People often like to quote various Scriptures from the Bible in an effort to deter what they believe is judging. It is, perhaps, one of the most misunderstood doctrines in the Bible. Did Jesus tell us we can’t judge at all? Didn’t He say, “by their fruits you will know them?”
Matthew 7:1 is probably one of the most misunderstood verses on this subject, and one of the most taken out of context Scriptures in the Bible. Let’s look at the verse and its 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.)
If we take just this passage just at a glance, one might be able to make the case of the popular judgment belief. But let’s dig in further. According to Strong's Concordance, the word for judge means, "to try, condemn, punish, to damn, decree, sentence to…"
This is talking about condemning someone to hell for their course of action. And of course, no one but God has the right to do that. As humans, we cannot judge motive. In addition, this passage has a very important point. We cannot condemn others for their sin while we ourselves are indulging in some sin.
This type of judgment comes from legalism. When we try to earn Heaven by our own works, when we have our own standard to live to get to Heaven by instead of God’s, it leads to condemning others who do not live up to our own ideas. This is what Jesus was talking about here. Ellen G. White talks about this in Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, page 123.
We could use the example of the Pharisees. They did not want righteousness by faith. They wanted to earn Heaven. They also did not want to experience what their ancestors did by being slaves to the Babylonians as punishment for their idolatry. So they came up with multitudinous rules and regulations to avoid this.
The Spirit of Prophecy says it this way:
“The people partook largely of the same spirit, intruding upon the province of conscience and judging one another in matters that lay between the soul and God. It was in reference to this spirit and practice that Jesus said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” That is, do not set yourself up as a standard. Do not make your opinions, your views of duty, your interpretations of Scripture, a criterion for others and in your heart condemn them if they do not come up to your ideal. Do not criticize others, conjecturing as to their motives and passing judgment upon them.” — (Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 123.)
When we see someone else err, we are not to judge them or condemn them. We are to go to them and speak with them as Jesus would. These souls must know He loves them. However, even here, people think that we cannot address sin. But even Jesus told people after He healed them to avoid those sins that got them into those diseases.
Those who condemn others to hell for their sins are guilty of sins that are just as bad, if not worse. Humans tend to tear others down when they want to feel better about their own sinful course of action. Think politics.
This judgmental spirit also leads to trying to force others to conform to our ideas. Consider this quote:
When men indulge this accusing spirit, they are not satisfied with pointing out what they suppose to be a defect in their brother. If milder means fail of making him do what they think ought to be done, they will resort to compulsion. Just as far as lies in their power they will force men to comply with their ideas of what is right. This is what the Jews did in the days of Christ and what the church has done ever since whenever she has lost the grace of Christ. Finding herself destitute of the power of love, she has reached out for the strong arm of the state to enforce her dogmas and execute her decrees. Here is the secret of all religious laws that have ever been enacted, and the secret of all persecution from the days of Abel to our own time. — (Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 126.)
So how is this passage in Matthew 7:1-5 taken out of context? Often, people cry foul whenever sin is trying to be dealt with. True, we must not condemn. But sin in the church must be dealt with. Yet even when this is done in a loving way, many like to accuse the reformer of being judgmental.
For example, I posted something online recently about living healthy. I added a comment about how my mom ate poorly and then took medical drugs to try and heal from the resulting disease. She lost that battle with disease August 29, 2016. We are counseled in the Spirit of Prophecy that those who do this will not be healed by God. Someone commented on there, “Judge not.”
Even when just observing what happened, when it is too clear to misunderstand, people like to pull the don’t judge card. But this is not what Jesus was talking about. Jesus said don’t condemn. Merely observing is not condemning.
The Bible tells us in Ezekiel 9 that only those who sigh and cry for the abominations done in the church will be sealed. However, doing this is also decried as being judgmental. Whenever pet sins and popular sins are spoken against, and reform is called for, many like to pull the don’t judge card.
One popular pet sin of the church these days is indulgence of appetite. Yet when this is spoken against, those who refuse to give up meat and dairy like to make excuses and accuse the speakers of being judgmental, even sometimes slandering their character.
It is not being judgmental to deal with sin in the church. Jesus dealt with sin in Israel all through their history, including during His Messianic ministry 2,000 years ago. It is only those who refuse to give up their sins that accuse the messenger of being judgmental.
Consider this quote:
"Paul did many things. He was a wise teacher. His many letters are full of instructive lessons setting forth correct principles. He worked with his hands, for he was a tent-maker, and in this way earned his daily bread.... He carried a heavy burden for the churches. He strove most earnestly to present their errors before them, that they might correct them, and not be deceived and led away from God. He was always seeking to help them in their difficulties; and yet he declares, “One thing I do.” ... The responsibilities of his life were many, yet he kept always before him this “one thing.” The constant sense of the presence of God constrained him to keep his eye ever looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of his faith.” — (Our Father Cares, p. 195.)
Notice that the apostle Paul sought to correct errors in the churches he ministered to. There very well may have been some there who accused him of sinful judging as there are many today who do the same.
“Mark this point with care: Those who receive the pure mark of truth, wrought in them by the power of the Holy Ghost, represented by a mark by the man in linen, are those “that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done” in the church.
“The class who do not feel grieved over their own spiritual declension, nor mourn over the sins of others, will be left without the seal of God….” — (Maranatha, p. 240.)
The apostle John recorded another instance of Jesus speaking of judgment. We find it in John 7. Let’s take a look.
“If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” — (John 7:23-24.)
The context here is that Jesus was teaching in the temple. He was probably reading their hearts because just a few verses prior in verse 19, Jesus asks certain people why they are trying to kill Him. When we look at the greater context of the Gospels, the Jewish leaders were constantly trying to devise some way to kill Jesus.
Reasons for this include that the leaders saw Jesus as a threat to their authority. Another reason is their pretended jealousy for God’s Law. When Jesus healed on the Sabbath, they wanted to kill Him. This is likely why Jesus said, “judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”
Indeed, many of us go by appearance only when judging others or the situation. We don’t realize what someone’s motive might be, or that they might be a new church member and they may not know a particular piece of truth yet. These must be dealt with in love.
When will the church wake up to her duties?