Don't Judge, Lest you Be Judged!

By Chris Good

Matthew 7:1-3
1Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged,
and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye
and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?



There are a lot of accusations going around in Christian circles about people "judging" other people and not being "tolerant". Often the passage above is cited to support those bringing new teachings and practices into the church. Indeed, in our post-modern age - the greatest sin is "intolerance" and it seems this is also increasingly the case in many churches. Anyone who wants to critique something is instantly dismissed as 'judgemental' (so much for tolerance then!).

1) Judging: an apparent contradiction

When we turn to Scripture, many people at first glance are confused. Scripture seems to assert very clearly that we are not to judge. However in other places it seems to equally clearly assert the opposite. Some examples are:

Do Not JudgeDo Judge
Matthew 7:1-2
1Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
1 Corinthians 2:15
The spiritual man [ie: the believer] makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment
Romans 2:1
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
1 Corinthians 5:12-13
12What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 ... Expel the immoral brother!
Romans 14:10,13
10You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. 13...therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another...
1 Corinthians 6:1-4
1If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? 2Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 4Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church.
James 4:11-12
11
... Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it... 12... who are you to judge your neighbour?
1 Corinthians 4:5
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
1 Corinthians 5:3
Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this [sin of incest], just as if I were present.
etc.etc.

We seem to have a dilemma of being commanded to judge, and not to judge - in many cases within the same book, or even chapter!


2) Judging: the contradiction resolved

Although at first glance these passages may appear contradictory, a few basic considerations lead to a different conclusion: Once these factors are taken into account, then it becomes apparent that there is no contradiction, as these passages refer to different kinds of judgement.


3) Judgment applied

From our considerations above we can conclude: It is God's Word that judges, while we are to follow its verdict:

Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is living and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword,
it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow;
it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.


Our Lord Jesus says, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." (John 14:15). He has commanded us to judge/test those in the church according to the standards of His Word so that we should not be deceived (1 John 4:1 cf Matthew 24:23-25; Acts 17:11; 1 Corinthians 14:29; 2 Timothy 4:2-4; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12; etc.). This is what we are seeking to faithfully do. In doing so we do not need to fear the accusation of "judge not" - for we seek to judge faithfully by His Word. Because we stand on God's Word, we are willing and able to be corrected and judged by it ourselves if shown to be wrong in our stance.


Conclusion: Do not judge the faithful, lest you be judged!

Those who criticise people who seek to judge by the standards given in God's Word seem oblivious to the fact that in their criticism they too are judging those they oppose by labelling them 'judgemental'! However, is this critical judgment being based upon God's Word, or upon those things by which we are forbidden to judge: traditions of men, party spirit, autonomous human opinion, reason or experience, etc.?! If the latter, remember our Lord's warning:

Matthew 7:1-3
1
Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged,
and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye
and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?




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Page last updated:
Friday, 19 January 2007