DON'T BE SO JUDGY
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you."
If you were here last week you may remember that I said that the passage we were looking at was perhaps one of the most famous of all the Sermon on the Mount. Well, today, we come to a passage that may be said to be one of the texts that is the most misquoted in all of the Sermon on the Mount.
There probably have been several within this congregation who have had this verse quoted to you while in a discussion with someone. It may have been someone who was an unbeliever. It may have been someone who claimed to be a believer. But you were talking to them about some serious issues and you were obviously making judgment calls on certain kinds of lifestyles. And then, that person turned to you and said, “Don’t you know that the Bible says that you are not supposed to judge people?”
And when they say that, that was supposed to be the trump card on that conversation. When they say, “The Bible says ‘Judge not,’” they believe that the conversation on that topic was supposed to end right then and there.
But as we come to this text today, we want to know if that’s what Jesus is really talking about. And we are going to find that, no, that’s not quite what he meant. Jesus had a particular kind of judging in mind.
So we want to consider two things this morning. We have two points that we want to unravel. We are just going to be looking at the first two verses and we want t consider the meaning of "judge not" and the motivation behind why we shouldn't judge. What does it mean when it says “do not judge” and why is it that we should not judge?
I. The meaning [1a]
Before we talk about what it means, we have to first deal with what it does not mean. For this is one of those verses that is constantly taken out of context and used the wrong way.
A. What doesn’t it mean?
As I just said, this one is the most widely misused verses in all of Scripture. And a lot of people don’t realize that they are taking this verse out of context and making it mean something that it was never supposed to mean.
What’s even more odd is that they are breaking the rule that they themselves are trying to apply.
Let’s say you are talking about transgenderism and gender. That’s all the rage right now. It’s being pushed by the media and by the Whitehouse. And you happen to say that it’s wrong. You’re having a conversation and you simply say that the Bible only expresses that there are two genders and that people who are seeking to change their gender or think of their sexual orientation in a different way are going against what God declares.
Someone may say to you, “You know, the Bible also says not to judge.” When they say that, the are not only taking it out of context, but they are actually contradicting themselves. By saying that I’m not supposed to judge them, they are actually being judgmental themselves. By telling me that I’m not to judge, they are judging me. To which we could reply, “If you are saying that I am wrong for saying that this lifestyle is wrong, are you judging me for judging others?”
You see the absurdity of that line of thinking. But people do this. They think that when Jesus says, “Do not judge,” he means that we are to not pass any kind of judgment on any kind of behavior.
That’s not true though. God’s word commands us to make judgments. For instance, it tells us that people who are in civil office are to judge rightly. They are not to distort their judgments based on partiality or as a result of a bribe. Church leaders have to make judgments about people too. That’s what it means to have charge over the people of your congregation. If someone is living in sin, that needs to be confronted. And that person may need to be put under church discipline.
And you and I need to make good use of judgment too. As a matter of fact, Jesus is going to say, “don’t give to dogs what is holy” in just the next verse. So we have to judge whether or not someone is acting like a dog.
The Bible contains a system of morality. And we are not to walk blindly through this life without any kind of discernment. We are to judge ourselves and others based on God’s word.
So, it is obvious that God wants us to judge actions and measure our lives by the standards he has laid down in His Word. Which means we have to wrap our minds around what he is talking about here. What exactly does he mean when he says, “Do not judge.”
B. What does it mean?
What he means is that we are not to judge people in an overly critical way. If you are familiar with the term, we can say that Jesus doesn’t want us to be censorious in our judgment. In other words, we can be quick to judge someone before we have all the information. We can be overly harsh in our judgment and not give someone a fair shake. Maybe we put a bad spin on things so that we see the worst in their action and we don’t offer any real charity.
“You never buy me ice cream.” Really? I never buy you ice cream? Don’t you think that is a little harsh?
“You always make me look bad.” Always? Is that a right and proper judgment?
That’s the problem with those kinds of superlatives. They are exaggerations that are designed to paint the other person in the worst possible light.
So maybe put those words in the side margin of your Bible. Jesus is not telling us not to judge at all. He’s saying that we should not be censorious in our judging. Do not be harsh or hasty in your judging. Don’t be quick to judge or judge others without a degree of charity. When you judge, make sure you have all the information first. Don’t jump to conclusions and pass a judgment without having first gathered all the data that may be available. And, as I’ve said, you shouldn't let yourself see this person or this situation in the worst possible light. Because that would be wrong.
And certainly, don’t go gabbing about these things to others. Gossip can often be one of the worst kinds of judging. It’s not only censorious, but it is passing judgement on a person without their being present to defend themselves.
So that’s what Jesus is talking about here. People in the first century were notorious for this. And he says that you have to have a righteousness that exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees. And one of the ways that you show your righteousness is in this whole arena of judging others. When you judge them, you need to judge them fairly, lovingly, on the basis of what Scripture commands. And you should not be overly critical. You should be someone who is a fault finder or a nit picker. That censorious (harsh, critical) spirit is what Jesus is dealing with when he says that we are not to judge.
