The Judge Not Card
You are here because someone, (maybe you), played the “Judge Not Card.” Let’s all remember that if you’re going to play the “Judge Not Card,” we all need to play it fairly. So the following is a biblical exposition on what rightful judging is and is not.
Twist not Scripture, lest ye be like Satan. – Paul Washer
One of the longest-lived accusations against us Christians is that we are judgmental. It’s true, however, we are, and often we are hypocritical in our censure, and we are condescending and degrading towards others that disagree with us. We are intolerant, bigoted and unwavering, and often come off as hateful towards them. So many times we are met with the parroted reverberations of Scripture taken out of context to try to disincline us from continuing in our beliefs and behaviors. Verses like Matthew 7:1,
Judge not, that you be not judged.
or, Matthew 7:5,
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.
These verses are favorites among the anti-Bible crowd, they like to try to use our own Scriptures, you know, the ones they don’t believe, against us. But is this really what these verses are trying to tell us? How can we reconcile verses that appear to be telling us to be tolerant against the entire theme of the Biblical Gospel, which is to call people to repentance and faith? Calling people to repentance is absolutely foundational to the Christian faith (Hebrews 6:1). The unbeliever thinks that Christians should just concern themselves with helping others, loving others, feeding the hungry, clothing and sheltering the poor, and these certainly are things we should be doing, but a man can go to Hell on a full stomach. If we aren’t calling people to repentance, we are being disobedient to Jesus’ command.
But these passages are obviously in Scripture for a reason; so what are they telling us? Well, if you view this passage in its proper context, which is Jesus preaching the Sermon on the Mount, we can make more sense of it. Up to this point, he’s talked about the beatitudes, being salt and light, the relationship of the law of Moses to the New Covenant in himself. He gave examples of unrighteousness, and talked about inward righteousness, alms giving, prayer and fasting. He talked about social ethics, materialism and anxiety and trust. Which then brings us to this final part, social relationships, of which not judging others is a major theme.
Now, the Scribes and the Pharisees were the religious influence at the time. They stood, in opposition to Jesus as the fulfillment of the law, as purveyors of the law. Their social and religious influence was widespread among the Jews, and Jesus was preaching to them a different idea, a different way of thinking about the law, in contrast to the norm, which was full and total submission to the law. See, the Pharisees and the Scribes in many ways had been twisting Scripture in their own times, to promote a false religious system back then too. They taught, much like the Roman Catholic church of today teaches, that we achieve salvation through good works and obedience to the law.
What Jesus was in effect saying to them was to stop criticizing every aspect of everyone in accordance to the law. That is not why the law was given. The law was never given as a means of salvation, but as a light to shine on our unrighteousness, so that we could see ourselves as sinners in need of a savior. Jesus didn’t come to save the righteous, but the condemned (Luke 5:32). Without condemnation, there can be no salvation. So he wasn’t telling us not to call people to repentance, or not to tell other people that their sins are killing them, and sending them to Hell (Romans 6:23). This is the essence of the Gospel for us to do this.
People must know that they are sinners in order to see themselves in need of a savior. Those who believe themselves to be righteous, or believe that obedience to the law, as did the Scribes and Pharisees, are lying to themselves, and sending themselves to Hell (Romans 3:10). Those who believe that Jesus was here to show us the way, or that going to church just means “hanging out with your buddy, Jesus” are believing a lie. Jesus wasn’t telling Bible-believing Christians not to make people aware of their sins, he was telling the unbelievers that their judgement against others was misplaced, misappropriated, and blatantly hypocritical. They were hypocritical not because the law they were preaching was necessarily wrong, but because they were not believers themselves, or didn’t understand the proper purpose of the law, and calling people to repentance. Moreover, as condemned sinners themselves, in God’s eyes, they were just as guilty as anyone else, even though they lived their lives trying their hardest to be obedient to the law. They just weren’t good enough. Their good deeds were like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), because they did not surrender to Christ.
Only once you have surrendered your life to Jesus Christ alone, do you have any kind of standing to “judge” others. But it’s not your own judgement that you are to judge others by, it’s the judgement of God. God is the ultimate judge, and we are only proclaiming his judgment. It’s only by the word of God that we can proclaim this judgment, and doing so on our own terms, and by standing on our own righteousness to proclaim it is absurdly hypocritical. However, we must continue to proclaim the truth that all are sinners and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), and that the only way to be saved is to repent of our sin (Luke 13:3-5), meaning, to change our mind, our attitudes, and our perspective on sin, and to see it for what it is, an evil abomination in God’s eyes, and to turn our faith in Christ alone for the fulfillment of God’s law, and our salvation (Gal 2:21). But the essential to this truth is that one must see himself as unrighteous, and condemned, before the throne of God before he can be saved. If one doesn’t see himself this way, they cannot be saved.
So next time an unbeliever throws one of these verses at you in response to you trying to share the Gospel with them, kindly respond back to them that you are not the one judging them, but God has already judged them:
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. – John 3:18