Thursday, December 4, 2014

Matthew 7:1: The Most Misunderstood Bible Verse

Perhaps one of the most shared verses from the Bible on Facebook is Matthew 7:1 which says, "Judge not, that you be not judged". The verse is fair game to those unwilling to cast judgment on others and I can see why it is one of all-time favorites. At first glance, everyone can easily relate to this - especially Christians who try to avoid getting labelled as hypocrites. Even pastors behind pulpits are quick to pull this verse off their sleeves  concerning proper conduct towards fellow believers. And we wonder why this verse is also quite popular among unbelievers - even atheists love to quote this, and use to counter Christians - it's because it is widely misinterpreted  and misused. But what does the Bible really say about judging others?

A text taken out of context, becomes a pretext

Many Christians today just take one verse out of the Bible without even poring over its whole context - and at times not going through the whole story. This practice is tantamount to isolating the taken text from its co-text. It's imperative for readers to read the whole chapter and the succeeding verses - not just one verse - for us to get what the Bible really wants to convey to us.

Matthew 7: 1-5 says;

(1) Judge not, that you be not judged. (2) For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again. (3) And why behold you the mote that is in your brother's eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own eye? (4) or how will you say to your brother, Let me pull out the mote out of your eye; and, behold, a beam is in your own eye? (5)You hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye; and then shall you see clearly to cast out the mote out of your brother's eye.

In verse 5, we can clearly see that the Bible is actually teaching us not 'not to judge' - but 'how to judge righteously'. It says that, for us not to be called hypocrites, we must cast out first the beam that is in our own eye before we cast the mote out of our brother's eye. So you see, it's fairly easy for Christians to take this out of context - most especially if their intentions were to be in a safe side by not pointing at a brother's smudge. To stay silent about a brother or a sister engaging in fornication or adultery because you too are 'not sin-less' is ignorance of the Word - but staying silent about the same because you yourself are a fugitive murderer is another thing. The Bible actually encourages believers to judge - but rather in a righteous manner - it's just that we should be very careful when judging others. It tells us that we should not judge them if we ourselves are of the same league as them - and that is sheer hypocrisy.

What does the Bible really say about judging?

Many Christians today find themselves in a dilemma when the topic of judging surfaces in a conversation. The fear of being labelled as hypocrite is one reason why we cease to talk about our brethren getting entangled in worldly affairs. "Who am I to judge anyway" comes handy as our convenient excuse - quite petrified that the log stuck in our eye will be exposed. Seriously, it is the scenario when one still lives in darkness. But what does the Bible really say about judging? Does it say not to judge at all - or does it explicitly say that we can judge but in a manner of righteous judgment?

The following are Bible verses that show us a righteous man (one who does not conform to the world any longer) can actually make righteous judgment:

Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy - Proverbs 31:9
The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom, and his tongue talks of judgment. - Psalm 37:30  
With my lips I have declared all the judgments of your mouth. - Psalm 119:13
Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. - John 7:24
But he that is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?But we have the mind of Christ. - 1 Corinthians 2: 15,16
Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judge by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know you not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life? - 1 Corinthians 6:2,3

In 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul tells us to "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine." The question is, how can we reprove and rebuke someone if we are not going to judge them first? That would be impossible.

On Judging and Discerning

If only to be enlightened further about the relation between judging and  discerning, I recently commented in an article in Stand Up For the Truth entitled,  'A Pastor Explains Why Discernment Has Disappeared' by Pastor Randy White (not to be confused with the other Randy White of Without Walls International Church, and ex- husband of Paula White). It's about exactly what the title suggests - Why discernment has disappeared to most Christians?

My comment goes: I know that discerning and judging are kinda same. Could it be that one of the reasons why most Christians do not have discernment is that they are afraid to 'JUDGE' (taking Matthew 7:1 out of context)? or because the Bible says we are all sinners and they don't want to sound hypocrite if they judge others?

Here are two of the replies that pretty much answered my question:

Commenter Robyn said:

When we discern truth from error we are not judging people but rather "judging" what they say when compared to what the Bible says. Very important to make the distinction, we are not to judge the person but we are told to inspect the fruit. Seems like many Christians know the verse "Judge not lest you be judged" but very few know we are also told to "test all things".

Commenter victoriadiagnello said:

There has been so much misinformation (false teaching) given to the church by the wolves that actually discourages them from any type of discerning, simply because they twist verses around like these. We are told to judge in many places of the bible. We are just not to judge as a self righteous hypocrite, they like to look down on others as it makes them feel more elevated, and condemn them before God had a chance. There is a difference, but the wolves make it look like any judgment is 'unloving', which of course, is dead wrong, we are to judge and discern just as the bible dictates. They spread this deception because it advances their own agendas of further deception and apostasy and their other 'goals.

Final thoughts

The Devil is the father of lies and he is good at deception and twisting Scripture. If we want to avoid misinterpretation of the Word of God, we must not just read, but also study the Bible carefully - praying to God for wisdom and understanding. Discernment is what very few Christians pray for and  the lack of it leads to a dangerous path in these end times. Hosea 4:6 tells us that God laments for "My people perish for lack of knowledge". Judging and discerning are two inseparable entities that are essential to everyday Christian living. I agree with Paul Washer when he said and I quote, "People tell me, 'Judge not lest ye be judged.' I always tell them, Twist not Scripture, lest ye be like Satan.". 

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