Judge not and you shall not be judged
A verse that many people quote but fewer can find in the Bible is “judge not and you shall not be judged.” The usual reasoning behind their quotation is that we should never criticize anyone and no one should criticize us.
If we keep this ethic, when we stand before God he will give us a pass into the eternal kingdom. We don’t judge. We don’t get judged.
This weapon is used especially when someone brings up moral principles on sexuality, how people spend money, or their political views.
There are five problems with this view.
Problem 1- After Jesus tells us not to judge, he then tells us to judge
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said “judge not and you will not be judged.” In the next sentence he said that the judgment we use will be used against us. Then he gave an example of proper judgment when he told his listeners to deal with the big issues in their life before they helped someone else with smaller offenses. He then concluded the section by saying that his followers should not give holy things to dogs or pearls to pigs. There are few things more judgmental than calling a person a pig in a Jewish context. (Matthew 7:1-6)
In Luke, Jesus told his followers that they will be judged with the same judgment that they use to judge others. Jesus also told his listeners to judge themselves before they presume to judge others. (Luke 6:37-42)
Problem 2- In the judgment parables there is no third option
Jesus taught about 40 parables. About 15 of them focus on how God will judge people. The foolish virgins, the steward who buried what was entrusted to him, and various groups in each parable are judged. In each parable there are two options: commendation and condemnation. There is no third, non-judgment option. Jesus never implies that if you don’t judge, these parables don’t apply to you.
Problem 3- Everyone is judged in the New Testament
Judgment is universal. Everyone will give stand before God. Paul makes it clear that Christians will give an account of their lives. (Romans 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15; Hebrews 4:12-13; 9:27
Problem 4- The New Testament leaders were very judgmental.
The Apostle John condemned a church leader named Diotrephes who would not cooperate with him. He also labeled some teachers deceivers and condemned those who taught that Jesus wasn’t fully human. (1 John 4; 2 John 7; 3 John 9-10)
The Apostle Paul judged Peter and Barnabas for their legalistic behavior. He judged people on Crete and those who taught legalism to the Galatian and Philippian churches. He also judged sexual perversion in Corinth. (Galatians 1:2-4; 2:11-14; Philippians 3:2-4; Titus 1:10-16; 1 Corinthians 5)
Problem 5- Judgmental terms are used consistently in Scripture
Terms like wicked and foolish are found throughout the Bible. Also, terms like wise and mature are judgmental when they are only applied to some people.
A Modest Proposal
Jesus told his followers not to judge by appearances but with an honest judgment. (John 7:24)
He also told his followers to judge themselves first before they judged others and that the standard they applied to others would be applied to them when they stood before Jesus. (Matthew 7:1-6; Luke 6:37-42)
Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told the crowd that if their right eye caused them to sin they should pluck it out and if their right hand caused them to sin, cut it off. I believe that “judge not and you shall not be judged” is another example of hyperbole. Right after saying it Jesus told people how to judge and judging is seen throughout the New Testament.
In the end, Jesus is the final judge. Nothing will be hidden from him. He will judge everyone by a perfect standard.
What will happen if Jesus uses the same standard of judgment with you that you use with others?
How much less would you judge others if you waited a few minutes before you spoke?
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