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)

Judge_Not_Human_Worth

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.**

Book_MostMisusedBibleVerses

Advertisements

Judge Not? On Christian Arrogance

Judge_Not_Arrogance

SERIES INTRO:

Christians are often accused of being pompous, arrogant, judgmental, and intolerant.  Often, Christians find their own Scripture being quoted back to them. The most commonly heard verse is:

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matt. 7:1)

From those leveling these accusations at Christians, there is truth in what they say, but there is also error.

In this series, I will be exploring these accusations, and analyzing humility, tolerance, and related ideas from a biblical worldview, ending the series by analyzing the much-used (and over-used) passage of Matthew 7:1.

In the previous articles, we concluded:

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 in love.

Now, let’s talk about Christian (and human) jerkiness…

 

Why are Christians Arrogant?

Considering all we’ve explored so far in the “Judge Not?” series, it appears there are certainly justifiable grounds for calling out Christians as hypocrites when they’re boastful, sinfully prideful, arrogant, unloving, or pompous. (Also, keep in mind, they’re commanded to be truthful, and if someone doesn’t like the truth they’re sharing, it doesn’t immediately mean they’re all or any of the above negative adjectives.)

And there are certainly Christians who deserve to be called out. As I stated before: They should know better. The times Jesus shows anger in the Gospels is primarily towards the corrupt religious leaders for exactly that reason: They should know better.

Always keep that in mind.

On the other hand, do all Christians deserve to be stereotyped as such?

I’m going to propose the answer is “no” for four simple reasons:

 

(1) Fakes Trees & Bad Fruit

Just because someone calls him- or herself a Christian doesn’t mean that person is truly a Christian. I can call myself a goose; it doesn’t make me one. I can call myself a Democrat, but if I voted Republican every election, am I really a Democrat? And being in a church doesn’t make me any more of a Christian than being in a school makes me a straight-A student — or even a student at all.

What I am not saying it to start accusing Christians who exhibit some poor behavior as not being a true Christian, because no one is perfect and Christians are still sinners. But I am saying that the writers of the Bible clearly teach that a tree is known by its fruit. If there is no fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control), one has to wonder if that person truly understands and accepts the good news of Jesus Christ.

After all, Jesus asks plainly in Luke 6:46,

 

“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”

 

John writes in 1 John 2:4:

“The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him”

 

And Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21-23 should cause all of us to pause and consider our lives:

 

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'”

 

So, Jesus confirms there are people who call themselves Christians that really are not Christians, and Scripture does teach us that actions speak louder than words.

DSC05219_3

(2) All Stereotyping is Unfair

I figured out pretty early in life that stereotyping any group of people is illogical. In fact, most people would say it’s downright wrong. So, then, how is it acceptable to stereotype Christians?

I come from an atheistic/agnostic worldview and a mindset that did stereotype Christians. But in the past 9 years since I’ve started following Christ, I’ve seen that Christians come in all styles and models, just like we find in any other large group of image-bearers. Further, it’s been my personal experience that Christians don’t live up to the typical negative stereotypes of Christians at all.  Yes, there are certainly jerky Christians out there, but this has not been the vast majority of my personal experience.

(Perhaps part of the reason is because I live in a part of the country where being an evangelical Christian is not a cultural or political norm. I find those who profess the Christian faith in the largely secular north, east coast are true followers of Jesus.)

I also know most of the assumptions about Christians I had in my head when I was atheist/agnostic were primarily based on the portrayal of Christians on TV and movies. It has been my experience that Christians are usually portrayed in TV shows and movies as “bad guys” of some sort, whether crazy or all-out evil. Likewise, in the media, the only Christians I ever hear about are the hate-filled Westboro (so-called) Baptist (so-called) Church or child-molesting priests.

 

(3) All people are Jerks

Moreover, Christians by no means have a monopoly on being boastful, arrogant, unloving, or pompous jerks. These things aren’t a Christian problem; they’re a human problem. In fact, this is the whole point of the good news of Jesus: we’re all imperfect, sinful jerks, so only a perfectly good and loving God can help us.

Again, in the 9 years since I’ve become a Christian, the Christians I’ve met are the most loving, open-minded, generous, and compassionate people I’ve ever known. On the other hand, when I was heavily involved in the underground punk scene, a scene full of self-proclaimed non-conformists and “free-thinkers,” I encountered some of the most self-righteously judgmental and hostile people I’ve ever known.

As Mark Twain said, “Man is the only animal that blushes – or needs to.” Being a jerk isn’t a Christian problem. It’s a human problem.

 DSC05224

(4) Christians are Still Going to be Jerks, for the Bible Tells Us So

Likewise, the Bible confirms that even true Christians are still going to be jerks, even after being saved by Christ.

Let me explain what I mean.

True repentance means a turning away from sin and a turning towards God.  Someone is not a “good” person and, thus, goes to heaven for being “good.” This is not what the writers of the Bible teach, nor is this the Gospel of Christ. Sinners, changed by the Holy Spirit, are saved through accepting the free gift of salvation through Christ’s perfect sacrifice. Once they repent of their sins, they start working towards Jesus’ perfect example. But perfection will not be reached in this lifetime.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and this includes saved Christians.

A person doesn’t become “good” and then becomes saved. God’s forgiveness can’t be earned, and it’s deserved by no one. Godly behavior is not the cause of forgiveness; godly behavior is the result of forgiveness. Because of the love God showed us, Christians work to follow the perfect model of Jesus Christ.

Yet the Christian is still imperfect. Christians are still going to mess up, lose their cool, be rude, be unreasonable, or be outright sinful at times.

It was eye-opening to me when I first read the Bible for myself and realized how flawed the great “heroes” of the faith were: Abraham, Noah, Moses, Solomon, Paul. King David committed adultery, and when he couldn’t cover up the woman’s pregnancy, he sent her husband to the front lines of war to be killed. The Apostle Peter, Jesus’ most prominent disciple, had great flaws; he was impulsive and he denied knowing Jesus three times when challenged. The New Testament even tells us about a time when Paul had beef with Peter because Peter was treating the Jewish Christians better than the Gentile Christians! (Galatians 2:11-14)

But God can use all of us flawed people to do his work. What is important is a Christian’s response to these “slip ups.” When we sin, do we repent and ask for forgiveness from both God and others we offended? Do we work to improve and make any necessary reparations?

Anyhow, my main point here is though Christians are saved by God’s mercy and goodness, Christians are still imperfect, so they deserve the same grace and “second-chances” that anyone else does. No biblical writer ever taught that becoming a Christian makes anyone a Teflon saint.

So, let’s add our 4th biblical truth…

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.

NEXT: #5 – On Being Intolerant & Judgmental

 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.**