THE MOST MISUNDERSTOOD SCRIPTURE IN THE BIBLE
Judge not, that ye be not judged.
The above scripture is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied scriptures in the entire Bible. Most people have a very limited knowledge of the Bible but this is one scripture that they seem to recall, albeit, with an incorrect understanding. I have often said that people can be totally ignorant of the scripture but there are two things they know for sure: 1) Jesus drank wine, and 2) We are not to judge anyone.
Before we get into a thorough examination of Matthew 7:1, let us imagine a world without any “judgment”, without any one judging anyone or anything. What would such a world be like?
First, if there is going to be no judging, we would have to remove all courts, courthouses, and judges - for in a world without judgment they would be unnecessary. This would require that we abolish all county, district, and state courts and then finally, we would have to disband the Supreme Court of the United States of America and give all nine of its justices (judges) their walking papers.
If there are no courts or judges then next we would have to do away with all of the lawyers, for in a world without judgment, lawyers would no longer be needed. Does any of this sound good to you yet? Just wait, we are not through yet.
Next, we would need to close all of the law enforcement agencies in every country for they would they would now have nothing to do. Why arrest a person for a crime if they are not going to be tried in a court by a judge?
Now comes the frightening part. Anyone could do exactly what they wanted. The rapist could rape any person that suited their fancy for they could not be judged. The thief could steal without fear of anyone judging him or her. The pedophile could molest as many children as he chose to. Why, you could drive on any side of the road you wished, you would not have to stop at stop signs, you could run red lights, and drive as fast as you desired. No reason to worry, for in this world no one judges anyone else!
Osama Bin Laden could fly as many planes as he wanted into buildings, and suicide bombers could kill with impunity (why be a suicide bomber anyway? No one is going to judge you). Laws would mean nothing. Crime would not be a crime any more, and no one would be safe in this make-believe world.
Does this sound like the kind of world you would want to live in? Does it sound like the kind of world you would like to raise your family in? No! But this is exactly the kind of world people are endorsing when they say things like, “No one is supposed to judge another person” or, “The Bible tells us not to judge others”, or “You cannot be judgmental” (there are many other variations of the same thing). Often, after making such a bold statement they will next quotes all or in part from Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that ye be not judged”.
Did Jesus absolutely forbid judgment of any kind with His proclamation in Matthew 7:1? Is judgment forbidden by the scripture? Is it a sin to judge? All of these are important questions and we hope to answer them in the next few words.
In order to understand any scripture we must examine it in light of its context and in light of other scriptures. If this is not done then an incorrect understanding is sure to take place. There is an amusing story that I heard years ago that illustrates this so well and it goes like this:
There was young man that was so in love with Jesus that one day he decided that he would open the Bible up and point at the page and do exactly what the scripture told him to do. On his first attempt he opened, pointed, and the scripture said that Judas, “went and hanged himself”. He gasped and said, “Oh, no, I don’t know if I want to do that. I think I need to try that again”. He did this the second time and when he read the scripture it said, “Do likewise”.
This story illustrates how utterly confused a person can get when they isolate a particular passage of scripture. The only way to correctly understand a scripture is to examine all of it and especially the verses surrounding it.
Now let us look at Matthew 7:1 and the verses that follow:
1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
First we need to ask the question: Who was Jesus talking to in these verses? The answer to that is not given until the end of this section of scriptures. In verse five Jesus says, “Thou hypocrite”. Now we see that Jesus was speaking to hypocrites.
Second, look at the type of judgment being rendered here and you will see again that Jesus was speaking to hypocrites. Jesus said in this passage, “And why beholdest thou the mote that in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye”. Here Jesus upbraids the hypocrite because he is trying to remove a splinter from someone’s eye but cannot see because he has a beam in his own eye. In other words, this person was worse off than the person he was judging! That type of judgment is called “Hypocritical Judgment” and this is what this passage in Matthew is dealing with. We are expressly commanded by Jesus not to exercise Hypocritical Judgment. In terms that we can relate to, this would be like a pedophile sitting as a judge over the case of another pedophile. Do you think for one moment that this would be a fair trial?
And last, the hypocrite is told that if he will deal with the beam in his own eye there will come a time that he can help the man with the splinter. “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.” Even the hypocrite can repent and become a judge according to this scripture (splinter removal is considered judgment in this passage of scripture).
All right, now that we have covered this passage, we need to look at other scriptures in the Bible on the subject of judgment. Now bear in mind that this is but a small sampling because there are so many. The words: Judge, judges, judging, judgment, and justice appear a total of 568 times in the King James Version of the Bible. This does not take into account all of the other words and ideas associated with these such as Law and Righteousness.
17 And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do;
18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.
In this passage God says that he raised up Abraham to command his household “to do justice and judgment”. If judging is wrong then why did God say that he wanted Abraham and his children that followed him to judge?
Does God hate judgment? What do the scriptures say?
For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.
I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O LORD, will I sing.
To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
Are there other scriptures that uphold righteous judgment?
15 It is joy to the just to do judgment: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.
1 Corinthians 5:11-13
11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?
13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
1 Corinthians 6:1-5
1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?
2 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?
4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.
5 I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?
1 Corinthians 10:15
15 I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.
1 Corinthians 11:13
13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?
1 Corinthians 14:29
29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
1 Corinthians 2:15
15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
It is the wicked that despise judgment. Look at these scriptures:
5 It is not good to accept the person of the wicked, to overthrow the righteous in judgment.
28 An ungodly witness scorneth judgment: and the mouth of the wicked devoureth iniquity.
5 Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the LORD understand all things.
I could go on and on with this but I must stop somewhere. To be sure, there are other scriptures like Matthew 7:1 that warn against judgment, but a careful examination of each of those passages will underscore that hypocritical judgment is unfair and forbidden.
Judgment must be based on the Word of God and it must be righteous. Also, judgment must not be exercised by someone that is a hypocrite and is guilty of the same or worse.
People that cite scriptures to try to prove that all judgment is wrong are grossly misinformed and are being hypocritical as well, for they judge natural matters every day. I asked one that claimed we could not judge any thing or anyone, “Did you vote in the last presidential election?” and they replied that they did, “then”, I said unto them, “you judged that one candidate was better than the other. You judged!”
Why is that people in our society are so resistant to judgment? There is one simple reason and it is this: they are guilty themselves and do not want anyone telling them so. Their resistance to judgment is a resistance to self-judgment. To admit that something is wrong, that we are wrong, is to allow judgment to bring us to Christ. To resist judgment is to resist Christ’s dealing with us to bring us into conformity to the will of God.