What a difficult dilemma in modern society! Christians are surrounded by a very secular world, full of things that they don’t approve of or agree with. At the same time, Christians have to balance seemly contradicting Biblical advice: “Judge not, lest ye be judged” and Jesus’ parable in Matthew 7 where he says: “For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” It’s a tricky situation. For some advice, and a way to share that advice in a Bible study you’re planning on teaching, check out the Bible study below and you can visit Port Richey Church for more insights on your Bible innovations:
Bible Study on Judging or Not Judging
The Bible is more complex than we give it credit for in the conservative church sometimes.
Contradictions in the Bible are often, maybe usually, there deliberately to make you think. What do you think Jesus is trying to get us to think here?
There are two kinds of judging; one is the kind that we have to apply in everyday life, that is wrong or this is right, the other is the kind that sets us up in God’s place; this person is evil or not, this person is to be forgiven, or not. Someday we’ll be allowed that kind of judgment, but not for today; we simply don’t have all the information we will at that time.
We are to judge, in fact, called to and competent to in almost any matter, other than whether or not someone is a Christian. (raca is danger of hell) (judging that builds up is ”you sinned against me” or “this person is not a positive influence”, but judging that tears down is different somehow.) (only thing is, Christ very clearly is talking here of the rebuking sort of judgment, and telling us to be darn careful with it.)
So there are two mistakes we make with this verse: one, we tune out righteous rebuke that we so desperately need, and two, we fail to offer the correction our friends need to grow.
And what about those other places where Jesus tells us to rebuke our brothers and treat them like tax collectors? (note this is neighbor not brother)
I think it comes down to, there’s a time to judge and a time not to. When someone is doing something grossly outrageous that’s hurting the faith or hurting you directly, then it’s time to judge. If someone is being a fool, and being around them is going to harm you and they’re not the type to listen to instruction, then it’s time to disengage. To tell someone they’re sinning means to some degree we’re judging, but we’re commanded to do it.
If I had to simplify, then I’d say we’re to judge those inside the covenant community (we’re working under God’s rules) but only over the serious stuff, not the stuff we think is serious, but the stuff that the Bible does; eg, you’re green and your brother drives a hummer, let that one slide, but if you’re green and he mocks you for believing in global warming (or vice versa), then that should be pointed out to him for his health and yours. So what, he drives a hummer, to his own master he stands or falls. But if he sins against you, rebuke him. Those outside the community, I’m not sure we should judge at all.
You guys ever watch Montell Williams? Come on, you’re in a safe place, you can tell us. I’ve rarely seen shows like that except on parodies or in excepts, but one phrase I’ve seen in such shows is, “Don’t you judge me!” And I know you guys are familiar with “do not judge, lest ye be judged.” I’m sure that there are at least a few of us who have been tempted to quote that one in a similar fashion at one point or another in our lives.
Let’s look at the Bible verse underlying all of this stuff, Matt 7:1:
NRS Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.
What do you guys think about that? Are the folks on Montell right?
Does this say that if you want never to be judged for anything you do, that it’s possible so long as you never judge anyone else? (If so, that’s great news for sinners apart from Jesus’ death on the cross)
Is it saying that if you do judge, that your own judgment will be unavoidable? (but what about verses that say judgment is unavoidable?)
What is the context of this verse?
Matthew 7:2-6 2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. 6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.
Q: What kind of judging is Jesus talking about here? (specks, nitpicky stuff)
Q: What’s up with verse 6? Is this part of the next segment? What do you think it means? Why does Jesus put this here? So we’re not supposed to judge, but calling people dogs and swine is ok?
Many contradictions are in the Bible on purpose
The easiest (and here most relevant) example is Proverbs
Proverbs 26:4 4 Do not answer fools according to their folly, or you will be a fool yourself.
Proverbs 26:5 5 Answer fools according to their folly, or they will be wise in their own eyes.
Q: do you think the author of these proverbs made a mistake? Do you think he wasn’t paying attention? Then what was his goal, do you think, in putting two contradictory statements so close together? (get you to think)
(side note; this shows 2 things; one that proverbs are not the iron clad spiritual laws of the universe that some would have us believe, but rather serve the purpose of making one wise, and two that modernists make one of two errors, liberalism or fundamentalism, missing the complexities entirely in their intra-cultural war)
Q: What do you think the purpose of this contradiction is? When is it OK or even necessary to judge, and when is it not? (covenant community it’s required to some degree, and it’s usually not appropriate to judge the world (job of HS, and different than warning)?)
Let’s look at what else the Bible has to say about judging others:
Matthew 18:15 15 “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.
Q: Can you tell someone else they’re sinning without judging?
James 4:11-12 11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?
Q: What does this say about judging? What sort of judging is James talking about as “bad” here?
Romans 2:1-3 NRS Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2 You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” 3 Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God?
Q: Why is judging bad? Does this mean you should keep your trap shut about certain things, even if you’re sinned against yourself?
Luke 17:3 3 Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive.
Q: Is recognizing sin the same thing as judging? What’s the difference? (subjectively, being told you’re sinning feels a lot like being judged, doesn’t it?)
Romans 14:4 4 Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
Q: What reason does this verse give for us to control our urge to judge? What if you had this attitude every time someone tried to rebuke you?
1 Corinthians 5:12-13 12 For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? 13 God will judge those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”
Q: Does this verse seem to contradict the above verses about not judging others? What is the context, what’s going on?
Romans 14:10-13 10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” 12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God. 13 Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.
Q: Does this verse contradict the above verse? Why not? What is “passing judgment” in this context? Is there a difference between passing judgment and rebuking?
1 Corinthians 6:1-4 When any of you has a grievance against another, do you dare to take it to court before the unrighteous, instead of taking it before the saints? 2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels— to say nothing of ordinary matters? 4 If you have ordinary cases, then, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church?
Q: What does this passage say about judging?
1 Corinthians 4:3-5 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. 4 I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.
This isn’t the only place this is taught, but it is the only place I know of in the NT that this is taught explicitly. You can see some of this when Jesus says to judge a tree by it’s fruit; he’s telling us to judge our teachers (this happens again in Rev with one of the churches, and in Phil with “those who falsely call themselves apostles” I think…), and again where he tells us to confront those who sin against us. You can’t confront someone without making some form of judgment, which is how the misunderstanding of this verse goes. But telling someone they’ve sinned against you or others or God is far different from pronouncing sentence; you have done X, so I’m going to treat you in Y fashion. Then you have “judged” and given a sentence, which I really God’s domain. The worst thing I know of in this fashion (find the verse) is saying that someone is not a Christian because of their actions; this may in fact be true, but if it’s false, you risk being judged yourself “for doing the same things”.