Judging Others?

We live in a world where we must make judgments everyday on a variety of matters and there’s nothing wrong with that. From the person we married to the type of friends we have chosen to associate ourselves with, we have made these decisions based on judgments. We examine the things other people believe and the type of behaviors they engage in, passing judgement on whether such people are the type of people we want to associate with. This is a normal part of life and everyone seems to accept that (and I have yet to meet any one person who doesn’t make such judgments).

Then there is another form of judgment where people are condemned for their moral behaviors (or lack of), their religious beliefs, political views, etc… Some people are very quick to pass such judgments, condemning others as though they received a direct word from God. When it comes to Christianity and the Bible, they are the ones who seem to think they have “rightly divided the word” (cf. 2 Tim 2:17, KJV) and therefore can condemn all others who have a different view. On the other extreme are those who think Jesus condemns passing any judgment whatsoever. These people will paraphrase Jesus, “judge not lest ye be judged” from Matthew 7:1 without ever considering what else Jesus has to say about judging.

I wonder if we could actually listen to all of what Jesus has to say about passing judgments. So here is Matthew 7:1-6

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

It seems to me that Jesus is neither condemning nor encouraging the passing of judgment on others. Rather Jesus is reminding us to be careful in passing judgment on others because we not only will be judged by the same “measure” (or standard) we judge others but also because we have too many of our own faults to spend our time criticizing the “speck” of another person.

When it comes to Christianity and the faith we are called to live, there are going to be disagreements on certain theological issues and interpretations of scripture. That is just the nature of the beast when we are two-thousand years and many cultures removed from the time of Jesus. This does not mean that we must abandon a vigorous quest for the truth. However, in that quest we should probably remain humble in that quest and not be so haste in passing judgment on others who arrive at different conclusions. After all, without such humility, it seem as though we have established a measure of judgment that already condemns us.

Just something to think about!

13 responses to “Judging Others?

  1. I may be an extremist or a literalist or whatever … but I still believe Jesus meant what He said: “Don’t judge others.” I think that should be our goal, just as imitating His perfection should be our goal.

    (See article linked to my name form New Wineskins.)

    None of us is likely to reach that goal – and the rest of Jesus’ instructions recognizes that.

  2. I think it does mean “Don’t judge others,” and the reason is because we are not fit judges, and the basis we use will be used against us. However, I think the judgement condemned is not a judgement about actions, or beliefs, etc… things we are commanded to judge. Rather it is a condemnation on making pronouncements about who is acceptable to God. The Pharisees/Sadducees had positioned themselves as the gate keepers concerning who could come to God…that is what Jesus condemns. I think the pearls before swine is simple a statement about not feeling like you have to “fix” people who don’t want “fixed.” In the end we must minister to people, even rebuke and correct…but we must always leave open the realization that they serve a Lord who determines who is acceptable…and he is not us. We do not get to “evaluate” another’s servant.

    • I definitely want to push against making judgments on who is acceptable to God and who is not. Having said that, I just don’t see where Jesus is telling us to not judge (something that seems pragmatically impossible) but to be careful about the judgments we make because we have our own logs and will therefore be judged by the same measure we judge others. So while I believe there is such a time and place where may need to make a judgment, I do believe we ought to be very humble as well as full of grace and mercy.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Grace and Peace,

      Rex

  3. One popular interpretation of these verses, that you are all probably aware of anyway but I will bring it up, is that Jesus is saying don’t have a harsh, condescending/judgmental heart. That doesn’t mean there is never any room to make judgments…just don’t let that attitude characterize your life, heart, attitudes, etc. In that last verse Jesus calls people pigs and dogs…sounds judgmental. Unless Jesus is quoting popular sayings (which I don’t really think he is doing here) Jesus is making a judgment here. It is impossible to live your life without making any judgments about things.

  4. I believe Rex is on the right track here. Jesus isn’t telling us *not* to judge as much as He is telling us *how* to judge. It is very clear: “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Jesus never says “don’t ever judge,” but what He is saying is “take a look at yourself, rid yourself of your pride, repent, then with such humility of your own fallenness and sinfulness at the forefront of your mind, address the sin of your brother in love.” Judging otherwise, with pride or harshness, will bring the same harshness from God. In effect, I see it as a call for humility and love.

    Verse 6, while it may be convenient to dismiss it, is there. If we see dogs and pigs used as symbols for Gentiles or those who are unclean, one idea is that it could mean that there is a time when the treasure of the gospel should no longer be preached to those who continue to reject it (like when Jesus told His disciples to wipe the dust off their feet and move on). OR, I’m wondering if verse 6 could be some kind of parallel with the teaching of Galatians 6:1? Not sure.

