Don’t Judge Me
We live in a media society that loves strong opinions. In fact, we pay people big money to criticize many aspects of our society. I can’t think of a better job than to sit with a big bowl of popcorn and watch movies so that I can tell people whether or not I liked the movie. Who would like to get paid to do that? And we could probably do a better job than most of the movie critics. It’s not just movies. We have people that are paid big money to criticize sports, the arts, music, and of course politics. But there is one area that you can’t have a strong opinion on and that is personal morality. How many times have you heard the phrase, “you can’t judge me! Who gave you the right to judge me?” In fact, Matthew 7 is a passage of scripture in the Bible that is one of the most quoted and misunderstood passages of all of scripture.
Many people believe that the ideal Christ follower should be an undiscerning, flabby, indulgent, all-accepting jellyfish who lives with a twisted misunderstanding of judge not. What is Jesus talking about in Matthew 7:1 when he says, “stop judging others, and you will not be judged.” Jesus in not making a commentary on a judicial system or being a court judge. He is also not saying that people can’t be critical thinkers using discernment. Later in the chapter, in verses 15-17, Jesus says that we are to watch out for false prophets, and he talks about good and bad fruit. You obviously need to have an opinion about an individual to determine if they are “growing” good or bad fruit. Or whether they are a true or false prophet. Additionally, in Matthew 18:15 Jesus says:
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. We have a responsibility to go to a brother or sister (that is a general term used for a follower of Jesus Christ) and show them the area of their life that is at fault. It is pretty clear that we not only can point out areas of moral failure and disobedience in a brother or sister’s life, but we have a responsibility to. In 7:6 Jesus is referencing the wild dogs that roamed the streets of his day and pigs that were considered unclean animals in his culture for people to understand. He is referring to a person’s spiritual state and religious people of his day’s complete lack of interest and forceful opposition to the message of Jesus Christ. Clearly, in order to determine that, one must make a judgment on the person.
What is at the center of not judging? Many people today and the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were pious, self righteous, hypocritical, condemning people who set themselves up as gods looking upon other people with contempt. Jesus was pointing out that these people with this hyper critical spirit better watch out. Theologian John Stott says it well, “The command to judge not is not a requirement to be blind, but rather a plea to be generous. Jesus… tells us to renounce the presumptuous ambition to be God by setting ourselves up as judges.”
We all know people who struggle with looking at other people and tearing them down for the purpose of lifting themselves up. It makes us feel good to think that we have it a little more together than our neighbor or the person next to us. Before we think that it is only the religious leaders of Jesus’ day that struggled with this, let’s take a hard look at ourselves. Do we tend to be critical of people around us because their kids don’t act like our kids or because they are a republican or a democrat or because of what they look like or what their occupation or education is? Do we walk around with an, “I am better” attitude because of my Bible knowledge or what church I attend? Jesus has a sharp warning for us. Some day all people will stand before God and we will give an account before the Judge of the universe and we better not have lived a life of setting ourselves up as little gods with an attitude of critical condemnation. These verses don’t just relate to our final judgment and a judgment by God but the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Basically, each of us is looked upon in the same way we look at others. If I ask my neighbor not to have his dog poop on my lawn then I better not walk my dog on his lawn, and have it poop, or I can expect the same.
Ask yourself this question: do you find it easy to magnify others’ faults while excusing your own? If you do Jesus’ words will sting, “Hypocrite! First get rid of the log from your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” It is often said that the traits that bother us in others are often the habits we dislike in ourselves. The words of Jesus again are the clearest direction in this area of judging others when he says, “Do for others what you would like them to do for you. This is a summary of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”