Updated: Jan 6
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a worker who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the Word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
"Judge Not" Out of Context
Judge not (Matthew 7.1). This verse is the most abused verse in all of the Bible. People often misquote this verse in defense of their own poor actions and behavior. People often weaponize this verse anytime light is shed on their sins or they're corrected for wrongdoing. Through their own pride, they are blind and despise instruction. This is because they love the darkness rather than the light. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed (John 3:19-20). In other words, they hate the truth because they love their sin and hate being exposed. 'Judge not' is often abused by those who expect to be supported in their sins, and nowadays, even glorified in them. they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things (Philippians 3:19).
Misquoting this verse is an easy way to escape taking responsibility for their words or their actions. People hide behind this verse as they manipulate the situation by calling the other person judgmental. Ironically, the offended one becomes the judgmental one for judging the person whom they think is judging them. Scripture says that a wise and righteous man accepts correction and rebuke, while a wicked man hates you for it. Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning (Proverbs 9:7-9).
The verse, 'Judge not,' is often followed up with the common phrase, "Only God can judge." Yes, only God is able to judge someone's motives since only He can see into the heart. Also, He is a holy God who hates sin. Within the statement that only God can judge, what people don't realize is that is a terrifying thing to be judged by God. it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31).
While God is the only One who has the ability and the right to judge the intentions of the heart, Scripture commands believers to righteously judge a person's actions (the things that we can see). Scripture commands us to test the spirits to see whether they are from God (1 John 4:1). Jesus warns us to beware of false prophets who are wolves dressed in sheep's clothing, and He says that we will recognize them by their fruit (what they produce). All of this requires using theological discernment and righteous judgment on our part.
"Judge Not" In Context
To interpret 'Judge not' accurately and responsibly, we must read it within its rightful context and understand it in the Bible as a whole. We can't stop at verse one and choose to leave out all the rest if we want to understand God's intended meaning, which is His revelation. If we don't get God's intended meaning right, we won't have God's revelation for our lives, which is vital for our souls. The only right we have when we interpret Scripture is the right to interpret it responsibly, as Scripture commands us to do. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). So, in order to responsibly interpret 'Judge not,' we must also read the rest of Matthew 7 and cross-reference Scripture in other parts of the Bible too.
Jesus says, "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? 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. Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you." (Matthew 7:1-6).
Does Jesus say anywhere in this passage that we are not to make any kind of judgment at all? No, He does not. The thing is, if that’s what Jesus actually meant in the Sermon on the Mount, we would never be able to correct someone’s wrongdoing, mistake, or inaccuracy. We wouldn't be able to point anyone in the right direction or help them so that they could understand, learn, and grow in wisdom. We wouldn't even be able to teach people the truth at all if that were the case. That's because all of these things require us to make judgments.
Truth Told in Love
In this passage, Jesus never says we are not to judge people at all. Rather, He says to first take the log out of our own eye. What does that mean, and why does Jesus say that? It means that we should first take a look at our own sins before we judge someone else for their sins. He basically tells us not to be hypocrites. We are to take the log out of our own eye so that we will be able to see clearly to take the speck that is out of our brother or sister’s eye. Jesus actually tells us that we ought to judge, and He gives us the correct way, the proper motives, and the right attitude on how to go about using righteous judgment to help our brother or sister.
Scripture says that we are to confront others in their sins with truth that is told in love. In other words, we are to be gentle and caring when confronting others about their sins. Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently (Galatians 6:1). Telling someone the truth is the most loving thing there is when done in love. We are called to discern and judge that which is good, right, and true, and we are called to love others by sharing the truth with them, even when it's awkward or uncomfortable for us. The truth should never take the backseat to our own comfort or worldly reputation because that would be the selfish, unloving thing to do. That would be placing our comfort and reputation as the order of most importance, above the truth, which is what ultimately helps people and points everyone to the Truth itself - Jesus. Jesus is the highest, purest, truest form of wisdom that exists, and He is the only One who can save us from our sins and grant us eternal life, by grace through faith.
