"Don't Judge" Really?
There are few verses in the Bible which everyone (believer and unbeliever alike) knows, one in particular is Matthew 7:1 "Thou shall not judge lest ye be judged." I have always found it rather interesting that when people often quote this verse it is always according to the King James translation of the Scriptures which shows how the Elizabethan English just rolls off the tongue and has certain potency to be remembered, anyway I digress. Matthew 7:1 is often thrown out there in response to "judgmental Christians" who have nothing better to do than to impose their moral Puritanism onto individuals. I have heard this hundreds of times and when it comes time to address the big issues in people's life, they pull Matthew 7:1 out of their pocket, slam on the table and say "Aha! You aren't supposed to judge me." In every instance, I lovingly correct them as to what Matthew 7:1 means by looking at the verse in context. As I heard it once said, "a verse without context is a pretext for a proof text." To put it simply, you can easily take one verse out of the Bible and twist it to say what you want rather than what it actually means. Many, if not all, sincere born-again Christians struggle with being judgmental, and the criticism from the unbelieving world that Christians are "judgmental" is warranted to some degree. Lots of people have been hurt both within and without the church by an attitude from others that resembles legalism and hypercriticism more so than it reveals the gospel. Even I have been guilty of possessing a judgmental attitude and have sought forgiveness many times because of it. Yet Matthew 7:1 is not an admonition against judging entirely, rather it is an exhortation to not judge hypocritically. As believers we are called by Christ, himself, to "quit judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment" (Jn. 7:24). Even non-Christians judge or discern what is good or bad and though it is according to their own standard and not God's, they still make judgment calls every single day. How we judge is crucial and what Matthew 7:1-5 is really about. In this passage, Jesus (the great preacher that He is), uses an illustration about having a gigantic log in your own eye and trying to remove a little bit of sawdust in another person's eye. Imagine the scene, a person with a 4x4 lodged in their eye socket trying to perform minor eye surgery to remove a speck of dust in another person's eye. It is a ridiculous picture isn't it? However, as absurd as this scene is, for the one being "helped" it puts them at risk of being hurt. In all the fumbling about from the individual with the log in his eye trying to remove a speck in another's, the one on the operating table is being bashed and bruised by the massive piece wood jutting forth. That is what happens when we judge hypocritically, we look silly and we can hurt people. In order for us to judge rightly as to help others, we must first assess ourselves and take care of our own business. For example, it would be wrong of me to look at person's life and point out that their binge drinking is going to take them to a bad end, all the while I have a keg of alcohol in my trunk and plan on drinking all of it when I get home. Again before we ever aim to admonish others and point them to a better way, we must first judge ourselves and see correctly our own condition. In the light of God's word, we are not as good as we think we are and when we look closely in the mirror, all self-righteousness (which is the root of being judgmental) evaporates. Only when we judge ourselves and by God's grace, are able to "remove the plank out of your own eye" (Matt. 7:5) then and only then are we able to see clearly enough to remove the speck of dust from another's eye. Are Christians supposed to judge? Yes. Do we judge correctly 100 percent of the time? No. However, when a Christian prayerfully and respectfully discerns the condition of a person, it should never be motivated by condemnation but instead motivated by love. Christian, see yourself and deal with yourself first, then by all means, do whatever you can to help others to see the Way.