourselves and approach the situation with grace and humility.

He also says not to cast your pearls, or those things you value, before dogs or swine, or people who, with animal brutality, cannot understand the value of anything. How else could we determine who was a dog or a swine if we were not to make a judgment call?

David Smitherman sums up Matthew 7:1-6 well here:

Jesus is condeming the attitude that is manifested in trying to straighten out faults in another’s life without first seeking to remove those in mine; such is hypocrisy, vs. 5. Can we “judge” (make a determination) that someone has a “mote” (fault) and then seek to remove it? Certainly; the latter part of verse 5 says so. But to do so thinking “I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican,” Lk. 18:11; or that I am something when I am nothing, Gal. 6:3; or not “in a spirit of gentleness; looking to thyself, let thou also be tempted,” Gal. 6:1, I am in violation of what Jesus is teaching. Let us not judge by appearance (Joshua 22:9-29) or on the basis of our subjective opinions (Rom. 14; 1 Cor. 8) or inconsistently (Rom. 2:1,21) but let us judge righteous judgement, Jo. 7:24.

In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus gives instruction on how to deal with sin in the life of a fellow believer. He does not say avoid it or ignore it. He gives us a way to address it without being harsh or judgmental.

In the words of Pastor Dan McKillop, We must be careful not to confuse judging with being judgmental. It is the obligation of the Christian to do one without being the other.

That being said, I am not arguing for folks to become proactive and seek out opportunities to judge others. I am simply offering what I believe to be an accurate exegesis of Matthew 7:1-6.

While I may have the Biblical authority to determine whether something is righteous or unrighteous, and declare it as such, I never have the right or power to pronounce final judgment on anyone’s heart or eternal soul. Jesus will be the final judge of every man and woman that has ever lived. He will judge “the small and the great” (Rev. 20:12) and His judgment will be a just and righteous judgment.

I pray we all step in to the forgiveness and grace that He has made available to us now so that we don’t have to be ashamed on that final judgment day.

Sinners & Saints

Today is All Saints Day, a traditionally Catholic holiday held on November 1st to celebrate the lives and beatification of the Catholic saints. While I am not Catholic, and do not ascribe to their theology or holidays, I found something worth considering today in their celebration.

I celebrate the church.

The Church is called the body of Christ (Eph. 1:15-23) because it belongs to Him (Col. 1:17-20) and He is the head (Eph. 5:23). The church is not confined to any one particular denomination or creed but is defined by those who have believed and obeyed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, namely, His death, burial and resurrection. The church is made up of those who have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14, ESV).”

So who are the saints? They are those who have dedicated their lives and efforts to the kingdom of God. Those who have been buried with Him in baptism (Col. 2:12), who have been filled with His Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), who have been sanctified and set apart for His glory (1Peter 2:9). Those who were once sinners and are now saints. I celebrate them today.

I thank God for a Pastor that loved me and led me as a young man, teaching me to love Jesus Christ and honor the Word of God. I thank God for the bus driver who picked up my family and brought us to church, for the Sunday School teacher who had an inspiring and truthful message every Sunday for this little boy. I thank God for the church I worship with now. The people who serve God, honor His Word and love His ways. Who esteem the heart of God above their own heart and trust His ways above their own. I thank God for a grandmother and a mother who taught me and showed me to worship Jesus Christ and to submit my desires to His commands.

Thank God for the saints!

We’re all sinners and we’re all saints. We have a past and we have a future. As I read the Book of Acts I thank God for the honesty of Luke and the reality that men can be born sinners in the world and die saints in the church because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The unknown writer of Hebrews tells of these sinners and saints who, through the grace and power of God:

who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11:33-38 ESV)

Thank God for the saints! Scripture gives us the promise that, for those who are saints of God, it doesn’t end in this life. John, captive on the Island of Patmos, was given a vision of the throne of God in the end of time and he testified:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
“Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:9-17 ESV)

Thank God for the saints.

Greg Kandra writes:

The saints remind us of things that are changeless, timeless. Things we need to remember and hold onto right now. Things like Courage. Sacrifice. Holiness. Hope.
For all the trials and hardships that the world has known, through the centuries ordinary people have stepped forward to live out those ideals. God has given us examples. He has given us saints.

There’s an arrogant Italian playboy who scandalized and embarrassed his family —and then gave up everything for God. We know him today as St. Francis of Assisi.

There’s the son of a deacon who was kidnapped and held as a slave for years before he escaped, and found his way home, and found his way to God: St. Patrick.

There’s the spoiled, rich Spaniard who attended the finest schools.  But, when famine struck Spain, and he saw human suffering, he was so moved with pity that he sold all he had and joined a monastery. That man became St. Dominic.

And there’s that young man from a prosperous and prominent family in Germany who did everything his father didn’t want him to do – including, finally, becoming a priest.  That was St. Boniface.

For what we used to be and for what we’re going to be, I celebrate the church today and all its saints.