If I said, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” what comes to mind? For me, this has historically meant, “shut your mouth and keep your thoughts to yourself.” It’s such an obvious truism that even overt unbelievers quote it to us Christians.
The Secret Hypocrite
Growing up, I was taught that I should never look at what any person was doing and verbally express a judgment about it. At the same time, I was taught principles of supposed Biblical right and wrong that were supposed to be universal. This created in me a sense of secretly looking down on other people in my head. You can’t do that for very long before the stench of hypocritical self-righteousness is smelled by other people.
The Self-Righteous Legalist
Christianity, for me, didn’t seem to be about a lifelong journey of learning and truly living out what God said; it was more about looking right as you played the game. Anyone caught relaxing and not putting on the required facade of piety were considered “low class/intelligence” in my upbringing, and in need of a good-talking-to that could only show itself with sanctimonious side-ways sneers and a mild shunning from a small pack of gossipers. This was/is a Christianity devoid of Christ and seriously ignorant of what is meant by “judge not, that you be not judged.”
Let’s clear this up now!
It’s not cool to cherry-pick verses like, “judge not, that you be not judged” and use them to control other people’s behavior for a sense of moral superiority; especially while attributing God to it. This is cowardly and sinful.
Let’s suppose that I said, “Sam is a terrible gardener.” His garden would expose that, yes, he has let most of his summer tomato crop rot on the vine, weeds have crowded out his beans and bugs have eaten his basil; but does that prove that Sam is a bad gardener? No, it actually doesn’t. We have to look deeper at the situation. Why did this neglect happen? Maybe Sam broke both legs and was in a hospital for a month. We need to look at Sam’s true efforts and the good or bad fruits that he normally produces when he is actually working.
1” Judge not, that you be not judged. 2For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4Or 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? 5You 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.Matthew 7:1-5 ESV
Not all judging is prohibited.
We have to take the whole section (verses 1-5) and see that it does indeed tell us to take the speck out of our brother’s eye. We have to start with very careful discernment of a Christian’s visible “fruits.” We have to establish whether or not it’s just something that irritates us or is actually a sin. God tells us that we WILL recognize good or bad fruit. There will be no mystery. Then we should follow God’s way of helping a brother or sister in Christ remove the speck (sin).
Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgmentJohn 7:24 ESV
We also should care so much about the other person that we spend time preparing our hearts before we open our mouths; least we add fuel to the world’s secular fire that says all judgment is disastrous. They see the divisive results of what a “secret hypocrite” and a “self-righteous legalist” produce. They know that doesn’t work, but they don’t know there is a right way: God’s way.
If you’ve never been Biblically corrected (judged) by another courageous Christian, you are missing out. You’d think it sounds like a punch in the ego, but it is quite the opposite. There is this tremendous confidence you gain in knowing that you are shedding a layer of ignorance and that someone loved you enough to show you how. It’s not like someone is trying to manipulate you, because you know in your heart that what they are saying is true. Your spirit bears witness to this truth. So, yeah, I am very much in favor of judging rightly!
The bottom line for me is that if we don’t start openly crushing these misunderstandings of catchy Bible verses in our daily conversations and filling our minds with what God himself says about Christ’s righteous-love and proper discernment, then we will perpetuate the idea that all judging is wrong.
Just this one pragmatic Biblical principle taught by Christ could revolutionize Christianity for millions… It is a good thing to judge with right judgment!!!
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 Matthew 7:1
 Self-righteousness discussed starting at paragraph 13 of The Grace of God and the Righteousness of Paul by M. Strautman, Views from the Pew blog, December 6, 2018
 Ripped Out of Context, by M. Strautman, Views from the Pew blog, February 14, 2019
 John 7:24, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
 Matthew 7:16-20
 Relationship Primer for the Christian, by M. Strautman, Views from the Pew blog, October 5, 2017
 Romans 8:12-17