Consider for a moment the number of judgments you make during the first hour after you wake up each day. Should I get up or stay in bed. Wear this or that. Happily say “good morning” to others or give them a caveman grunt. Read the Word before breakfast, or after. Take a moment to consider and you will see that the list goes on and on. Each of us make hundreds or even thousands of judgments every day. It becomes so commonplace that the implications are not even considered when people utter words such as these:
“Don’t judge me!”
“You’re not supposed to judge.”
These are common mantras heard today in our relativistic society and elsewhere. They unfortunately do not differentiate between the different levels of judgments or behaviors. Such as simply choosing which article of clothing to wear or the higher level of making a moral distinction. Instead it blurs lines of various choices and behaviors which in effect lumps them all in together. Thus creating a vehicle to avoid being criticized by others. Those of us that drive down this dead-end road will certainly crash and burn.
While I am sure there are exceptions, in general I believe the critic’s incognizant intention is not to say to avoid making judgments, but to avoid being judgmental or sanctimonious. Additionally, anyone that holds to a relativistic worldview contradicts themselves when they say “don’t judge”.
They need to know that “we love people. We see people as being busted. We’re OK with that because we get that we’re busted too. We’re sinners. They’re sinners. And Jesus has a solution for sin and we want to help. And we love them, and we don’t want them to continue in their [brokenness]. We want to get them help because the Bible and God and the Holy Spirit has the power to help. Who’s the hater here? We want to help.”1
The verses in Matthew 7:1-6 are leveled squarely at hypocrites, such as the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. However, sometimes that hypocrite could be us as well. “Professing Christians are often rightly accused of judgmentalism. A common accusation, however, is that when Christians make any moral judgment whatsoever, they are ‘judging’ or ‘pontificating about moral values.’ ”2 None of us are free from error or misconception, and we must seek God for wisdom and rightly apply those judgments to ourselves before we weigh them upon others (vv. 4-5).
“When an individual or group of people develop their own standards of morality, they inevitably judge everyone by those self-made beliefs and standards. The scribes and Pharisees had done just that. Over the previous several centuries they had gradually modified God’s revealed Word to suit their own thinking, inclinations, and abilities. By Jesus’ time their tradition had taken such a hold on Judaism that it had actually replaced the authority of Scripture in the minds of many Jews (Matt. 15:6; cf. 15:2).”3
As is the case with many of the objections to Christianity from its critics, those common mantras are an example of ripping a verse out of context or at best the negative action of expressing only a half-truth.
It has been wisely said, “never read a verse.”4 With Proverbs and Psalm as possible exceptions, reading a single verse will inevitably lead to faulty conclusions due to breaking a verse out of its intended context. The general practice and what is being put forth by the above quote is that it is necessary, at a minimum, to read the paragraph before and the paragraph after the verse in question. Including the chapter before and after is even better.
Not reading a single verse will help to keep everything within contextual limits. We need to keep in mind that the Bible was written for a different people at a different time within history. While it was written for them, the principles contained within the Bible are timeless. As such, we must continually apply them to our own lives, and teach them to the next generation as well.
In closing, we need to “notice Jesus isn’t telling us not to judge—Jesus is telling us how to judge. He actually commands us to take the speck out of our brother’s eye—that involves making a judgment. But he also commands us to stop committing the bigger sins ourselves so we can better help our brother. In other words, when you judge, do so rightly not hypocritically.” 5
Keith Parker (September 2016)
1. Todd Friel on transgenderism, July 28, 2016 Wretched Radio podcast: “Why Johns Hopkins refuses to do gender-reassignment surgery” http://www.wretchedradio.com/media/free-podcast/the-wretched-segment-of-the-day-july-28-2016.
2. Paul Copan, book: “True For You But Not For Me”, pg: 40, Bethany House Publishers, 2009.
3. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, volume: Matthew 1-7, pg. 430, Moody Publishers, 1985.
4. Greg Koukl, blog post: “Never Read a Bible Verse”, February 4, 2013, http://www.str.org/articles/never-read-a-bible-verse.
5. Frank Turek, blog post: “Why You OUGHT to Judge”, June 16, 2008, http://crossexamined.org/why-you-ought-to-judge.