Is there any verse of Scripture better known than these six words? Often times the words are tweaked just a bit to accommodate a persons view. “You are not supposed to judge.” “You shouldn’t judge others.” “You shouldn’t judge me by your standards.” “We all have the right to decide for ourselves.” “What makes you think you are so right.”? “You shouldn’t force others to accept your views.” All of these statements are basically rooted in the concept of “judge not lest ye be judged.”
Let me remove the mystery and plainly set forth my premise. We do and of right ought to judge. We have a solemn responsibility to judge all people, actions, and beliefs. In doing so we are to refrain from being judgmental. We are to judge without being judgmental. Now this may very well be a difficult balance to achieve but it is the challenge that is before us. Some because of their desire to not be judgmental refuse to acknowledge that they judge and in fact often become judgmental of those who exercise judgment and promote their judgment. Some in the prudent exercise of judgment become judgmental. I think what is important to understand is that the simple act of judging is not necessarily being judgmental; it can be but should not be denounced out of hand as being so.
My experience has been that people load this argument into their artillery in a desperate attempt keep at bay the encroaching truth. In hiding behind shallow bulwarks they seek to take refuge from searing truth. Little do they realize that they are exposed on the flank and will in the Day of Judgment give account for hiding behind Scripture taken out of context in order to dismiss truth.
I am fully persuaded that there is tremendous misunderstanding about the whole concept of judging. It is worth considering that even the “heavy weight” verse of the no judging crowd is in fact not what they make it out to be. The context will not allow it.
Matthew 7:1 - Judge not, that ye be not judged.
Allowed to stand alone a very compelling argument could be made that we are not to judge. Herein lies the problem with the argument it does not stand alone. It has a context. We will deal with the immediate context (vs.2-5) later. For now let us simply browse through the extended context of the chapter.
Matthew 7:6 - Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
How will we know dogs and swine unless we make a judgment? Obviously not everyone is dogs and swine. This requires judgment.
Matthew 7:15 - Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
How are we to know false prophets without making a judgment?
Matthew 7:16 - Ye shall know them by their fruits.
What is their fruit if it is not their manner of living? Their fruit is their actions, their decisions, their attitudes, and their beliefs. So it is by judging their lives that we know them.
Matthew 7:16-20 - Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
I cannot imagine anyone reading this and saying all of this can be done without judging. The fact is we are being exhorted to judge.
Having put to rest the use of this verse once and for all (at least for my own conscience before God) we can move beyond this and consider some other scripture which people are either not familiar with or they choose to dismiss.
John 7:24 - Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
Now we have before us a verse that is not nearly so popular because it does not provide false cover for carnal living and false doctrine. We have before us a verse that indicates that not only are we to judge it characterizes the kind of judging we are to do. It is to be righteous judgment. It is not to be judgment that is according to appearance.
Now does that mean that we do not consider appearance? Obviously it does not mean that. What it means is that things are not always what they appear. So we are to be very astute in our judgment. We are to be very meticulous in our judgment. We are to judge righteous judgment. How do we know what is righteous? As always we are led right back to the scripture as our final authority. It is not what we think but what saith the word of God that matters. When we judge in that context we are rendered capable of judging righteous judgment.
I think it may be important to consider the word “judge” here and examine just exactly what it means. The word has been marginalized and stigmatized to a great extent and that is a great disservice to a very respectable word.
Strong's concordance provides the following information concerning the word judge.
krino kree’-no; properly, to distinguish, i.e. decide mentally or judicially; by implication, to try, condemn, punish:— avenge, conclude, condemn, damn, decree, determine, esteem, judge, go to law, ordain, call in question, sentence to, think.
The online Bible Greek lexicon provides the following:
1 to separate, put asunder, to pick out, select, choose
2 to approve, esteem, to prefer
3 to be of opinion, deem, think, to be of opinion
4 to determine, resolve, decree
5 to judge
5a to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong
5a1 to be judged, i.e. summoned to trial that one’s case may be examined and judgment passed upon it
5b to pronounce judgment, to subject to censure
5b1 of those who act the part of judges or arbiters in matters of common life, or pass judgment on the deeds and words of others
6 to rule, govern
6a to preside over with the power of giving judicial decisions, because it was the prerogative of kings and rulers to pass judgment
7 to contend together, of warriors and combatants
7a to dispute
7b in a forensic sense
7b1 to go to law, have suit at law
The Greek word is translated the following ways in our beloved King James Bible:
judge 88, determine 7, condemn 5, go to law 2, call in question 2, esteem 2, misc 8
Is there anything here that makes the word automatically a candidate for the gallows? I don’t think so. In fact you can examine this information and determine exactly what it is we are to be doing when we are instructed to judge righteous judgment.
I think that when we judge we are simply discerning, distinguishing, deciding, determining, and decreeing. In fact as you read the previous sentence you judged my opinion. You discerned it. You distinguished it from other things that you believe. You decided about it. You determined you view of it. You are even now decreeing about at least in your own heart, and possibly in the comment section of this blog before all is said and done. So before you dismiss it examine the truth of it in you own heart. I am convinced that it is not up for debate whether we do this or not. All that is up for debate is whether we are judging righteously and that will only finally be determined on the great Day of Judgment.