    [[[And if I may comment on the Syrophoenician woman passage mentioned above. Jesus indeed called her a dog. His point, I believe, was that He was there for the Jews (the children) first, not the Gentiles (dogs). It makes perfect sense when we note James speaking to this issue at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 when he quotes Amos 9. In short, Jesus came first to unite the Kingdom of Israel (Jew, Samaritan) under one King, and only after doing that could the Gospel go to the dogs (Gentiles). And this, of course, is exactly what happens in Acts. Jacob Jervell writes extensively on this in “Luke and the People of God.”]]]

    Grace be with you –

  5. I think Jesus in the context defined what “kind” of judging He is condemning. Jesus is clearly forbidding judging that is self-righteous, hypocritical and without mercy and love toward others.

    So in my thinking, Jesus did not condemn all judgments. In fact, as Rex and others have rightly pointed out, even in this passage Jesus actually calls upon us to make some kind of judgment once the hypocrisy has been dealt with.

    There are judgments that are more what we might call assessments – appraisals of right or wrong, wise or foolish, truth or error, rational or irrational, etc. This kind of judgment is not forbidden; it is commanded. Jesus very plainly commanded, “Judge not according to appeance, but judge righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)

    Therefore Jesus’ instructions “Do not give what is holy to dogs” (Matthew 7:6) require this kind of judgment (What is “holy,” who are the “dogs”). Again, in just a few verses down in the same chapter, Jesus demanded that we beware of false teachers (Matt. 7:15-20). We cannot beware of false teachers unless we are able to determine which teachers are false teachers, and Jesus said that such a judgment can be formed on the basis of their fruit. Further, in Phil. 3:2 Paul warned Christians to beware of dogs and evil workers, thus clearly implying that we have the ability to recognize spiritual dogs and evil workers. Another passage which demands this type of judging is Rom. 16:17-18.

    Additionally, there are a number of passages instructing Christians to reprove and rebuke sin (2 Tim. 4:2, Eph. 5:11, Lk. 17:3).Later on the apostle Peter reminds us to “be of sound judgment” since “the end of all things is at hand,” (1 Peter 4:7). I would put church discipline as of this sort of judging. (cf. Matt. 18:15-20, 1 Cor. 5:12-13, Gal. 6:1; James 5:19-20).

    Bottom line, judging that involves a fair examination of a person’s practice ior teaching in the light of the scripture to determine whether or not his/her practice is in harmony with the scripture is to judge righteously.

    Sincerely,
    Robert Prater

  6. Rex,

    One more point again I’ll add. I think it’s important to also keep in mind what seems to be Jesus’ key point in all of this, “Judge not, or you too will be judged,” was that our judgment invites judgment upon ourselves. We can expect to receive judgment in accordance with the judgment that we measure out. And I think verse 2 makes it evident that the kind of judging Jesus was warning against is the kind of judging which we would not want to receive ourselves.

    Again, Jesus warning seems to be directing against harsh, severe, hypocritical, unmerciful judgment-such judgment as we would not want to receive. If we condemn without mercy, being unwilling to forgive, we can expect like treatment .(James 2:12, 2 Sam. 22:25-26, Matt. 6:14-15) We might note the parable of the unmerciful servant. (Matt. 18:21-35)

    And again, let’s not forget Jesus main target audience: The scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day held certain ones in such low esteem that they considered them to be worthless; they judged them to be so despicable that they could not possibly be the objects of God’s loving concern and had no chance of being saved (Lk. 5:30, 7:39). By such harsh, uncharitable judgment, they invited the same kind of judgment.

    That is still a powerful point and lesson for the Lord’s church and Christians to hear today!

    Take care,
    Robert Prater

  7. Pingback: Judging Others…A Word of Caution | Kingdom Seeking

  8. Rex: I deal with your question about how to reconcile Matt. 7.1-5 w/ 7.6 in my latest blog post. http://neoprimitive.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/brief-notes-on-the-sermon-on-the-mount-dont-cut-deals-with-dogs-and-pigs-trust-god/ Keith is on the right track that Jesus was quoting a popular proverb. Gene Davenport and Glen Stassen have suggested attractive proposals about to whom that proverb would have been applied. But my short answer is, you need to interpret Matt. 7.6 with Matt. 7.7-12, not with Matt. 7.1-5.

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