Now, before we move on to our second point, let me give you some examples. I want to put some lived body detail on this and show you some illustrations of what it means. The best way to grasp what it means to not judge is to give a few examples.
C. What does it look like?
Example 1: Let’s suppose you hear your mom say, “I don’t want you to play with those blocks.” She’s put a prohibition on playing with the blocks and you heard it loud and clear. A few minutes later, you see your little brother pull out the blocks and start playing with them. So you immediately cry out, “What are you doing!?! You’re not superposed to play with those blocks!!!”
And after giving him a royal shout down, you go running to your mother in the kitchen and you say, “MOM! Jimmy is playing with with the blocks!” And what you really mean (if I could give a translation) is, “Mother, do you not know how immensely wicked that boy of yours is? He has defied your decrees and deserves to be handily treated with the paddle. You should spank him and afterward you should change him up in the dungeon where he should be slowly eaten by rats and serpents.”
That’s what’s really going on, isn’t it? You are really not interested in little Jimmy’s welfare. You have really no concern for Jimmy at all. Instead of wanting to build him up, you want to see him get in trouble. You want to see him condemned in some way. And it’s because you really don’t have a loving attitude towards him. All you are doing is casting a rash and harsh judgment.
Now, what would a good judgment look like? And remember, we are supposed to judge; we’re just supposed to make good judgments.
You might walk into the room and see Jimmy with the blocks. And now, instead of running to mom, you calmly go over to little Jimmy and you say, “Hey Jimmy. Mom had told me that we were not to play with the blocks right now. Did she say you could play with them? I just want to make sure you don’t get in trouble.”
Do you see the difference there? What happened in that instance? There’s a lot that we should take note of. You were looking for more information. You asked if he had special permission. You didn’t judge without all the facts.
You also had real concern for him, didn’t you? You were not being harsh with him. That’s seen in that you didn’t want him to get in trouble. And when you talked to him you did so in a calm way, which probably would have earned his respect and trust.
So on the one hand you were being censorious, but you see how it didn’t have to be that way.
Example 2: I heard Ligon Duncan speak about this issue this week. He told a story about how, early in his ministry, he had two friends, both of whom were solid evangelical pastors. But these two pastors had differing views on a certain theological position. They had a genuine philosophical difference. And even though these two pastors were both solid Christians, they let this issue become a wedge between them.
And what ended up happening is that each of these two pastors became constantly suspicious of the other. Because these two pastors had to work together on occasion, they were constantly judging one another’s actions and motives. And there were several times where something would happen by accident or by chance which would exacerbate the situation.
They would then come to pastor Duncan and complain about the wicked strategies and intentions of the other person. And they would impute bad motives to the other person and read into each others’ actions. They would assume that the other person had done something purely to spite them or had done this or that out of ill will.
And the whole time Pastor Duncan would say, “No, that’s not at all what he was thinking.” And no matter what Pastor Duncan said, they were dead set on making these harsh and unfounded judgments. And unfortunately, these two Christian men were never able to truly reconcile.
There you have another example of what Jesus is talking about. And this happens in friendships and even marriages all the time. And instead of trying to deal charitably with one another and looking at one another with the most hopeful attitude, they are never able to enjoy the union and communion that God would really have for them. Their critical spirits prevent them from having a blessed relationship.
Example 3: the example of Jesus. God’s judgment is always true and just. And he doesn’t judge harshly or without cause. And this is exemplified in Jesus. When he was hanging on the cross there is very little that Scripture records him saying. But one of the first things he said was, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
You know, those words express something of the purity of Christ. If ever there was a time to impute bad motives to people and be a little harsh in one’s judgment, it would probably be there on the cross. You know what I would say? I’d say, “These idiots! These ugly sinners deserve to be damned for what they are doing to me? Don’t they have a clue? Father, I pray you would smite them all!”
That’s not what he does, is it? Even there on the cross, in the midst of his deepest sufferings, Jesus is dealing with people in the most charitable way. And the beautiful thing is, that’s how he brings about our salvation. He fulfills this command on our behalf and dies to atone for the ways in which we’ve broken it.
And by seeing how it comes to be expressed in Jesus, I hope you understand all that much more what Jesus means when he says “do not judge.
And we can now talk about why he tells us not to judge. You’ll notice that most of our passage deals with the motivation behind not judging.
II. The motive [1b-2]
Look at it again. Jesus’ command is summarized in two words, “Judge not.” But he goes on to explain the reason why you shouldn’t do it. He says, “that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”
What is Jesus talking about? He’s talking about the law of returns. If you are overly censorious towards people, then guess what? Chances are people are are going to have a similar attitude toward you. If you are judging people and being critical of them, it shouldn’t surprise you that you find people being harsh and hasty in their judgments of you.
