Judge Not? Matthew 7:1 — The Most Misused Verse in Scripture?

In the previous “Judge Not?” articles, we explored 5 concepts:

CONCEPT #1: All people are image-bearers of God and have eternal worth.

CONCEPT #2: No Christian has earned his or her salvation, so no Christian has a reason to be pompous or arrogant.

CONCEPT #3: All Christians must always speak truth with love.

CONCEPT #4: Like everyone, Christians are imperfect.

CONCEPT #5: Disagreement is not intolerance or hate.

 We will now close the series by looking at the much-quoted Matthew 7:1:

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (ESV)

aka

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (NIV)

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Judging Judgment

Christians are often accused of being “intolerant” and “judgmental” for taking moral stands.

We spent time in previous articles discussing the misuse and overuse of these two accusations, so I’m not going rehash them here, but let’s stop throwing around the word “judge” like only people who disagree with popular views do it. Christians can disagree with others and do it with love and respect, still seeing those they criticize as image-bearers of God. As I’ve written before: there are wrong ways to speak truth; it must be done in love.

As R. J. Rushdoony stated, “Intolerance is inescapable. If we are Christians and abide by Scripture, we will be intolerant towards murder, theft, adultery, false witness, and other offenses against God’s order.”

Ironically, the accusation of intolerance and being judgmental can be turned on those accusing Christians of these very things. When accused of being intolerant and judgmental, a Christian can simply ask those leveling those accusations,

“If intolerance is wrong, then why are you being intolerant to my beliefs?”

or

“If being judgmental is wrong, why are you judging me?”

Often Matthew 7:1 is quoted by nonChristians at Christians as a “Gotcha!” when Christians speak out against something. But are they understanding the verse correctly? In fact, are Christians even understanding it correctly?

In his book The Most Misused Verses in the Bible, Eric J. Bargerhuff writes, “One could easily argue that Matthew 7:1 is by far the most frequently misapplied verse in the entire Bible, used and abused by both Christians and nonChristians alike.”

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The Golden Rule

Perhaps the second most overused and over-abused verse out of the Bible also comes from Jesus’ amazing Sermon on the Mount (Matthew CH. 5-7), known as the “Golden Rule”:

 

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

 

Most people are familiar with this teaching, and often it’s pointed out that many other religions have a similar teaching. I once came across another blogger trying to use the Golden Rule against Christians for a political stance they were taking, writing:

“As far as I know, no religion places an asterisk after its recitation of the Golden Rule, indicating those who can (and should) be exempted from the command to love and treat others as they would themselves want to be treated.”

But the problem with this interpretation of the Golden Rule here and elsewhere is that those using it are basically saying, “Treat others as you want to be treated, and you want to be treated as if everyone agrees with everything you do, so don’t disagree with anyone.”

This is absurd.

I want people to treat me with respect, but I also want them to be truthful. If I’m doing something they perceive to be destructive to others or myself, I want them to tell me. If I’m doing something badly, selfish, or just plain wrong, I want to be told. I want people to speak truth to me in love, and I will do my best to do the same for them. I will speak with love and truth – not just with one and not the other.

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Planks in Eyes

 

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (ESV)

aka

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (NIV)

 

People love to grab random verses out of the Bible to “prove” their points (like corrupt celebrity preachers and cult leaders). Problem is, these verses are often taken out of context and ignore the complimentary teachings throughout the rest of the Bible.

Yes, Matthew 7:1 sounds straightforward enough: Jesus is saying not to judge, right?

Let’s look at the rest of the passage before drawing a conclusion. To be fair, some who use Matthew 7:1 will even quote a bit more of it:

 

“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?”

(Matt. 7:1-4)

 

OK, things get a little clearer now: Jesus is saying if you judge others, you will be judged in the same way. So, if you judge harshly, you will be judged harshly. But this is also saying, if you judge justly, you will also be judged justly, right?

Fair enough. I believe this is the Word of God, so we should take it seriously. It’s clear Jesus is warning us about how we should judge and condemning hypocritical judgment. He’s not denouncing all judgment.

Can you image how insane the world would be if people stopped using judgment?

Can you image telling a father that he can’t use judgment when eyeing up his daughter’s new boyfriend? In fact, ladies, don’t refuse anyone a date, because that would be judgmental. And once you don’t use judgment to choose a boyfriend, don’t ever breakup with him, even for a very good reason, because that’ll be judgmental too.

Own a business? Be ready to hire anyone who comes in the door — forget interviews and references — because you don’t want to be judgmental. And you better not fire that guy who just cost your company a boatload of money, you judgmental jerk!

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Furthermore, we still haven’t looked at Matthew 7:5. Those quoting this verse to Christians often conveniently stop at 7:4. Here’s what Jesus says in 7:5:

 

“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.”

 

So, Jesus says to first take the plank out of your own eye, before you do what? Before you take the speck out of your brother’s eye!

Jesus is saying to take care of your own garbage before you go speaking to others about their garbage. Jesus is not condemning all judgment, but he’s telling us to do it in the right way. We are to speak truth in love, not harshly or hypocritically, and the only way to do that correctly is to make sure you’re in a good place yourself, which to Christians mean living as closely to God as possible.

Bargerhuff comes to the same conclusion: “Therefore, Jesus does not forbid all moral judgment or accountability. Rather, he forbids harsh, prideful, and hypocritical judgement that condemns others outright without first evaluating one’s own spiritual condition and commitment to forsake sin.”