In the New Testament alone we are exhorted over and over again to judge.
1 Corinthians 5:12 - For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?
We are to judge them that are within.
1 Corinthians 6:1-5 - Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?
There can be no misunderstanding this.
1 John 4:1 - Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
Try (test) the spirits. Judge them.
Matthew 24:4 - And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
Does this not require judging?
Acts 17:11 - These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
“Whether those things were so,” indicates judgment was taking place.
Romans 16:19 - For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.
Judging between good and evil.
1 Thessalonians 5:21,22 - Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.
Prove all things. How do we do this without judging?
Revelation 2:2 - I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
The church at Ephesus was commended for judging those that said they were apostles.
Acts 20:29 - For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
No way to know a wolf in an atmosphere of judge not lest ye be judged.
1 Timothy 4:1 - Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
The tragedy of not exercising discernment.
2 Ti 3:13 - But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
Evil men and seducers??? Sounds like somebody has to be judging.
Romans 16:17 - Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
Mark them that ye might avoid them. Some would even say this is being judgmental. Don’t they have the right to believe what they choose? They certainly do and I have the right to not associate with them.
Philippians 3:17 - Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
How can we do this if we do not judge?
2 Thessalonians 3:14 - And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.
Does this not require judging?
1 Corinthians 3:3 - For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
Today no one can say another is carnal without being labeled as judgmental. So be it. If it is carnal living it is carnal living.
Galatians 1:7 - Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
How can anything be perverted in a context of accepting everyone and not judging anyone?
Galatians 2:4 - And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:
False brethren as compared to what, true brethren?? How could this distinction be made without judging?
Colossians 2:8 - Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
If we do not judge we will be spoiled.
2 Peter 2:2 - And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
Pernicious ways. Someone is judging.
2 John 1:7 - For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.
A deceiver?? Someone is judging.
Jude 1:19 - These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.
Sensual, having not the Spirit. Some one is judging.
Matthew 18:17 - And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
Can this be fulfilled without judging??
2 Thessalonians 3:6 - Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
The judge not lest ye be judged crowd would have to believe that we should not accuse a brother of walking disorderly. The scripture tells us there are times when it is appropriate.
1 Timothy 6:3-5 - If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
Is there a more “judgmental” statement in all of scripture?? I can just see someone telling Paul, “Judge not lest ye be judged.”
Titus 3:10 - A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;
Heretick???? Sounds like some very serious judging going on.
I do not give all these verses to simply overwhelm my readers. But even people who claim to read their Bibles completely over look all the times we are instructed to judge righteous judgment. There is no excuse for such oversight.
The fact is we all have a responsibility to judge righteously. We will judge. The question is will it be righteous judgment.
Proverbs 14:15 - The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.
We are not to believe every word. It is simple minded to do so. I don’t even expect my own congregation to believe every word I say. I constantly encourage them to have a Berean spirit and search the Scriptures whether these things or so. I, even as (especially as) a preacher of the word of God, enjoin the spirit of Christ when he told the people, “search the scripture.” It is a prudent man that takes responsibility for his going, his doing, his behaving, and his believing. But it is not prudent to look well to his going by trusting in his own heart to direct his steps.
Jeremiah 10:23 - O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.
Men must be looking into the “perfect law of liberty.” They must be examining their lives in the context of scripture. The minutes some one says to me, “judge not lest ye be judged,” or any similar statement I know all they are saying is leave me alone, I don’t like what you are saying and I am unwilling to assess your views on their merits and in the light of scripture. The only way to look well to our own going is to start with scripture and end with scripture.
Having exercised discernment, deciding the issue, and determining the course of action the die has been cast. The declarations will be made, whether privately or publicly. Now is where the “rub” comes. Having declared our sentiment based upon our discernment we run the risk of being derided as judgmental. Can we be judgmental? Of course we can. All of us can. The term “judgmental” is the sanctified equivalent of “intolerant” in the political arena and it is designed to silence those who hold views that make us uncomfortable.
Having decided the issue and made our distinctions we have effectively formed a position. When we decide something is right, then that likely means that some other things are wrong. When we decide someone is righteous that likely means we have determined others are not righteous. Most people claim to have no problem with having staked out a position as long as in the process you accept their opposing position on the same footing. In other words, their view is that is fine if you believe that, but just don’t question my beliefs. How can a man of integrity not do so? If I have determined something to be true I have yet to figure out what is so surprising that I likewise conclude other things to not be true. You cannot determine truth without the effect of determining error. If we refuse to consider the opposing view on equal footing with our own then we have committed the imprudence of judging. When really all that is happening is consistency is being maintained.