You’ve all heard the old saying, “What goes around comes around,” right? That’s essentially what Jesus is saying here. If you judge people and take a condemning posture towards them, then you are going to find that people do not give you a lot of slack.
I like what the commentaries say on this verse. Let me give you a few snippets that I came across in my study.
Jamison-Fausset-Brown - “People shrink from contact with those who systematically deal out harsh judgment upon others - naturally concluding that they themselves may be the next victims - and feel impelled in self-defense, when exposed to it, to roll back upon the assailant his own censures.”
You hear that? Here’s a guy who thinks the waiter is incompetent because he accidentally spilled some water or got the order messed up. He calls him an idiot and a buffoon. He nit picks at the menu and tells them to take back his steak because it is not quite exactly the way he likes it. He can’t believe it when the owner of the restaurant tells him not to come back.
Matthew Henry - “If we presume to judge others, we may expect to be ourselves judged. He who usurps the bench, shall be called to the bar; he shall be judged of men; commonly none are more censured, than those who are most censorious; every one will have a stone to throw at them; he who, like Ishmael, has his hand, his tongue, against every man, shall, like him, have every man's hand and tongue against him (Gen_16:12); and no mercy shall be shown to the reputation of those that show no mercy.”
To sum up, then, you reap what you sow. It’s the boomerang effect. The same harsh and hard standard you use will eventually come back and be used on you.
Now, let me just again, flesh this out a little more. Let’s just start simple. Take a look here. What is this? This is the face of someone who is prone to judging, isn’t it. You can just see it in the way they express themselves. They’ve been dominated by a critical and censorious spirit so long that it is not plastered all over their countenance. It’s like they’ve trained themselves to look judgmental.
Ask yourself. Would you want to hire this person? Would you want to marry this person?
They say that when we meet someone new it only takes about 3 seconds for us to formulate a judgment about them. That’s probably something we want to think about. We do not want to form a rash judgment about someone based on their appearance, whether it be their perceived economic status, race, or what not. We do want to get to know them and make a just judgment.
But here’s a person who has likely had a life of judging. And it might be that they get judged hastily when they walk in for a job interview. The supervisor is probably going to think, “Do I really want this person to be the face of my company? Is this person going to be someone who works well with other and create a healthy working environment?”
Again, I’m not saying that is the right thing to do. We should never judge on appearances. But it does illustrate how the law of retribution might work.
And this becomes all that much more clear when you talk about it in the context of friendships, or a marriage, and the church. If you are someone who has this disposition, how many friends are you really going to have? How good are those relationships going to be?
What’s your marriage going to be like? If you are a fault finder and always finding things to criticize in your spouse or your kids, how is that going to play out around the dinner table? People are going to say, “he’s a grump” and they are not going to want to sit at that table. They’ll pass that judgment and there’s going to be some distance created.
I would suggest to you that you’re probably going to be creating quite a bit of havoc within these relationships and causing a great deal of consternation within the church.
Here’s a guy who doesn’t come to the sermon with an attitude of charity. You know, the illustrations are lacking. I don’t really feel like I’m getting any meat from the sermon. It never has any application. He goes home and has a little roasted pastor for lunch. He and some families get together and gripe about things at the church.
It’s not the attitude of making the best of what you got or trying to find a solution, like maybe relieving the amount of pastoral calls he’s got to make during the week or giving him some study leave where he can sharpen those skills.
No, he’s critical. And surprise, surprise, the church isn’t growing! And it’s not so much the sermons as it is the environment. It’s the lack of love and charity that’s being shown. Guess what? The community has passed judgment upon that church. They don’t want to go there. It’s not a place that’s fostering love and grace.
Think about how that plays out in a marriage. Think about how that plays out in a family. What goes around comes around.
Ultimately, we know that this is God’s doing. It’s because God is passing judgment. And his judgment is a good judgment because he’s judging sin. And God judges by giving you over to your sin and allowing you to be judged in the same sort of censorious way.
Now we can simply wrap things up by going back to one of our earliest studies. Back at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. What happens when you show mercy in your judgments? You’re likely going to find that people are more likely to be merciful with you, right?
Jesus is simply dealing with that topic right here as he’s talking about judging.
And so we should take that to heart. And we should recognize that the righteousness that Jesus demands includes this whole notion of unmerciful judging. We are not to have a censorious spirit. Our attitudes should be merciful and when we judge, it shouldn’t be with that hard, hasty kind of disposition. And we should recognize that if we do, there will be repercussions.
Thankfully God is merciful and he tells us what is expected of us. And the beautiful thing is that this is helpful for gauging our relationship with him. If we know the God of mercy, we’ll be a merciful person ourselves. But if we don't know that mercy, we may likely be a cruel judge of people. So we can use that to gauge where we stand with God.