To Judge or Not to Judge

Judge with gavel

Matthew 7:1 is one of the most quoted scriptures of all time, especially by non-Christians.
The verse says; Judge not, that you not be judged. There are several reasons why I have an issue with this.
Instead of just looking at Matthew 7:1, let’s look at verse 1-5

Matthew 7:1-5
“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. 2 For with the judgment you use,  you will be judged, and with the measure you use,[b] it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? 5 Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Notice verse 5 says, Hypocrite! First, take the log out of your eye, then you can see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. This passage isn’t saying don’t judge, it’s saying if you are guilty of a bigger sin, don’t judge anyone for a smaller one. First, you need to stop sinning, then you can see more clearly how to help someone else stop sinning. Then you can judge while keeping in mind your own journey with that sin.

There are also verses that contradict the modern interpretation of Matthew 7:1 When in doubt about any Bible passage we can use the Bible to interpret the Bible. One of the verses that encourage us to judge is John 7:24 which states that we should not judge by appearances, but judge rightly. This verse explicitly tells us to judge.

2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness,

In order to correct or rebuke, you first have to judge that someone is wrong.

There are some rules to judging, however.
1) We should all be more generous with our positive judgments, then we are our negative judgments.  You see judging isn’t just about shaking your finger at people, it is about giving pats on the back as well. We are judging our kids when we say good job making the honor roll,  When we tell someone that you appreciate how generous they are… Positive judgment can often achieve better results than negative judgments.  They win friends as well.

2) Always remember that every human on this planet, even if you don’t like them was made in the image of God. That image has been distorted by sin, but it is still there. When you judge in a non-urgent situation you should be as nice, and as helpful as possible, if you are mean to a person, you are also being mean to a creation of God.
There are times when it is OK to be rough, for example, if you are given a choice between shooting someone or letting them kill a child, It isn’t just the bad guy being made in the image of God that counts here, the child whose life is in danger, and any child in the path of the killer in the future are also made in the image of God. Do what you have to, to protect the innocent children.  If you see a drunk person about to put their keys in a car and drive away, by all means, judge them in whatever way you have to, in an effort to not only protect the drunk driver but anyone in their path, who might get killed by the drunk driver.

3) Always remember that there could be background information that you do not know about,  for example, a single pregnant woman may have been raped, or a new window, in which case she would be completely innocent.

In the story of The Phantom of the Opera, the main character was born with a birth defect that caused even his mother to not want to look at him. He never experienced love, not even motherly love.  While this did not excuse the things he did, you can probably see how this character deserved more grace than others. Which of us would not have become completely unhinged if even their mother did not love them?

We all to lesser extremes have unfortunate things in our past. Those unfortunate things can often drive a person to sin. When we are tempted to judge people we need to remember that we don’t know what that person has endured. It doesn’t negate guilt entirely but can give a backstory that makes it easier to show some grace.

Read more in The Most Misused Verses in the Bible, Surprising Ways God’s Word Is Misunderstood

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