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The Right and Wrong Way to Judge
SUNDAY, JULY 03, 2011
Posted by: Sovereign Grace Baptist Church | more..
5,900+ views | 70+ clicks
There is perhaps no passage in all the Bible more misapplied and misunderstood in our day than Matthew 7:1, "Judge not, that you be not judged." Douglas Wilson once remarked that this is the only verse of Scripture that every pagan in America knows by heart. And the reason why is because for most people in our modern culture, Matthew 7:1 has been erroneously employed to mean that no one should ever evaluate or criticize anyone for anything. The moment you declare something to be wrong or in error about someone's belief or behavior, you are immediately charged with "judging." "Don't you judge me!" is the favorite and typical reaction from those people who insist that we must be tolerant and all-inclusive of whatever anyone believes or how they live. And again, their basis for this conviction is Matthew 7:1.
But when Jesus spoke these words in Matthew 7:1 about judging others, was He really meaning that we must never pass an unfavorable judgment on the conduct and opinions of others? Is this what Jesus meant? Are we to take these words - "judge not" - to mean that sin is never to be rebuked or that false doctrine is never to be corrected? Well, if we compare Scripture with Scripture, it can be easily and quickly deduced that Matthew 7:1 is not forbidding the exercise of any judgment whatsoever. In fact, right here in Matthew 7, there is the call by Christ Himself that we must judge those who claim to speak for God (7:15). We must be discerning and perceptive in what they teach and how they live, making every effort to judge between truth and falsehood, between what is really from God and what is nothing but a sham.
Moreover, in the immediate context of Matthew 7:1, Jesus tells us that there is a right way to judge others (7:5). But the right kind of judging must be preceded by our own confession of sin and repentance, so that we may "see clearly to take the speck out of [our] brother's eye." In other words, the only way to rightly correct the sin or false doctrine in others, is to be certain that we ourselves are not guilty of the same thing. This means that we must thoroughly examine ourselves, carefully considering our own ways, and thus critically measuring ourselves by the infallible standard of God's Word. Once we have done this, then Jesus says we will "see clearly" to exercise the right kind of judging toward others.
So then, Matthew 7:1 is not condemning altogether the practice of judging others. However, it is condemning a certain type of judging. And sadly, it is a type of judging that is all too common, not only in the world, but even in the church. When Jesus said, "Judge not, that you be not judged" - our Lord was forbidding what is called "a censorious, fault-finding, hyper-critical" spirit. J.C. Ryle (1806-1900) described this as a "readiness to blame others for trifling offences or matters of indifference, a habit of passing rash and hasty judgments, a disposition to magnify the errors and infirmities of our neighbors, and make the worst of them."
But what is so wicked about this judgmental attitude, is that it is carried out by our own personal standard as the measuring rod of what is right or wrong. We don't judge people by God's perfect standard but by our own prejudicial standard that is shot through with sin. And in addition to this, a judgmental person also plays God, since they claim that they can perfectly read the motives and intentions in another person's heart. They act as if they are omniscient, and thus know everything about everything at all times. What arrogance! But this is the kind of judging which our Lord Jesus Christ condemns. John MacArthur summed it up this way: "Whenever we assign people to condemnation without mercy because they do not do something the way we think it ought to be done or because we believe their motives are wrong, we pass judgment that only God is qualified to make."
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