“Morning by morning, O Lord, you hear my voice”
To Judge or Not to Judge
(Please read Matthew 7:1-6)
At this point in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus turned from discussing a disciple’s attitude toward material things and began teaching us how to treat one another. To begin with, he said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (NIV). It isn’t unusual to hear people cite this passage as proof that we should not form even a private, personal opinion about the character of others. On the other hand, some have been quick to judge others harshly and defend that practice by referring to Jesus’ statement about identifying false prophets, a little later in his sermon, “Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them” (Verse 19).
These passages are not contradictory, but simply deal with two kinds of judging. Indeed, our text itself uses an analogy requiring the use of judgment to avoid throwing pearls to pigs, and so on. Our text, then, does not prohibit all judgment, but it does forbid making critical, unkind judgments and talking about them. We have neither the knowledge nor the authority to sit in the place of the righteous Judge, and should never presume to try.
There are actually many ways in which Christians need to exercise judgment, or discernment. Besides judging about false teachers, we’re told to avoid evil companionship – which we can generally do by making a judgment as to what is good and what is not. Leaders and teachers among us continually exercise judgment in making everyday decisions about how to handle their sacred responsibilities. Certainly he has called us all to be kind and considerate in our dealings with one another.