“Judge not, that you be not judged.” It has been said that this is the best known verse in the Bible… even atheists know this verse. Why? Maybe it is because no one likes to be judged!
But is that true?
Right now the Olympics are being held in Rio. Athletes from all over the world are competing against one another. They have been training HARD for years… just so they can compete and BE JUDGED. And NO ONE is complaining about being judged. Why? Because these athletes are doing their very best and they want to be recognized as such… they want to come out on top… … hopefully judged the best in the world! These athletes are not just trying to get by. They are not trying to fit in. They are not trying to be just normal. They have firmly planted their feet on the road to their goals and they are going all out to get there. They are living their lives intentionally… and they intend to win!
And no one is faulting the judges for judging! They are experts in the various events; often they have competed in these same games at sometime in the past. They have the experience… they know the rules of the game… and they know just how to recognize the little nuances that set the best apart from the good.
This is not the type of judging that Scripture warns us against… and that everyone hates. This view of judges and judging is perfectly acceptable. A person …appointed to decide in any competition or contest (the judge)…makes an assessment (a judgement) about the athlete’s skill. And NO ONE gets their noses bent out of shape!
But the Bible does say “Judge Not.” So, obviously, there is more to this scripture. This passage is actually found in Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, or you too will be judged.” Verse 2 continues “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the same measure you used, it will be measured to you.” That is a sobering thought. We’d better get this right!
To start with, a judge needs the AUTHORITY to judge… the authority to render a verdict.
We don’t have that authority. Only God has that authority.
Isaiah 33:22 tells us “For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king…” He makes the rules. He determines what is right and what is wrong. Not the church. Not the government. Not even us with our free will, “enlightened mind”, in “this day and age”…or whatever rationalization we come up with. It is not up for a vote!
Are we never to judge anything? We are to judge actions… ours and those of others. Judging here means (according to the Merriam Webster dictionary) “to form an opinion about (something or someone) after careful thought.” It does not mean to condemn, or to belittle. It means to carefully compare what we see, against what we know to be correct. For example, take a pencil and draw a straight line … freehand. Now take a straight edge, like a ruler, and compare it to the “straight” line you just drew. Is it TRULY straight? Depending on your skill level, it can be close… or nowhere near straight. But it will not be perfectly straight!
So, judging actions or situations… what we see … must be compared to what is TRUE… what is RIGHT. And who sets the standard? God. He’s always right! And He is the ONLY One who is always right!
Are we supposed to judge people? We are told in several passages to examine ourselves. Do our actions line up with the “straight edge” of God’s Word. Are our motives loving and kind … or selfish and manipulative? Are we building others up… or tearing them down? Are we envious … or jealous … or do we think we are better than other people? Most likely there is a mixture of good and not-so-good.
Also, a judge needs to see the whole picture. In I Samuel 17, we are told that God had sent Samuel (the prophet) to anoint a new king from the house of Jesse. However, God hadn’t told Samuel WHICH son to anoint … yet … and Jesse had eight sons!
One-by-one they were presented to Samuel. Verses 6-7 tell us Samuel saw Eliab (the first son) and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” None of the seven sons that Jesse brought with him were chosen by God to be king. Samuel was concerned. God had said “No” to all the sons brought before him… but he was supposed to anoint a king! However, Jesse had another son – David, his youngest – whom Jesse thought so insignificant that he didn’t even bring him to the feast! Samuel could not proceed until David had been brought in from the fields where he was watching sheep. Finally, Samuel could anoint David as king… and they could all eat!
But did you catch what God said? The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.
The Lord sees our heart… our motives… the “real” us. People only see on the outside… our actions … our mannerisms … our body language … our clothes … our words. And – this is important – WE only see the outside of other people, too … no matter how well we THINK we know them. We not only do not have the authority to pass judgement on them, but we don’t really know what is going on inside them… who they really are … or their motives.
The question remains, who and what are we to judge… if anything? We have seen that we are to examine ourselves first. How do we “measure up?” When we find ourselves lacking in an area, or in a motive, we can take that to God, admit that we fall short, and ask for help and forgiveness.
Secondly, we are to judge what we see … actions, decisions, values, etc. Do they line up with what God says is right and true? We cannot change others, but we can adjust our actions … do we join in those activities … do we choose to walk with God, or with “friends” going in the wrong direction? Does our walk reflect what we now know to be right? Does our talk reflect the love of God… or something else?
Lastly, we cannot judge what we cannot see… what is inside of others … their motives, their hearts … their value. That is God’s business, not ours.
Before we go any further, I want to share something God showed me years ago. He makes a distinction between WHAT WE DO… and WHO WE ARE. God always loves us. He doesn’t always love what we do. In the same way, we can love people and not love what they do… or say. This, by the way, helped me to forgive some people … I really didn’t like much of what they did and said… but I could love them!
So, what do we do when we evaluate actions that are not “straight” when measured against the “ruler” of God’s standards. Well, what did Jesus do?
In John 8, we read that Jesus was teaching in the temple, and a woman was brought before Him who had been CAUGHT IN THE ACT of adultery. (As I remember, that takes more than the woman!) Anyway, she was definitely guilty of breaking God’s laws and should have been stoned. And she has been thrown … publicly … at the feet of Jesus… the Son of God! He had the authority to judge her right then and there! But did He? No! The Pharisees wanted an answer… they wanted Him to say to stone her. He knew the law … and He didn’t ignore it … He just told “whosoever (was) without sin to cast the first stone.” Ummmm… that would have been Him … and only Him … but He didn’t. In a few days He would to bear the punishment for her sin. He did not condemn her, but He did tell her to “Go, and sin no more.”
Unfortunately, sometimes Christians are known more for being judgmental than loving. Many times it will be obvious that God’s laws are being broken… or have been broken so the judging is “justified.” Sometimes it is not a “law” that has been ignored, but a tradition… not doing things the “way they’ve always been done before.” I know I certainly am not “without sin”… and neither is anyone else. It is possible to stand for what is good and right … to not compromise truth … and still not condemn others. Jesus said of His disciples, “You will know them by their love” … not by their hair color, clothes, makeup … or even by how “right” they are! Most people do not need to be constantly reminded of their failures… but they do need to know there is a better way … that God loves them … that Jesus died for them … that Holy Spirit can live in them and change them from the inside out …that there is hope!
Remember, Jesus told Peter that he would be a fisher of men. That is what we are to do!
And Jesus … just like any fisherman … catches His fish … and then He cleans them!
Lord, You know I am guilty of judging others.
Please touch my mouth so I can speak of Your love for them.
Please touch my ears, so I can hear You.
And most of all, fill my heart with Your love…
So when people look at me,
They see only You and Your love.
In Jesus Precious Name, I pray.
Thank you, Lord.