If we aren't to judge anybody ever, then we should never be able to tell someone they shouldn't lie, steal, cheat, blaspheme God's name, commit adultery, murder, or even tell someone they can’t judge. See, all of this would call us to use our judgment. And so, Jesus is never telling us that we are not to judge at all. He is teaching us how to judge, with the right attitude, proper motives, and gentle spirit.
Do Not Give Dogs What is Holy
In verse 6 Jesus also commands us to not give dogs what is holy or throw our pearls before pigs. This means we are not to continue sharing the glorious gift of eternal life with those who are obstinate, dismissive, or hostile toward the good news. We are not to continue sharing the gospel with someone who tramples all over that which is holy and even turns to attack us for it. How could we ever obey this command without exercising our judgment? When we come across these types of people with the gospel in hand, Jesus calls us to be discerning and shake the dust off our feet and leave that town. "And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. (Matthew 10:13-14).
It's not just because we don't want to get in an argument with someone for our own sake. Rather, it's more for the other person. It's merciful to stop sharing biblical truth with someone who is hostile against it. If we were to continue sharing the truth with a stubborn person, unfortunately, that person would only be storing up more and more wrath for himself on the Day of Judgment. Continuing to hear the good news of the gospel and yet still choosing to reject it, is simply someone suppressing the knowledge of the truth, and it only increases their judgment in the end. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more (Luke 12:48).
"But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed" (Romans 2:5).
Judge with Right Judgement
Basically, Jesus teaches us that we are to not judge hypocritically, unfairly, condescendingly, or with a judgmental attitude over non-essential matters, but He does call us to judge righteously, or order that we may help someone else or protect ourselves. Jesus says, Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment (John 7:24). While Jesus forbids prideful or harsh judgment coming from a place of self-righteousness and pretense, He demands us to use moral and theological discernment to rightly judge someone's actions, speech, behavior, and lifestyle, what they openly display to the world - the fruit they produce. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).
Here Jesus warns us about false prophets and how we will recognize them:
15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, you will recognize them by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-20).
Testing the Spirits
Jesus tells us to beware of false prophets, and His Word also commands us to not believe every spirit but to test the spirits. Again, all of this would require us to use our judgment. In First John 4:1-6, it says, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they are from God for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and is now in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error."
We must also keep in mind that many people profess with their lips to know Christ, but by their actions deny Him. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work (Titus 1:16). We must be willing to further test what we hear and see from people by how they live and the fruit they produce. When we share the truth in Jesus we are able to test the spirits to see whether they are from God if they listen to us.
As Christians, we are to give the benefit of the doubt and not be living in suspicion, just as we're not to live naively and accept everything that passes through our ears. We are not to blindly trust someone with important matters before examining the fruit they produce over a period of time. We are called to inspect fruit carefully, and we must keep in mind that Jesus tells us to beware because false prophets are not always easy to spot. John also says that many false prophets have gone out into the world, and they are not only out there but among us, trying to infiltrate the church.
Test Like the Bereans
We are supposed to test the spirits like the Bereans. The Bereans were a group of people who were from Berea, Macedonia and lived during the days of Paul. They were people who eagerly and carefully examined everything with Scripture and were highly receptive to the Word of God. They searched the Scriptures to see whether what they were hearing and seeing lined up with God's truth. The only way we can judge righteously, know truth from error, and discern right from almost right is by correctly interpreting the truth of God's Word. The Bereans are a wonderful model and positive example of how a person should respond biblically to what is being said, shown, or taught.
Ending With the Gospel
I always aim to share the gospel and weave it into everything I write. I will end this one with the gospel. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Repent of your sins, (even learn to love the correction of your sins, for those who gently correct you are the people who love you). Remember, the one who tells you the most truth loves you the most), and believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. It's nothing we can do to save ourselves. It's what Jesus has already done for us - through His perfect life, death on the cross, and resurrection. Authentic saving faith in Christ will naturally produce good fruit in us, and we will be recognized as Children of God by our speech, actions, behavior, and transformed life through the power of the gospel. Amen!
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Romans 2:1-3
Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:9
If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? 2 Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 1 Corinthians 6:1-3
‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. Leviticus 19:15
The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 1 Corinthians 2:15
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:12-13
Be sure to read all these verses in context. :)