It is a go-to verse for many who willfully engage in behaviors opposed to God’s will. Dare to point out what the Bible says about their behavior and prepare to be slapped across the face with a statement like ”The Bible says ‘Judge not’” or “Thou shalt not judge.”
When you’re faced with charges like that maybe you think to yourself: “If only they would just keep reading …”
If they would just keep reading they would be forced to recognize that Jesus did not condemn all forms of judging. More than once in Matthew 7 Jesus commanded things that require judging if we are to properly carry them out. In Matthew 7:6 we are commanded not to give what is holy to the dogs nor to cast our pearls before swine. In verses 16-20 Jesus said they could know false prophets by their fruits.
If they would just keep reading they would see that the Bible instructs us to judge righteous judgment (John 7:24). This is a judgment that is not self-willed, but concerned with the will of our Heavenly Father (John 5:30).
We would heartily agree with them that Jesus clearly condemned hypocritical judgment: engaging in the same sinful behavior as somebody else but railing against theirs and excusing your own. In Matthew 7 Jesus illustrated hypocrisy with the extremely memorable illustration of a man with a beam in his eye trying to pull a mere speck out of his brother’s eye.
We would heartily agree that pointing out somebody else’s sins will not make our own go away. We cannot justify ourselves in God’s sight by comparing ourselves to other people (consider 2 Corinthians 10:12, Romans 2:3).
We could point to these additional scriptures again and again to prove that Jesus does not condemn exercising proper judgment. It ought to be enough to convince any sincere heart that the Thou-shalt-not-judge movement is flawed.
But there’s something else going on here.
These same people who rail against judging know that it is acceptable to exercise judgment.
Without you needing to dive into verse after verse after verse to prove it, they already know that not all judging is wrong.
They know this because they do it!
In the very same breath that they tell you it is wrong for you to judge them they also communicate the unspoken message, “But it’s OK for me to judge you.”
Why would they make the statement, then? How do we respond?
Sometimes the proper response is to point out to the individual that they have just done the very thing they condemned you for doing. Sometimes this is about all you can do. You expose their inconsistency and force them to deal with it. Maybe they’ve been comfortable with that inconsistency for a long time. If so, they need to be uncomfortable.
It will also be helpful if we take a breath and recognize that many people view our efforts as an attempt to condemn them for eternity. You say, “It’s wrong for you to engage in fornication” (you might not word it exactly that way), but what they hear is, “It’s wrong for you to engage in fornication and you’re going to Hell!”
I absolutely believe in Heaven and Hell. And I absolutely believe that any sins that are not washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ will separate a man from his maker for eternity. But when I speak against sin I must be careful not to communicate the idea that I am the one who will judge on Judgment Day. I need to try to show them that I truly seek their good.
We also should bear in mind that some of these people have already heard what the Bible says about their behavior. They heard it from hypocrites. So when they hear it from us today, they lump us into the same category as the hypocrite they heard from yesterday.
The lamentable truth is that some who appeal to the Bible in opposition of the sin of the day are firmly entrenched in some other sin that is now accepted by society. How eager would you be to have somebody hold you to a standard that they don’t use themselves? I’m guessing not very!
It will take patience and humility to answer these individuals properly. They need to see that we aren’t the hypocrite they’ve encountered before. Instead, we are people who honestly strive to be faithful to God. We are people who oppose sin because we want to see others redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
- People know that judging is not inherently wrong.
- Some people are being inconsistent when they argue that judging is wrong and need to be shown their inconsistency.
- Watch out for hypocrisy.
- Consider your motive when pointing out sin. Am I doing this so that I’ll feel better about myself, or because I want this individual to know about Jesus Christ?