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Do Not Judge


In Matthew 7:1 Jesus said "do not judge " (NIV)  Some of us quote these words as if they're the 1st amendment to the Ten Commandments.  It's my opinion that these three little words are one of the most misunderstood and misappropriated words in the Bible.  There are at least five reasons for this.  One reason is that we don't understand the meaning of the Greek word "krino" that's translated as "judge" in this passage.  The second reason is that we take these words out of their immediate context.  The third reason is that we take these words out of their historic New Testament context.  The fourth reason is that culturally speaking, truth is not absolute. Therefore, if truth varies from person to person, we shouldn't judge another person's version of truth.  Lastly, our human nature gets defensive and rejects any kind of judgment that comes our way.          


The Greek word "krino" is translated as "judge" in Matthew 7:1.  In this context "krino" means "to make a determination about something by dissecting and analyzing the important issues involved".  "Krino" was an ordinary Greek word used in ordinary ways.  For example, a farmer would separate his crops to determine which were suitable for eating and which weren't.  Such a determination is what "krino", or, what judging is all about.


We often confuse one's motivation for judging and the way in which one applies the judgment with the actual act of judging.  Why and how one judges is altogether a different issue than the act of judging.  Jesus spoke to this in the rest of what He said in Matthew 7:1 and 2.  He said.  "Do not judge, for you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you". (Matthew 7:1-2)  Jesus' point was simple.  How we judge others will determine how others judge us.


Jesus went on to say that before we attempt to take a spec of dust out of someone's eye, we should make sure we don't have a log in our own eye.  Again, Jesus was speaking to how and why we judge.  It's simple common sense.  How we treat others will determine how they treat us. 


Throughout the New Testament there are numerous legitimate examples of people judging other people.  Jesus Himself judged the merchants selling their goods in the temple when He overthrew their tables. (John 2:14)  On many occasions He judged the Pharisees for their ungodly behaviour. 


In case you think Jesus is the only one permitted to make such judgments, look at the apostle Paul.  He judged Peter in a public setting by exposing his hypocrisy. (Galatians 2:11)  Paul's actions would infuriate most of us today.  We'd tell him to back off and stop being so judgmental and critical.  Paul was neither judgmental nor critical, at least in the way we use those words today.  He was upholding the truth of the gospel.  He was exposing Peter's behaviour because he was saying one thing and doing another.  Peter's hypocrisy was giving the gospel of Jesus a bad reputation.  Besides that, others were beginning to follow his hypocrisy.  Paul wasn't out to publically embarrass or humiliate Peter, but if that was what it took to restore the dignity of the gospel, Paul would make that judgment.    


Paul spoke to this issue in Galatians 6:1 when he said, "If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently".  Obviously, if we are to help restore someone caught in sin, we've got to make a determination or judgment that he is in fact sinning.  Once judgment is made, and assuming he is willing, we attempt to gently take the spec of dust out of his eye.  Gentleness speaks to the way in which we make and apply the judgment.  It also speaks to the fact that we're just as fallible as the one to whom we're applying restorative judgment, as the text states.    


Jesus elaborated on this issue in John 7:24 when He told us to "stop judging by mere appearance, and make a right (or righteous) judgment".  Jesus didn't say "don't judge".  He said "make a righteous judgment".  A righteous judgment is a determination based on honestly weighing the facts in light of Scripture, then applying the judgment in a non-hypocritical, caring, and loving way. 


Even though we fight it every step of the way, if we can acknowledge, accept, and apply, restorative judgment, it will benefit us in the long run.  I'm not talking about negativity, or being nasty, critical, or nit-picky.  I'm talking about what the Bible calls "righteous judgment", or what I'd call "restorative judgment".  Matthew 7:1 and 2 tells us how not to judge.  John 7:24 tells us how to judge.  The rest of the New Testament shows us practical examples of how this works. 


In Biblical terms, "do not judge" doesn't really mean "do not judge".  It means "judge righteously".  So, if you can't judge righteously, don't judge at all.  Just keep your mouth shut.      



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