“Do not judge” is one of the most misunderstood and misused scriptures in the Bible. People jump to the conclusion that we should not call out as wrong any attitudes or behaviors, of others and thus accept everyone in their sin as they are. This is absolutely a wrong and dangerous understanding.
37“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. 38“Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”
39And He also spoke a parable to them: “A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40“A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher. 41“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42“Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. 43“For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. 44“For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. 45“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.
We are called throughout the Bible to discern what is right and wrong with the reference point being the absolute truth of God’s word. We are to do right and avoid wrong. What sense would it make for Jesus (and the prophets) to call us to repentance if we are not to make any judgment about what is right or wrong? or if there is no right or wrong and everything is acceptable?
17From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
1 John 4:1-6
Testing the Spirits
1Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 4You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 5They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. 6We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22
21But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22abstain from every form of evil.
I could go on probably all day with additional scripture calling us to discern good from bad, right from wrong. Let me pivot a bit to highlight scripture that clearly directs us to discern/ judge what is good and what is evil and set ourselves apart from those who are evil. It goes on to direct that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16).
2 Timothy 3
“Difficult Times Will Come”
1But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 6For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. 9But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also.
10Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, 11persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! 12Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
Clearly we can conclude that to say “do not judge” can not refer to accepting all behavior and attitudes and it can not be intended to say we should not rebuke or correct anyone based on their behavior compared to what is right according to scripture. Starting in Luke 6:43, scripture clearly highlights there is evil and good and we are to discern (or judge) which is which by examining the fruit… the same way we tell what kind of tree it is by looking at the fruit. Why even include this language if we are not supposed to judge good from bad? It would not make sense. These verses absolutely drive home the conclusion that we are called to judge good from bad and we look at the external actions and results of someone’s life, the fruit, to determine if they are good or bad. Since only God knows the heart, we must judge by the external fruit.
“Do not judge” would appear in this context to be reminding us to take caution in judging others harshly or quickly. We should first take care to evaluate ourselves carefully to ensure we understand and can see straight (first take the log out of your own eye) what the scriptures are telling us and the situation we are confronted with for which we are called to discern what is right and wrong. Let us take care not to by hypocritical, judging others harshly for things we ourselves still do. Let us judge others as we want to be judged by them. Let us use caution and patience in understanding a situation. Let us be graceful in remembering we also make mistakes. Even as we discern right and wrong, let us look upon those involved with love and grace. We need not hate or condemn the person even when we are called to clearly condemn the sin.
This is a difficult scripture for many. Take time to pray and listen. Spend time with the Lord and let the Spirit guide you in understanding and application of this scripture.
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