To Judge or Not to Judge: That Is The Question
Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). Before going further, consider this passage in light of John 7:24, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” One is reminded of the great quote in Shakespeare’s Hamlet in which he says, “To be or not to be. That is the question” (Act III, scene I, line 47). In these two passages, we are commanded both to judge and not to judge. The paradox of it is settled when we remember that the Bible does not contradict itself. There must be some judging that we are to do and some we are not to do.
“You Can’t Judge Me” — This text is often used to rebuff those who are calling for a high level of moral behavior from those who want to live in sin. Try telling someone today that it is sinful to commit fornication and they will likely say, “You can’t judge me. Jesus said, `Judge not’.” It is also used by those who engaged in unscriptural religious activities when they are challenged to produce authority for their practices. Try telling someone that it is sinful to engage in acts of worship not authorized in the New Testament or to assign to the church institutions and work the Lord never gave it. “You can’t Judge me.” This passage does not teach such a concept. If it did, we could not tell a murderer or a thief that it was wrong to kill or steal. Wrong is wrong! Evil is evil! Sin is sin! It is not wrong to identify it and demonstrate that God is displeased with it.
It Is Right To Judge – The passage in John 7:24 suggests that it is right under certain circumstances to judge the behavior of another individual. This judgment is acceptable when the judgment is righteous judgment. As we have already noticed from Matthew 6:33, we are to be seeking the righteousness of God. When an individual is assisting and encouraging another in that search for the righteousness of God, there will be the identification of that which God determines is sinful. This will come from the word of God and be applicable to the life of the one searching. So if one is attempting to help another live right, he will help that person identify and correct evil in his life. Ultimately, this is not a personal judgment, but the expression of the judgment of the Lord (1 Corinthians 4:3-4).
It Is Wrong To Judge – What we will be seeing in Matthew 7:1 is that there are also circumstances in which it is wrong to judge another person. Paul said, “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4). It is not my job to determine what is right and wrong. It is only my job to identify what God has determined to be right and wrong.