None of us are perfect, and we have to deal with the inadequacies, garbage, and brokenness of others with the same grace that God shows us through Jesus Christ in dealing with our inadequacies, garbage, and brokenness.

 

And with this, I conclude this series:

CONCEPT #1: All people are image-bearers of God and have eternal worth.

CONCEPT #2: No Christian has earned his or her salvation, so no Christian has a reason to be pompous or arrogant.

CONCEPT #3: All Christians must always speak truth with love.

CONCEPT #4: Like everyone, Christians are imperfect.

CONCEPT #5: Disagreement is not intolerance or hate.

CONCLUSION: Continue to always speak love in truth.

Judge_Not_Intolerance

GOD FROM THE MACHINE has published it’s first book! Searching the Bible for Mother God is for educating and evangelizing those in the growing “Mother God cult.” Visit our page here.

**Read PART 1 of “Judge Not? Human Worth” here.**

**Read PART 2 of “Judge Not? Christian Humility” here.**

**Read PART 3 of “Judge Not? Truth in Love” here.**

**Read PART 4 of “Judge Not? On Christian Arrogance” here.**

**Read PART 5 of “Judge Not? On (In)tolerance & Judgement(al)” here.**

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Judge Not? A Biblical Case for Christian Humility

*Why are Christians So Judgmental & Intolerant?*

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SERIES INTRO:

Christians are often accused of being pompous, arrogant, judgmental, and intolerant.  Often, Christians find their own Scripture being quoted back to them. The most commonly heard verse is:

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matt. 7:1)

From those leveling these accusations at Christians, there is truth in what they say, but there is also error.

In this series, I will be exploring these accusations, and analyzing humility, tolerance, and related ideas from a Christian, biblical worldview, ending the series by analyzing the much-used (and over-used) passage of Matthew 7:1.

In the last article, we concluded:

CONCEPT #1: All people are image-bearers of God and have eternal worth.

**Read PART 1 of “Judge Not?” here.**

Now, let’s explore Christian humility…

 

No One Earns (or Deserves) Salvation

All Christians have been called “out of darkness” into God’s “marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Here, and elsewhere in Scripture, it’s made clear that only through God’s intervention can salvation be obtained. We’re all dead in sin, and only God can bring a dead person back from the dead (Eph. 2:1; Col. 2:13). Thus, salvation is a free gift from God. It cannot be gained through our own effort.

(Despite the popular misconception that Christianity teaches that being “good” gets you eternal life, this isn’t what the Bible teaches; only the work of Jesus Christ can wipe away sins and eternal separation from God.)

Further, no one deserves salvation. God has given us all minds and freewill, and in Romans 3:23, Paul tells us sadly,

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

This includes both non-Christians and Christians. Though saved (and if truly saved, doing their best to live according to the perfect example of Jesus Christ), Christians are still imperfect sinners.

What does this all mean for us concerning humility? To put it bluntly, no Christian has accomplished (or can accomplish) what Jesus Christ did by dying on the cross, so no Christian has a right to be arrogant.

Jesus said,

“Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34-36).

All Christians were slaves, and no Christian has ever set himself free.

What Jesus Christ, God incarnate, accomplished on the cross only God could accomplish. Any amount of sin, no matter how small, separates us from a perfectly good, holy God. God, our Creator, loves us and wants us to know him, but he’s also perfectly good and just, and he can’t simply overlook sin. If he simply excused sin and evil, he would no longer be good and, thus, no longer God. Yes, there are things God can’t do, things against his very nature, and God’s very nature is perfectly god and just.  But it is also perfectly loving.

What could he do with this conundrum? The only thing that could be done: God became a man, lived a perfect life that none of us can, and experienced death, the penalty for sin.

Being both God and man, he was the perfect sacrifice and atoned for the just punishment for all of humankind. The work is finished, completed by the only one who could do it. And now all that can be done is to accept or reject this free gift.

This is the Gospel. This is the good news of Jesus Christ.

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Considering all that we’ve discussed above, can any Christian justify an arrogant or pompous attitude? Paul tells us the correct mindset of one who truly understands salvation alone through Jesus Christ:

“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).

Since everything we have comes from God, we can ask,

“What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor. 4:7)

God created us. God died for us to free us from our sins. God has liberated us from death, both spiritually and, one day, physically. Thus, Christians should not be arrogant, boastful, or sinfully proud. Christians should be understanding, patient, and kind to fellow believers and unbelievers alike. To Christians who are otherwise, I say: You should know better.

Paul, writer of much of the New Testament and the church’s greatest missionary, had been a persecutor of the church before Jesus appeared to him and changed his heart. He had aggressively arrested Christians and even saw some put to death when he was known as Saul (See Acts 8:1-3). But Christ showed him grace and called him out of darkness, just like he did to all Christians. Therefore, Christians should have the same humility as Paul:

“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:12-17)

I recommend to all my fellow Christians to reread 1 Timothy 1:12-17 often, meditate on it, and pray over it.  We should all strive for the same humility displayed here by the church’s greatest missionary.

Thus, we can add our next biblical concept…

CONCEPT #1: All people are image-bearers of God and have eternal worth.

CONCEPT #2: No Christian has earned his or her salvation, so no Christian has a reason to be pompous or arrogant.

NEXT: #3 – Speaking Truth in Love

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GOD FROM THE MACHINE has published it’s first book! Searching the Bible for Mother God is for educating and evangelizing those in the growing “Mother God cult.” Visit our page here.

**Read PART 1 of “Judge Not?” here.**