Thou Shall Not Judge

Of course this statement is one of the well known ‘Ten Commandments’ handed down to the people of God by Moses, and also restated by Jesus when he talked about taking the ‘log’ out of your own eye (Matthew 7:1-5) isn’t it? Well actually ‘No’, but you would think so by the frequency Christians are heard to make statements like ‘it’s not for me to judge’ in reference to a congregational member’s behaviour.

The problem is that the Bible, including many statements by Jesus, makes it very clear that there are situations where we ARE to judge, for the sake of the health of the congregation and the gospel. Christians who say ‘it’s not for me to judge’ often use it as an excuse for not fulfilling their Biblical mandate to confront others for the sake of congregational health.

Jesus’ statement about taking the log (of sin) out of your own eye before seeking to take the small speck (of sin) out of your brother’s eye is said in the context of the censorious Pharisees. The Pharisees had invented a whole lot of nit-picking rules as extra barriers to avoid breaking God’s rules e.g. the ‘Sabbath Day’s walk’ which was the distance a Jew was allowed to walk on the Sabbath without it being deemed ‘work’; also their rules by which they censored Jesus’ disciples for eating a few handfuls of grain on the Sabbath when hungry (they considered this breaking the ‘no work on the Sabbath’ rule-Matthew 12:1-8).

Jesus’ instruction was in regard to hypocrisy in censoring the often minute ‘sins’ of others while ignoring their own larger sins (Luke 11:42-48; Matthew 7:15; 16:6; Mark 12:38). Jesus however made it quite clear we ‘ARE to judge’ people in some situations e.g.

Judging who the ‘pigs’ are that we are not to cast ‘our pearls’ before (Matthew 7:1).
Judging who the ‘false prophets’ (false teachers), the wolves in sheep’s clothing in the congregation are: Matthew 7:15)

Further, when we move to the rest of the New Testament we see there are many reasons Christians must judge the behaviour and words of others e.g.

Judge the immoral man in the congregation: 1 Corinthians 5:1,2,5,11,12
Judge the false teachers: Colossians 2:8; 1 Timothy 3,4; 2 John 7
Jude the proclaimers of false ‘knowledge’: 1 Timothy 6:20,21
Judge those you are to have nothing to do with: 2 Timothy 3:1-5
Judge those who take advantage of gullible and vulnerable congregational members: 2 Timothy 3:6ff Judge the ‘Alexanders’ of the congregation: 2 Timothy 4:15,16
Judge and warn the divisive person: Titus 3:10
Judge in order to ‘rebuke and correct’: 2 Timothy 3:10
Judge the ‘character’ of those who are being considered for ministry leadership: Titus 1:5-8

and so the list goes on.

Christians are called to make all sorts of judgements on people ‘for the health of the congregation’ and sometimes for their own spiritual health, More than that we are expected to speak and act e.g.

Rebuke those who are gossips and slanderers—a frequent occurrence,
Warn and have nothing to do with the member who becomes a centre of division, something not unusual in contemporary congregations.

Jesus’ ‘log’ illustration is about nit-picking censorious hypocrites like the Pharisees, not about judging damaging and destructive members of congregations who are nearly always present.

Those who use the unbiblical statement of ‘it’s not for me to judge’ will be ignoring a strong thread of teaching in the New Testament. If we do that we will be disobedient and actually contribute towards the weak congregations so prevalent in Australian Christianity, by allowing damaging behaviour to go unchecked.

Yes we are ‘to judge’ with prayerful, spiritual discernment so that the damaging person is dealt with appropriately for the sake of the gospel.
No ‘Thou shall not judge’ is not one of the ten commandments, nor in the Bible as a whole. It is an excuse for disobedience and a cause of congregational weakness. Rather, making appropriate judgements of congregational members’ damaging behaviour and words, followed by appropriate action is a God-demanded strategy for congregational health. Paradoxically it is also often for the benefit of the individual involved.

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