I’ve seen and heard people in all walks of life — rich, poor, educated, uneduated — use this very popular and probably the most misinterpreted scripture verse. The magic verse is in Matthew 7:1 – “Judge not that you be not judged“.
Let me elaborate.
The Bible should be read in “batch of texts”, not a stand alone quote then twist its meaning to suit your need. Each verse has what we call “context” and it should be understood based on the given context. So, to understand what we’re going to talk about, please read Matthew 7 before we proceed, it will be wonderful.
Now, for the context.
Jesus was preaching the popular “Sermon on the Mount”. And it looks like this particular portion of the sermon is directed towards the Pharisees (Jesus said “You hypocrite!” (v. 7), a language he often used specifically for the Pharisees). These guys are those who “judge” their fellowmen for their own benefit. They place additional rules not necessarily based on the Scriptures and create burdens for those who follow. In other words, they “judge” with no real good intention.
Is Jesus really saying “Do not judge?” Or is he saying, do not judge because “…the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” (v. 2)
Jesus is saying, if you judge, make sure you use the same standards of judgement, not your opinion, not your extra rules. Because if you are judged, you will also be judged according to the same standards. This is supported by another verse. Jesus said:
“Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)
Here, he is saying, you can judge if your judgment is “righteous”, or godly. A godly judgment uses God’s word as the standard and not the popular cultural worldview:
– if you don’t pay your taxes, the Bible is clear: that’s cheating. No matter what the culture says about the way the taxes are paid and used, you need to pay your taxes.
– if you took stuff that’s not yours, the Bible is clear: that’s stealing. No matter what the circumstances are, your child maybe sick or hungry, but you cannot use that to justify your action if the Bible is our judge.
– if you have relationship with a married person, the Bible is clear: that’s adultery. No matter what the circumstance is, the Bible says, any relationship outside marriage is adultery.
– if you hate someone, the Bible is clear: that’s murder. Yes, Jesus said this!
Here’s my point: if a “judgment” is passed for the purpose of correction in love and concern and the basis used is the Bible and not on your personal opinion, feelings or bias, “passing judgment” is exactly what is needed. If the Bible is clear, is it wrong to “judge” sin as sin?
Most of the time, those who misuse this popular phrase uses it to justify their wrongdoing. They hide by pushing back the focus to the one that’s trying to lovingly help them.
The problem isn’t even with the judging. The problem lies on the reaction towards judgment. If the judgment is done in love and is Biblical, there will be two reactions: humble repentance OR arrogant disregard. Most who says “Do not judge…” belongs to the latter.
As I often say, quote Ophra instead, but don’t quote the Bible and misuse it.