Last post discussed what correcting people is: loving. This post will discuss what it is not. Unfortunately, if you correct some people you’ll often be criticized for judging.
In Matthew 7:1 Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” This verse might have the distinction of being the most misunderstood and misinterpreted in all of Scripture. There are people who have never opened a Bible, but if they’re confronted they’re going to respond with some version of Jesus’ words.
When Jessica Simpson received criticism from the Christian community she said, “It didn’t really surprise me because I grew up with a lot of that backlash. That’s why I didn’t end up going into the Christian music industry. I think that if they’re really good Christians the judgment wouldn’t be there.” That pretty much sums up the attitude of many people. This is the mentality in the world, and unfortunately it can even be a mentality that creeps into the church.
1. Judging is something everyone does
Some people love to throw out Matthew 7:1 as though you can never say anything is wrong. But there is a real inconsistency – and even hypocrisy – with these people. Those who condemn others for judging do plenty of judging themselves. If you asked some of these people, “Is it wrong to murder, abuse children, or steal from others?” unless there is something wrong with them, they’re going to say, “Yes.” In answering in the affirmative they are judging.
You might be quick to say, “They’re only judging the action, not the person and that’s different!” Then imagine asking, “What do you think of Hitler, Stalin, Jeffrey Dahmer, or Charles Manson?” Are they going to say, “Who am I to judge? They were just following their hearts. I can’t say what they did was wrong. They were simply doing what they thought was right!” Again, they’re going to judge by recognizing the wicked actions of these people. The real irony is people who claim we shouldn’t judge get upset when others judge. They are judging people for judging.
Even people who criticize others for judging do plenty of judging themselves.
2. Scripture commands judging
In Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus discusses good and bad trees that represent people. Twice He says “you will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16, 20). The fruit represents the “produce” from a person’s life. The process of looking at fruit to determine whether it is good or bad is judging.
Eight times in Matthew 23:13-29 Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees.” Each time this was followed by a condemnation – or judgment – of their actions.
Consider these verses:
- In John 7:24 Jesus said, “Judge with righteous judgment.”
- Philippians 3:2 says, “Beware of dogs [and] evil workers!” We can only obey this verse if we have judged some people to be dogs and evil workers.
- Titus 3:10 says, “Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition.” The only way a divisive man can be rejected is if his actions have been judged as divisive.
- 1 Corinthians 5 discusses a man who was in gross sexual immorality. In verse 3 Paul said, “[I] have already judged [the one] who has done this deed.” Paul had no problem telling the entire church he judged the man’s actions.
3. Judging is a sign of maturity
Mature believers have the discernment to distinguish – or judge – between good and evil. Immature believers or unbelievers do not have the maturity to discern – or judge – between good and evil. Hebrews 5:14 says:
The mature…have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
Mature Christians can discern – or judge – between good and evil.
Similarly, 1 Corinthians 2:15 says:
Those who are spiritual judge all things.
The word “spiritual” is synonymous with “mature.” These people evaluate everything around them:
- How many fathers wouldn’t judge a young man interested in their daughter?
- What parents don’t judge the actions of their children’s friends to determine if they should let their children play with them?
- Who doesn’t judge the behavior of people around them to determine whether they’re trustworthy?
So if Matthew 7:1 is not saying not to judge, what is it saying? That is the topic of the next post!
Discuss: Can you share about a time you were judged? How did you respond? Can you think of examples of judging harshly or incorrectly?