I’ve talked about common phrases that non-Christians like to take out of the Bible and smugly use to criticize Christians into silence. The topic at the time “turn the other cheek”, attempting to dupe Christians, but there’s another that does pretty much the same thing, which has been used to con a couple of modern generations of American Christians into not speaking out about morality in general: “Judge not lest ye be judged.”
They quote the King James every time because that’s what’s in pop culture for this phrase, and it’s a big sign that it’s something everyone heard as a kid, and no one actually drilled into and practices what was actually taught by Jesus. As usual, you can’t pull 6 words from scripture without context.
The Bible actually gives us a path to judgment, specifically with how we should judge evil:
Proverbs 97:10: “Hate evil, you who love the LORD, Who preserves the souls of His godly ones; He delivers them from the hand of the wicked.”
Romans 12:9 “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”
Hebrews 1:9 (speaking of Christ Jesus, of who we are supposed to emulate): “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”
It’s all over. Dozens of references to hating evil and wickedness. But if we aren’t supposed to judge, how are we to know what is evil or wicked, let alone how we’re supposed to react?
It’s because the verse is, like most scripture, taken out of context. Here’s the full passage Of Mathew 7: 1-6 for analysis:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 “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? 4 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?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.
6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
Quite a lot of judgment there, as a matter of fact. In this, we are judging some as “dogs and pigs” which in terms of ancient Jewish society, are about the most unclean things someone can use as a metaphor. The specifics are what matters.
What Christ teaches, and actually how most Paul’s letters teach us to behave, is in regards to our Christian brothers and sisters. The speck of sawdust in your BROTHER’s eye is what’s key to his passage. The Church and Christ are very much concerned about how we act toward each other, almost beyond anything else. It means we shouldn’t take disagreements between each other and try to destroy our fellow Christian with them. That gossip shouldn’t be something among Christian brothers and sisters. If one of us is struggling with sin, it’s because we are fallible and working toward perfection – we shouldn’t look down upon others in that journey, because we are all on that same journey.
Those who hate Christ are not on that journey, and are professing wickedness, especially in deceiving Christians to be quiet about morality. We must speak out about sin and must define sin in order to show light to the world. Otherwise there is no difference between us and the pigs and dogs. But it’s also not our job to overly explain ourselves to those who are trying to be mockers of Christ in this, that’s what verse 6 is about. We do what we do because it’s God’s commandment. We have to speak out, we have to give Him praise. We’ll get mocked for it every time, There are actual souls at stake who we can work on, who are actually interested in learning about Christ. That’s where we need to dedicate our efforts. In any argument now I ask “are you earnestly interested in learning about Christ?” if they cannot answer yes, I don’t spend the time.
The Bible is very clear on behavior that we should judge as evil and wicked as well
Galatians 5: 19-21 is a simple guide: “Now the works of the flesh are plainly seen, and they are sexual immorality, uncleanness, brazen conduct, idolatry, spiritism, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, dissensions, divisions, sects, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and things like these. I am forewarning you about these things, the same way I already warned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s Kingdom.”
Obviously I’m not posting this to say I am any better than you, brothers and sisters. I fall short fairly regularly, embarrassingly so. But these are things to judge, and especially to speak out about their evils, even though it is unpopular in society to do so.
As with most of Christianity, intent is everything. If you do what you do in seeking Christ, you will not do wrong, because He is with you. If you’re here to help a brother when they are stumbling, that is quite different than judging a brother. But none of this applies to the wicked world. Out there, there are lost sheep, but there are also goats and wolves among them. Be wary, stay vigilant, and never be conned into silence.