I wrote a post about why I don’t allow my boys to play World of Warcraft and it received over 400 comments (many more I had to delete due to profanity). I must have gotten at least 100 “Thou shalt not judge” comments.
I shouldn’t judge if a computer game is good or bad for my children? What about x rated movies? How about pedophiles? Can I judge whether or not my children should go camping with a known pedophile?
What about about preachers. Does a theology degree mean I should sit under someone’s teaching without judging if he is teaching truth? Isn’t that how cults form?
How about Ken Ham judging a man selling a Bible curriculum while promoting evolution. Is he not allow to judge him? (See Homeschool controversy).
I have seen the “judge not” phrase thrown around ironically in judgment of Ken Ham.
What the Bible says About Judging in Context
Read the passage in context:
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. Matthew 7:1-5
“Judge not” in the Greek μη κρινετε (mē krinete) is the habit of sharp, unjust criticism.
God alone can judge;but it is our duty to speak out against sin (Matthew 7:15–20) and to exercise wisdom in dealing with those who reject the truth (Matthew 7:6).
Jesus is condemning mean spirited judgment and unjust criticism of others’ motives. We are not only allowed, we have an obligation to test others by their fruits (Matthew. 15–20).
The etymology of the word “critic” is from the Greek word judge in this verse. Another form of this same root in verse 5 is translated “hypocrite” implying a critical, judgmental, self-righteous spirit which judges others more severely than it does itself. (The attitude you find in legalistic churches),
When someone emphasizes one set of sins over another set of sins then excuses one’s own faults (the beam in your eye) but will not excuse the faults of others they are guilty of criticizing others unrighteously.
Christ is not telling us to avoid evaluating people or not to use our God-given wisdom (1 John 4:1–6). The world is full of false teachers (2 Corinthians 11:13–15). We must be alert and must “try the spirits” (1 John 4:1) and teach our children to do the same!
Yes, Christians Can Be Mean
I will admit Christians have a tendency to be critical of one another. I have a ton of legalism in my background (still healing).
But you cannot quote “thou shall not judge” to prove that Christians should not judge each other at all when Matthew 5, 6, 15, I Corinthians 5:1–12, and I John 4:1–6 show that Jesus was assuming that believers evaluate one another spiritually. One’s attitude and motives are the keys (Galatians 6:1; Romans 2:1–11; 14:1–23; James 4:11–12). Neither should you judge my use of the word but at the beginning of the sentence above, there are exceptions to the grammar rules 🙂
A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments explains Matthew 7:1:
To “judge” here does not mean to pronounce condemnatory judgment, nor does it refer to simple judging at all, whether favorable or the reverse.
The context makes it clear that the thing here condemned is that disposition to look unfavorably on the character and actions of others, which leads invariably to the pronouncing of rash, unjust, and unlovely judgments upon them. No doubt it is the judgments so pronounced which are here spoken of; but what our Lord aims at is the spirit out of which they spring.
Provided we eschew this unlovely spirit, we are not only warranted to sit in judgment upon a brother’s character and actions, but in the exercise of a necessary discrimination are often constrained to do so for our own guidance.
It is the violation of the law of love involved in the exercise of a censorious disposition which alone is here condemned. And the argument against it—“that ye be not judged”—confirms this: “that your own character and actions be not pronounced upon with the like severity”; that is, at the great day.
Jesus commands in John 7:24, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”
Abstain from thinking about other people’s faults, unless your duties as a teacher or parent make it necessary to think about them. Whenever the thoughts come unnecessarily into one’s mind, why not simply shove them away? And think of one’s own faults instead? For there, with God’s help, one can do something. Of all the awkward people in your house or your job there is only one whom you can improve very much… The job has to be tackled some day: and every day we put it off will make it harder to begin. — C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, pp. 154.
We have the right and responsibility to evaluate others’ behavior in and out of the body of Christ.
My girlfriend Dolores said it well, “Judge the behavior and love the person.”
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