The Bible Says Don’t Judge, Right?
Posted by John Hitchcock on 2011/05/15
Wrong. The Bible definitely does not say “don’t judge.”
I have heard that argument countless times, as far back as my school days in the 1970s, nearly always as a defense for something worthy of judging. And most of the time, the argument has come from non-Christians, who know just enough about the Bible to be dangerous, in an attack against Christians. There have been times where I have heard that argument repeated by Christians themselves, who do not know enough about Providence’s Word to know better.
I can accept this ignorance from a new Christian (do look up the term “ignorance” before flaming me) and use it as a teachable moment, but I have little patience for such ignorance from an old Christian. And no patience at all for such a dishonest attack from a non-Christian (or anti-Christian). The Bible says “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. ” (2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV))* And this is why I can accept the ignorance of a new Christian and not an old Christian. A new Christian hasn’t had the opportunity to study but the old Christian, indeed, has. And the non-Christian, and more accurately the anti-Christian depends on the Christian having not studied. If the Christian studies the Bible, he will more readily withstand the withering attacks of the anti-Christian. And he will more readily be able to aid in the understanding of the truly interested non-Christian.
“Study to show yourself approved to Providence, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of Truth.” As your effort to understand Providence’s Word moves forward, you will automatically start judging matters, as is proper. Already, in this single verse, the Bible says to judge. You are to judge what is true and what is false, so you will not have shame heaped on you. And you cannot do that judging without studying first.
As you went through school, you had to study all sorts of material. When in literature classes, you were taught to examine material based on context. You could not take a single line from a poem or novel out of its environment to make a statement that did not comport with the rest of the poem or novel. That single line had to be understood based on everything around it. History is the same way. The actions of a historical person cannot be understood in a vacuum. The time during which the person lived is critical, as are the events surrounding the person. Likewise, it is impossible to properly understand a verse in the Bible without understanding the context. And the “don’t judge” crowd depends on your not understanding context, as they take a single verse out of context and dement it for their purposes. Satan himself used scripture to tempt Jesus and Jesus responded with more scripture (Matthew 4:5-7). So if Satan can dishonorably use scripture for his desires, non-Christians and anti-Christians can likewise do so. “Study to show yourself approved.”
But the Bible says ‘Do not judge, lest you be judged,’ doesn’t it?
That, indeed, is the verse that non-Christians and anti-Christians use most frequently to attack Christians in my experience. Remember that context thing? This is why you need to “study to show yourself approved.” It is because that verse is lifted completely out of context, ignoring the very next verse and ignoring the rest of the Bible. Anti-Christians absolutely depend on your not knowing the Bible. If you actually know the Bible, you can defeat their dishonest arguments. So, what is that portion of scripture?
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1 (NIV))*
Let’s look at this verse by itself. “Don’t judge or you’ll be judged.” The corollary to that would be “You won’t be judged if you don’t judge.” Now, how many of you believe that corollary? You can murder your neighbors, rape people, steal from businesses, abuse your spouse, neglect your children and as long as you never pass judgment on anyone else, you won’t stand before Providence and be judged for your actions. Right? Or is that a ridiculous statement? Of course, that’s a ridiculous statement. “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:12, 15 (NIV))* Obviously, everyone is judged. So there must be a different meaning. And it can be found in the context.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1,2) The same way you judge others, you’ll be judged. Compassion plays a role here: If you judge without compassion, you will be judged without compassion. If you convict someone of the sin of eating a triple whopper with bacon on a Friday during Lent in your heart, and you do the same thing, you will be convicted of that sin. (Understand, I am not a Catholic so I do not know all the Catholic rules during Lent.) If you believe something is a sin and you do it anyway, you have sinned. Even if your belief is wrong, because you sinned in your heart. But that’s a tangent.
But I’ve stepped ahead of myself to some extent. I have given partial context to that verse and introduced an idea based on further context.
Continuing on: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5) This is another section of scripture non-Christians and anti-Christians use to attack Christians. Unfortunately, while their motives are often impure, their accusations are often accurate. But they rarely understand this is tied to verse 1 (and verse 2, which they ignore completely). If you accuse someone of gluttony for eating a double quarter pounder with cheese while you’re eating a 42 ounce porterhouse, you’re ignoring the beam in your eye while picking at a splinter in the other person’s eye. “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (verse 2)
Based on the context I’ve given you, you should be able to clearly see the Bible does not, after all, demand that you not judge. The Bible actually demands you to not be hypocritical in your judging and warns you will be judged on your judging.
Okay, so the Bible doesn’t say not to judge anyone. But it does warn people who are judging others. Obviously, the Bible doesn’t promote judging others, right?
Wrong. The Bible actually tells Christians to actively judge. The Old Testament is full of judging and commands to judge. Even the passage I have already discussed tells Christians to judge. The passage that has the two sections non-Christians and anti-Christians know best and use against Christians. That passage tells us to judge.
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6) Is there any way to follow this command without judging others? Absolutely not. You have to know who would be the “dogs” and who would be the “pigs.” And you cannot do so without judging them first.
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.
Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.
I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked man from among you.’” (1 Corinthians 5)
There is a very large amount of judging of someone who claims to be a Christian and a very large amount of demanding the judging of someone who claims to be a Christian. It is very clear we are actually required to judge others, contrary to what anti-Christians argue in bad faith.
For more information, you might want to examine this, where, near the bottom, I touched on another passage requiring the judgment of others who claim to be Christian.
*I prefer the New International Version (NIV) (1980s) translation because it is more readable for me, but the King James Version (KJV) is the more accurate translation from the original languages.
(Originally published 03132010 but brought to the top due to search engine interest.)
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