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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, November 23 2023

Did Jesus say not to judge?

The teachings of Jesus Christ are summarized in the Sermon on the Mount, and one of His statements: Judge not, that you be not judged (Matthew 7:1) is often misquoted, to mean that Jesus said not to judge anyone.

Matthew 7:2-5 goes on to instruct: “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged…why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?...Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged….”

We want God to judge us with mercy, kindness and forgiveness, and these are the principles God wants us to apply when dealing with others, but that does not mean we are not to judge right or wrong, or good or evil.

Jesus' statement about judging is often used to promote the concept that there are no moral standards, but in Matthew 5:17-19 we read: "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For …till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

The basis of all biblical moral law is contained in the Ten Commandments, and it is clear Jesus taught God does have absolute standards of right and wrong. Jesus didn't nullify God's law, but expounded upon the motives for right and wrong. He taught His followers should not commit immoral actions, but have morally pure thoughts and emotions, understanding that murder, for example, is a result of hatred, just as the act of adultery is a result of sinful sexual thoughts (Matthew 5:21-22 and 27-28). When we compare ourselves to God and not each other, we realize how much we need His mercy and love.

Christians are expected to judge whether an action is right or wrong by God's standards, but no human being has the right to condemn another person, that's God's prerogative. Strong's Concordance notes that the word translated "judge" in Matthew 7:1 can also mean "condemn." As we are incapable of seeing a person's heart or knowing his or her relationship with God, we are not to take the place of God in making judgments about someone's motives or eternal salvation. We should be humble, knowing our own weaknesses and sins. However Christ also tells us, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34) and "a tree is known by its fruits" (Matthew 12:33). While we cannot see hearts, we can see—and judge—actions. There are times God calls on us to discern others' actions because of their effects on us and others.

We are not to judge where a person stands with God, because we are simply incapable of doing so, but we must be able to "discern both good and evil" in our actions as well as others, in order to grow in wisdom and avoid problems.