The video-taped teacher quickly glossed over Matthew 7:1 “Judge not lest ye be judged.” Or another translation: “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.” He gave a six second reprise of the the common admonition to refrain from judging because we are all sinners and who are we to point out sin in others.
Our post-Christian culture has aborted the real meaning of this verse in favor of abstaining from discernment of right and wrong, good and evil. This goes a long way in explaining the decline of morality in our nation.
This mistaken interpretation was demonstrated by another class member who said “we should never judge an individual because he has his reasons for doing what he is doing that we may not be aware of. We should never judge another’s motives.”
Wrong ! Wrong! Wrong!
This verse needs to be understood in context. Jesus is addressing the problem of hypocrites. Jesus never says “everyone” is a hypocrite. And not everyone is a hypocrite. Even if you believe most people are hypocrites, maybe even ourselves, you probably know some fine people who are not. He is pointing out that those who ARE hypocrites have no credibility when they call attention to the shortcomings of others.
So, is it ok for the “non-hypocrite” to point out the sins of others? Absolutely. When we cease being hypocrites – when we take the log out of our own eye - we are then in a position to take the speck out of our brother's eye. (verse 5). As one commentary states: “Believers DO have a responsibility to help one another repent of sins, but only after first dealing with their own serious sins.”
And yes, we are called to judge the character and motive of others. The Holman Bible Dictionary declares: “The interpretation of Matthew 7:1 that Christians should not make value judgments of the behavior of others is shown to be erroneous by multiple commands in Scripture to do exactly that.”
The Bible is replete with examples of a Godly mandate to judge. The prophets of the Old Testament surely judged. Look at Isaiah for example. And in the New, look at Matthew 7:15-20, John 7:24, and 1 Timothy 3:10. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:10 called for distinguishing between spirits, evil and otherwise. Paul in Romans doesn’t hold back in judging homosexuality as sin. Are we not to judge the behavior and chosen lifestyle of the homosexual? Or the thief, or the adulterer?
We shouldn’t judge the “motive” of others? Really? A finding of guilt or innocence of someone charged with a crime requires determination of “motive” in addition to “means” and “opportunity.” The business person is wise to judge the motive and character of one he chooses as a business partner.
What would become of our culture if…
- We eliminated judging character and morality as a couple of the most important criteria for voting for the best candidate?
- All judges across the land were prohibited from judging because we are all sinners?
- We determined that faithfulness and character in choosing a spouse was off limits?
- Judging character and loyalty as the best reasons for choosing our friends was declared unscriptural?
- We no longer could judge faith, loyalty, and dedication as the basis for choosing leaders in our churches?
You’ve GOT to be kidding.
Our rampant erroneous interpretation of Matthew 7:1 denies the concept of good and evil, right and wrong, truth and lies. This is the very thought pattern that is leading this nation into moral decay. This is why our mainline religious denominations have accepted abortion, gay ministers, and gay marriage. This is why we are tolerating all manner of vile entertainment and immoral behavior of teenagers and selfish greed among our electorate.
Just as we as a nation must become energy-responsible by adopting the policy of “drill, baby, drill”, we also need to become morally responsible by adopting a personal policy of “judge, baby, judge.” But we can do this only after we do all we can to build our own character so that we are worthy to put into practice the judging God calls us to do.
Here is another great article on "The Cult of Judge Not."