To Judge or Not to Judge?

A View of the Guiding Light in a World of Darkness is a weekly devotional that seeks to apply Biblical principles to our everyday lives, written by inspirational speaker, Jeremy Curry.

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Judging. It’s something we have all done whether we meant to do it or not.  We look at people and automatically make assumptions about them.  We see a man place a disabled parking placard in his window walk (seemingly unaffected with any disease) into a store. We wonder why he thinks he is disabled, all-the-while not knowing he suffers from severe kidney issues with horrific and chronic pain.  Perhaps we take it further and our judging is more direct as we critically scold someone about their behavior face-to-face.  And, in the 21st century, we attempt to take our judging to a whole new level by doing it in cyberspace via texting, emailing, Facebooking, tweeting, or using some other less confrontational means of judging. Sometimes it is through gossip and other times we angrily confront people directly in cyberspace.  No matter the medium, all of us have judged another at one point or another in our lives.

I know I’ve certainly judged others in ways that I shouldn’t and I have also been judged by others in ways that shouldn’t have been done to me.  It’s easy to prosecute, but heartbreaking when you are the accused.  In fact, I recently read on Facebook something one of my friends had posted, “Don’t judge others because they sin differently than you.”  Really?  Should we never ever try to get our brothers and sisters on the right track?  Is that what I would want from someone else if I were consistently and constantly sinning?  That’s not love, that’s tolerance. And they are two completely different concepts.  Tolerance, when used incorrectly, can completely push us off of the path that God wants for our lives. Love, on the other hand, makes us rely on Him and gives us guidance, putting us back on the straight and narrow path toward God.  But, how should we act when others, including our close friends and family, are sinning?

In the verses above, we read the words of Jesus saying, “Judge not, or you too will be judged.”  What exactly does that mean?  Does it mean that we should never tell someone if they are right or wrong according to God’s Word?  Does it mean that we should let everyone live how they want to as long as it makes them feel good?  Let’s take a closer look at the passage.  Verse 5 says, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  If we were never to judge one another, then why are we told we can remove the speck from our brother’s eye?  The concept of judging and removing specs must be contrary to each other, but perhaps not well understood in the English language.  The Greek word for “judge” is Krino.  When studying the original Greek, it seems more likely that the word “judge” in this instance is better translated as condemning someone.  We see the same Greek word used in John 3:17, which reads, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”  Some translations of this verse even replace the word “judge” with “condemn.”  Again, we see the context of the word “judge” as someone who is condemning rather than someone who is pointing out sinful behavior that should be corrected.

In the above verses in Matthew, Jesus is giving the Sermon on the Mount. And, He is, in fact, telling people how to live when he tells them to first take out the plank from their own eye.  So, He is not only telling us what to do, but also showing us how to do it at the same time as we see Him point out sinful behavior of the hypocrites He is speaking to.

As Christians, we are constantly bombarded with others telling us that the Bible says, “You can’t tell me how to live.”  That’s clearly not the case.  It is more evident that we shouldn’t be approaching others in an angry manner or condemning someone to Hell (judging) when we, ourselves, are all sinners.  However, we see the great leaders like Paul telling people how to live many times by giving them guidance throughout the New Testament.  Of course, he did his absolute best to do it in a loving manner. 

Additionally, if we were called not to help keep others from sin, then how would the world know what God asks us to do?  Does this mean you should confront someone in anger in regards to their sinful behavior? No. Does this mean that you should continually pound someone on their sin again and again and again? Probably not, because you wouldn’t be showing love to that person.  Should you text your friend or put on Twitter and Facebook about how awful a person is?  No, not even close.

Remember, our second greatest command is to love our neighbors (Matthew 22:39).  We must do everything in love, including approaching others about their sinful behavior.  If you need guidance on how to do this, we are told exactly what we should do to correct the sinful acts of others in Matthew 18:15-17.

The next time you hear someone tell you that you shouldn’t tell them how to live, ask yourself these questions:

1. Did I pray about the situation?
2. Did I make sure that I had no planks in my eye? 
3. Did I approach the person one-on-one with love and in a loving manner?
4. Did I do my best to give guidance instead of judgment?

Remember that we are all hypocrites.  None of us are without sin.  But, it is also our responsibility to keep each other on track. As Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15, “14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.”  In other words, don’t judge, but rather, give guidance.

Just as Jesus provided us with rules on how God wants us to live, then shouldn’t we teach the world about those same rules so that all may learn about His great love for us?  While we are not called to judge one another, we are certainly called to guide each other.  Pull others back on to the path who have left it, and they will do the same for you when you stray.

Judge not. Rebuke when necessary. Give guidance. Love always.

Father, we know that we have all condemned others in a way that we shouldn’t.  We know we are all sinners.  We ask that you work in our lives to remind us of Your grace and enable us to exhibit that same grace to others as we strive to become like Christ.  Give us love, grace, and peace in situations that seem out of our control as we seek to bring our brothers and sisters back to a right relationship with you. Keep us from judging and help us to give wise guidance to others.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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