Now how do we refrain from being judgmental? This is a question of equal importance and one that merits some discussion. Admittedly, once we have staked out a position we must exercise great caution that we do not become judgmental. Many people are even those who profess to loath it. Again it is much like in the political arena. Who are the most intolerant if not those who decry it in others? They are intolerant of people that hold opinions against theirs. For example to stake out a position that homosexuality is an abomination before God is considered intolerant by many, when in fact they are intolerant of the views of those who stake out that position. Likewise, people say you are being judgmental when you stake out a position say on separation/modesty. Maybe I am, but it is not because of the position. If I am it is because of the attitude, spirit, and motivation. Thus those that disagree with the view must judge attitude, spirit, and motivation. It has been my experience that many people in doing so become very judgmental.
One thing we should keep in mind so that we do not fall into a judgmental attitude is that we do not know anything, as we ought. The Bible says as much.
1 Corinthians 8:2 - And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.
Does that mean we can’t know anything. Well, I don’t think so. Does it mean we can’t believe anything strongly? I don’t think so. Does it mean that we should embrace humility? Most definitely. At the same time it does not mean that we hold our views lightly or insincerely, or loosely. If we believe we understand what the scripture teaches about a matter we should hold to it resolutely, recognizing that we still have a lot to learn even in that which we hold resolutely. Our views should always be changing, slowly over time. I know mine have. Some things I use to believe and practice I don’t any more. Some things I use to believe, I’m not so sure of anymore. There is uncertainty. Some things I believe more strongly than I once did. Why? Because no man knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.
When my views are engaged they will inevitably change. They will be adjusted to compensate for a new understanding that has been acquired or they will be strengthened. They will be strengthened because they have been supported by the new arguments that others put forward to support my view or because the objections that have been raised have been satisfactorily answered in my own mind. If my views need to be adjusted it will be because information has been gained that does not fit consistently into my present understanding, so I either live with the inconsistency or adjust the view. Most people live with the inconsistency for a period of time because they do not know what to do about it. My views may also need to be adjusted because the opposing view raises issues that do not have a good answer in the context of my present understanding.
When we recognize these realities we safeguard ourselves from becoming judgmental.
Another thing to keep in mind is that according to 1 Corinthians 8:1 – Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.
The knowledge puffing up part is remedied by taking into account the previous discussion about knowing nothing, as we ought to know. With the knowledge that we have our objective should be to edify. Our desire should be to build up others. Now be careful with this. This does not mean that you just exude positive feelings about whatever people are saying or doing. This is not edifying. Edifying can only genuinely take place in the context of truth. When truth is abandoned true edifying cannot happen.
In fact what are we told about charity in 1 Corinthians 13? Charity rejoiceth not in iniquity. Here again we see the necessity of exercising judgment. The only way to identify iniquity is to judge actions, attitudes, and manner of living against the standard of God’s word. So part of building up is not rejoicing in iniquity. The whole concept of charity edifying is a tough thing. Consider the following:
Proverbs 27:6 - Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
In fact I would even say that when our enemies wound us they are doing us the service of a friend. We don’t like to be wounded. It is not comfortable. In fact it can be very uncomfortable. When a doctor cuts us to do surgery we do not count him an enemy but a friend. When we put people off by saying “judge not lest ye be judged” or other similar statements we are often denying that which may very well minister spiritual power to our lives.
In fact back to our original verse in Matthew 7 along with its immediate context we discover several principles to keep in mind to guard against being judgmental.
Matthew 7:1 - Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
There are several things to note here.
You will be judged as you judge.
All judgment should begin with self-judgment.
The mote needed to be removed out of the brother’s eye.
The only qualification for doing so was removing the beam out of your own eye first.
It is not that he was not to judge, but not before he judged himself. If it does not start there then it starts in the wrong place. This requires some serious self-examination, an intensity of self-examination that we probably cannot do on our own. Thus we pray:
Psalms 139:23,24 - Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
It is the matter of being a wise reprover.
Proverbs 25:12 - As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.
There is nothing more appealing than a relationship where you have a wise reprover and an obedient ear.
There is also the matter of recognizing that we are not the final Judge before whom men will stand.
Romans 14:10-13 - But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.
Clearly our attitudes must be guarded here. I think the best way to keep this in check is not to say, “Well, you way is probably just as right as my way.” This is not prudent and truth is not well served in this kind of mindset. I think it is best just to recognize that not all will agree and be content for the day of judgment to make it clear once and for all. This seems to be the prudent, God honoring position. No one will stand before me on the day of judgment likewise I will not stand before any who dispute my views. We will all stand before the great God of heaven; it is there we will give account for all of our judgments. I, for one, am content to have it so.
This has gone on for seven pages. If I were a better writer it could probably be condensed. There is probably enough here for a few minutes of contemplation. I think that this is an area that could be expanded upon and other issues addressed relating to what is before us……..maybe another time.
In summary we have a divine injunction to exercise discernment and pass judgment on people and beliefs. In doing so we are to refrain from being judgmental. We are to stake out positions as God gives us understanding from his word and then humbly and tenaciously hold to these positions. We need to abandon the notion that we are to not judge and instead embrace the principle of judging righteous judgment.