Judge Not? Matthew 7:1 — The Most Misused Verse in Scripture?

In the previous “Judge Not?” articles, we explored 5 concepts:

CONCEPT #1: All people are image-bearers of God and have eternal worth.

CONCEPT #2: No Christian has earned his or her salvation, so no Christian has a reason to be pompous or arrogant.

CONCEPT #3: All Christians must always speak truth with love.

CONCEPT #4: Like everyone, Christians are imperfect.

CONCEPT #5: Disagreement is not intolerance or hate.

 We will now close the series by looking at the much-quoted Matthew 7:1:

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (ESV)

aka

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (NIV)

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Judging Judgment

Christians are often accused of being “intolerant” and “judgmental” for taking moral stands.

We spent time in previous articles discussing the misuse and overuse of these two accusations, so I’m not going rehash them here, but let’s stop throwing around the word “judge” like only people who disagree with popular views do it. Christians can disagree with others and do it with love and respect, still seeing those they criticize as image-bearers of God. As I’ve written before: there are wrong ways to speak truth; it must be done in love.

As R. J. Rushdoony stated, “Intolerance is inescapable. If we are Christians and abide by Scripture, we will be intolerant towards murder, theft, adultery, false witness, and other offenses against God’s order.”

Ironically, the accusation of intolerance and being judgmental can be turned on those accusing Christians of these very things. When accused of being intolerant and judgmental, a Christian can simply ask those leveling those accusations,

“If intolerance is wrong, then why are you being intolerant to my beliefs?”

or

“If being judgmental is wrong, why are you judging me?”

Often Matthew 7:1 is quoted by nonChristians at Christians as a “Gotcha!” when Christians speak out against something. But are they understanding the verse correctly? In fact, are Christians even understanding it correctly?

In his book The Most Misused Verses in the Bible, Eric J. Bargerhuff writes, “One could easily argue that Matthew 7:1 is by far the most frequently misapplied verse in the entire Bible, used and abused by both Christians and nonChristians alike.”

 Judge_Not_Humility

The Golden Rule

Perhaps the second most overused and over-abused verse out of the Bible also comes from Jesus’ amazing Sermon on the Mount (Matthew CH. 5-7), known as the “Golden Rule”:

 

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

 

Most people are familiar with this teaching, and often it’s pointed out that many other religions have a similar teaching. I once came across another blogger trying to use the Golden Rule against Christians for a political stance they were taking, writing:

“As far as I know, no religion places an asterisk after its recitation of the Golden Rule, indicating those who can (and should) be exempted from the command to love and treat others as they would themselves want to be treated.”

But the problem with this interpretation of the Golden Rule here and elsewhere is that those using it are basically saying, “Treat others as you want to be treated, and you want to be treated as if everyone agrees with everything you do, so don’t disagree with anyone.”

This is absurd.

I want people to treat me with respect, but I also want them to be truthful. If I’m doing something they perceive to be destructive to others or myself, I want them to tell me. If I’m doing something badly, selfish, or just plain wrong, I want to be told. I want people to speak truth to me in love, and I will do my best to do the same for them. I will speak with love and truth – not just with one and not the other.

 Judge_Not_Truth

Planks in Eyes

 

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (ESV)

aka

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (NIV)

 

People love to grab random verses out of the Bible to “prove” their points (like corrupt celebrity preachers and cult leaders). Problem is, these verses are often taken out of context and ignore the complimentary teachings throughout the rest of the Bible.

Yes, Matthew 7:1 sounds straightforward enough: Jesus is saying not to judge, right?

Let’s look at the rest of the passage before drawing a conclusion. To be fair, some who use Matthew 7:1 will even quote a bit more of it:

 

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?”

(Matt. 7:1-4)

 

OK, things get a little clearer now: Jesus is saying if you judge others, you will be judged in the same way. So, if you judge harshly, you will be judged harshly. But this is also saying, if you judge justly, you will also be judged justly, right?

Fair enough. I believe this is the Word of God, so we should take it seriously. It’s clear Jesus is warning us about how we should judge and condemning hypocritical judgment. He’s not denouncing all judgment.

Can you image how insane the world would be if people stopped using judgment?

Can you image telling a father that he can’t use judgment when eyeing up his daughter’s new boyfriend? In fact, ladies, don’t refuse anyone a date, because that would be judgmental. And once you don’t use judgment to choose a boyfriend, don’t ever breakup with him, even for a very good reason, because that’ll be judgmental too.

Own a business? Be ready to hire anyone who comes in the door — forget interviews and references — because you don’t want to be judgmental. And you better not fire that guy who just cost your company a boatload of money, you judgmental jerk!

Judge_Not_Arrogance

 

Furthermore, we still haven’t looked at Matthew 7:5. Those quoting this verse to Christians often conveniently stop at 7:4. Here’s what Jesus says in 7:5:

 

“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

 

So, Jesus says to first take the plank out of your own eye, before you do what? Before you take the speck out of your brother’s eye!

Jesus is saying to take care of your own garbage before you go speaking to others about their garbage. Jesus is not condemning all judgment, but he’s telling us to do it in the right way. We are to speak truth in love, not harshly or hypocritically, and the only way to do that correctly is to make sure you’re in a good place yourself, which to Christians mean living as closely to God as possible.

Bargerhuff comes to the same conclusion: “Therefore, Jesus does not forbid all moral judgment or accountability. Rather, he forbids harsh, prideful, and hypocritical judgement that condemns others outright without first evaluating one’s own spiritual condition and commitment to forsake sin.”

None of us are perfect, and we have to deal with the inadequacies, garbage, and brokenness of others with the same grace that God shows us through Jesus Christ in dealing with our inadequacies, garbage, and brokenness.

 

And with this, I conclude this series:

CONCEPT #1: All people are image-bearers of God and have eternal worth.

CONCEPT #2: No Christian has earned his or her salvation, so no Christian has a reason to be pompous or arrogant.

CONCEPT #3: All Christians must always speak truth with love.

CONCEPT #4: Like everyone, Christians are imperfect.

CONCEPT #5: Disagreement is not intolerance or hate.

CONCLUSION: Continue to always speak love in truth.

Judge_Not_Intolerance

GOD FROM THE MACHINE has published it’s first book! Searching the Bible for Mother God is for educating and evangelizing those in the growing “Mother God cult.” Visit our page here.

**Read PART 1 of “Judge Not? Human Worth” here.**

**Read PART 2 of “Judge Not? Christian Humility” here.**

**Read PART 3 of “Judge Not? Truth in Love” here.**

**Read PART 4 of “Judge Not? On Christian Arrogance” here.**

**Read PART 5 of “Judge Not? On (In)tolerance & Judgement(al)” here.**

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