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Judge not, lest you also be judged

August 9, 2017

Bumper stickers. Facebook memes. Twitter tweets. Conversations in the break room.

We’ve all heard this quote used in conversation, usually to silence someone of a differing opinion.

But like a lot of other biblical quotes, it’s generally taken out of context. Put into the common language its modern interpretation is, “Don’t tell others that they are doing something wrong, or you’ll be told that you’re doing something wrong!”

In our culture it seems that everyone is free to do what they please and no one can criticize them. To support this philosophy, who better to call upon than Jesus Himself?

But look at the context:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you (Matthew 7:1-6).

If verse one tells us to not pass judgement on anyone, then it contradicts verse six. Verse six calls us to discern between “dogs” and “pigs” and everyone else. However you define “dogs” and “pigs,” clearly Jesus is calling us to make a distinction and not give them certain things.

A greater clue is found in verses two to five: You’ll be judged by the same standard that you have used to judge others (v 2), and you are called to remove the log out of your own eye before helping your brother with the speck in his own (vs 3-5).

What Jesus is calling His followers to is non-hypocritical judgement. He even calls the one who looks for others’ problems while ignoring his own a hypocrite (v 6).

Another interesting point here is that Jesus is talking about relationships within the family. He uses “brother” to reflect a close relationship, not “stranger,” or “person.” This is talking about relationships within the body of believers.

And there are ample passages that call fellow believers to confront one another about their sins, while giving instructions on how it is to be done (i.e. Gal 6:1-6; 1 Cor 5).

We are called to confront other believers about their sins with the right attitude and the right intention. And at the same time be ready to accept being confronted by others about our own sins.

So the next time you’re tempted to use the phrase “Judge not, lest you also be judged,”don’t.

Unless you’re going to bring in the rest of the paragraph and practice biblical confrontation among fellow believers.

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