Jesus and Judging

What does it mean to judge not? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It used to be the most quoted Bible verse of all time was John 3:16, so much so that we had the story of the guy in the rainbow wig who went to major sporting events and held up a sign that said John 3:16. That no longer is the case. The most quoted verse today is probably just part of one verse and that’s Matthew 7:1 and “Judge not.”

Many people think this is a blanket condemnation of all judging. He’s not. Jesus later tells us about not giving dogs what is sacred and throwing pearls to pigs. Apparently, we have to judge what is sacred and what are pearls and who are dogs and who are pigs. The latter two are quite personal judgments.

Years ago my former roommate before I got married went to be a live-in assistant to a boy in a wheelchair who had had a stroke. This was in a fancy apartment complex. I went to visit him once and a nurse to the man was coming by and we talked a bit.

Somehow, it got to the topic of judging and she said she was a Christian but she was sure she wasn’t supposed to judge anyone. So I just asked a couple of simple questions. First, is her car in the parking garage? She said it was. I next asked if the doors were locked or not. That’s when the light turned on for her. If you lock your doors at night or to your car when you’re away, you are making a judgment.

We all do it and we all have to. Jesus tells us in John 7:24 to stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment. That tells us that Jesus is not condemning all judgment and the passage itself tells us about pigs and dogs, so what is Jesus condemning? He is condemning something.

Jesus is condemning how we judge people. He uses a joke to get this across. In the Jewish world of Jesus, hyperbole was the way of making a joke. He pictures a guy walking around with a big plank sticking out of his eye and trying to help other people get a speck of dust out of their eye. Such would have been a very humorous picture to His audience and would have got the point across.

This is also a danger to us as it is easy to spend so much time looking at the sins of our neighbor instead of examining ourselves. This is not to say you should not care about your neighbor’s sins and warn them when they are on the wrong path, but the only one you can do anything directly about is yourself. If you focus so much on how other people treat you instead of how you treat others, you’re going to be caught all in yourself.

Thus, before you go after your neighbor, do everything you can to be aware of your own sins in a situation. When you judge, don’t be a hypocrite with your judging. Be aware of your own sinfulness and actually, more aware. You too have to stand before God one day. You don’t have to give a defense of your neighbor. You give one of yourself.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)