“The Bible says not to judge” is a favorite response from people who do things they know are wrong. Anyone who has actually read the Bible (Matthew 7:1) knows that this is not a correct quote. After all, there are plenty of places in the gospels where Jesus told people about themselves. “Hypocrites!” “Brood of Vipers!” “Pigs!” “Dogs!” In fact, the man from Galilee called it like He saw it.
So why did Jesus tell the people not to judge in Matthew 7? Well, beyond the favorite quoted scripture in verse Matthew 7:1, verse 2 goes on to put Jesus’ words in context. “The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” UH OH! That’s sheds a little light on things now, doesn’t it?
The big question when it comes to judging others is simply, “What’s in your heart when you make a judgment?” Do you truly want to correct the behavior in the best interest of the person or are you condemning them with a spiritual superiority complex? Judging others — like many of the other topics we’ve discussed — is a matter of the heart. Jesus instructs us to remove the plank in our own eyes before trying to get the speck out of someone else’s eye. (v. 3-5) Once you start to deal with your own flaws and shortcomings, you’ll have less time to run around and “fix” other people. You’ll see people through a lens of love and grace when you realize just how much love and grace you require in your own life.
Healthy, Helpful Judging
The word “judge” has been given a bad wrap and we automatically see it as something negative. The dictionary defines judging as “to form an opinion after inquiry and deliberation” or “to form an estimate or evaluation” However, judging the behavior of others to help bring them closer to Christ is essential to our walk as Christians — to help others. It’s how we do it that matters. In John 7:24 Jesus tells us to look deeper so we can judge correctly. This aligns perfectly with the dictionary definition. You must try to understand why a person may be behaving a certain way. Is it pain? Rebellion? Sadness? Or a simple lack of knowledge about what is right? When we know better, we do better. Judging is an evaluation and our response to that evaluation should be with the same love and grace we want for ourselves.
I’m trying to help but…
Sometimes people aren’t ready to hear what we have to say. We tend to fall into judgment when someone continues to do “wrong” so we keep badgering them, ultimately leading them to think of us as judgmental hypocrites. Jesus gives us guidance in these cases, as well. In Matthew 7:6 Jesus warns us that if we continue to speak truth to someone who refuses to hear it, they will trample on what we believe and attack us. Say “Amen” if you know what I’m talking about. We are most effective in helping change the behavior of others through prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When we take that plank out of our own eyes, we can see more clearly how to help others in a way that is beneficial to them and the overall body of Christ.
So let’s go back to what we were taught in kindergarten. If you don’t have anything nice to say…pray about it before opening your mouth. Pray before you approach someone about their behavior and be sure you have a clear view around the plank in your eye. From my experience, that plank is a magnifying glass and once you remove it from your eye, you can barely see the flaws in others.