Judge Not

The sermon this past Sunday was on the topic of Church Discipline (Part II this week). In our culture, anytime something like this is discussed the favored term, “judgmental” occurs in the conversation and often accompanied by a reference to Matthew 7:1-5. I made some brief comments in the sermon stating that we should abide by these verses, but doing so does not eliminate all forms of judgement; only self-righteous, vengeful, and hypocritical judgement. I thought a brief catalogue of references would be helpful to further substantiate my comments.

In a volume of collected essays entitled, Those Who Must Give an Account, Thomas Schreiner, writing on Church Discipline, wrote:

Some who read the Scriptures superficially appeal to Jesus’ admonition not to judge (see Matt 7:1-5), concluding that judgement of any kind is forbidden. A careful reading of Jesus’ words, however, reveals that He does not forbid all judgement. Indeed, Jesus says that after someone has removed the log from his eye, then he will be able to remove the speck from his brother’s eye. Removing a speck is only possible for one who sees and evaluates the life of another, which clearly involves judgement. Still, helping a brother with a speck should only occur if someone has removed the log from his own eye. Only those who are deeply conscious of and actively opposing their own sin, and hence are filled with humility, should speak to others about their sins. Thus, Jesus does not forbid all judging. He opposes judging that is censorious, harsh, and arrogant. (pg. 115, emphasis mine)

Craig Blomberg in his commentary on Matthew stated:

Even on those occasions when we render a negative evaluation of others, our purpose should be constructive and not retributive. (pg. 127)

…once we have dealt with our own sins, we are then in a position gently and lovingly to confront and try to restore others who have erred. (pg. 128)

In his commentary on Matthew, R.T. France argues that these verses don’t eliminate all types of judgement:

Verse 6, as we shall see, appears to call for a proper discrimination which must be based on some “judgement” as to who are and are not fit recipients for “sacred things” and “pearls”; the call to judge people by their fruits in vv. 15-20, and the requirement to draw a fellow disciple’s sin to their own and, if necessary, other people’s attention in 18:15-17. But what is forbidden here is the sort of faultfinding mentality and speech which is likely to rebound against the one who exercises it. (pg. 274)

He argues that this passage, instead, prohibits hypocritical judgement that will “rebound against the one who exercises it.” He further wrote:

The critic who is blind to his or her own failings is living in a make-believe world where one can exempt oneself from standards to which others are expected to conform. (pg. 275)

While it is possible that the critic here is to be understood as aware of his own failings but concealing them, it is more likely that he is criticized for failing to apply the same standards to himself that he applies to others (like David in his response to Nathan’s parable, 2 Sam 12:1-7), and thus being unaware of the inconsistency of his behavior; v. 3 speaks of “failing to notice” rather than of deliberate deception. It is other people, and especially God, who can see the “hypocrisy” of his self-righteousness for what it is. (pg. 276)

Mark Lauterbach in his book, The Transforming Community: The Practice of The Gospel in Church Discipline, wrote:

The issue at hand is not whether we should ever judge others, but how we should do so. Our faults are far less apparent to us than the faults of others. Jesus is saying, first focus on your own life. When you see yourself clearly, you will be more able to help another.

The people who are most severe in judgement of others are usually people who are very blind to themselves. They think they are righteous. Their tendency to see faults in others and none in themselves is a form of self-righteousness. (pg. 87)

About Pastor Matt

Matt Baker is the Pastor of Redeemer Fellowship Church.
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