Weekly Bulletin Articles
For a long time, I was under the impression that the most well-known verse in the Bible was John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” However, the more I hear and read from those around me, the more I am convinced that Matthew 7:1 has supplanted John 3:16 as the most well-known, and most quoted, verse in Scripture: “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Now simply because a verse is well-known or oft-quoted does not mean that it is well understood or correctly applied. Some want us to think that it’s simply a matter of “don’t judge me, and I won’t judge you.” But, that ignores the context of this passage, and does not harmonize with other teachings of Jesus throughout Scripture. What does this passage mean in its context? How can we make application of this to everyday living?
I am certain that Jesus did not speak these words so that we could remain comfortable in our sinful ways. Yet, this is precisely how so many attempt to use these words of the Master Teacher. Rather than give up thoughts, words, and deeds that are not in keeping with the will of God, many want to continue in sin. When our love of sin is greater than our love for God, almost any justification will placate us. Are we truly trying to overcome sin in our lives when we throw around the tired cliche of “Who are you to judge me? You have your own faults to work on. When you are perfect, then come talk to me.” Such is a childish defensive mechanism that in no way helps us to improve our lives and become more like Jesus.
It is the height of hypocrisy to use these words of Jesus to defend our pet sins. The point of the passage is to get us to examine ourselves to make sure we are striving to be what we proclaim to be! We are often hard on others, and yet we go easy on ourselves when it comes to sin. Jesus was denouncing hypercritical and hypocritical judgment! We must be willing to subject ourselves to the same standard of judgment that we expect from others. Herein is part of the struggle with this passage of Scripture. This passage does not condemn judgment altogether. Instead, when placed alongside other teachings of Jesus, he is instructing us to submit to a divine standard of judgment. In another place, Jesus teaches, “Judge not according to the appearance; but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24). So in one passage we are told not to judge, and in another we are told to judge righteous judgment. Some would have Jesus contradict himself, for in their opinion, all judgment is sinful. If we are never to render judgment, then how would we fulfill the command to abhor that which is evil and cling to that which is good (Rom.12:9)? How could we ever help to rescue a brother or sister who is overtaken in sin if we could not judge (Gal.6:1)? The warning of Jesus in Matthew 7:1 is to beware of being hypocritical in our judgment. We must do all that we can to make sure we are walking faithfully with the Lord. We must work to remove the sins in our lives, so that we can then help our brothers and sisters to remove the sins from their lives (does anyone actually read verse 5 of this passage?). Since we are not righteous in and of ourselves (Rom.3:10), it is, therefore, absolutely imperative that we base our judgment on an objective, unbiased, flawless, immutable standard—the word of God (Psa.119:172). When we subject ourselves to this standard, we can be sure that our lives will be holy and righteous as we live by it. Holding others to the same standard is not being hypocritical. It is being consistent. Live by the standard that you expect to see in the lives of others!