"JUDGE NOT . .. "
One of the criticisms that I hear against most gospel preachers (including myself) in regard to their lessons and their writings is that we are too critical of others. Usually with this criticism comes the quoting of part or all of Matthew 7:1. There Jesus said, "Judge not, that ye be not judged." Many conclude this means that it is sinful to be critical of anything another says and does. A careful reading of the context of this passage (Matt. 7:1-5) will show that what
Jesus is condemning is HYPOCRITICAL CRITICISM and not criticism itself. For one
to make a criticism and be hypocritical in that is to sin. I am not saying the criticism made might not be correct and needed, but that the hypocrite sins when the criticism is made with simply a view of being critical and making little or no effort to live right themselves.
Many other passages show that there is a sense in which we must be critical of each other. We are not to judge according to appearance (Jno. 7:24) but to judge
righteous judgment. We may have problems deciding what "righteous judgment" is but this verse says we are to do it! When Paul gave Timothy instructions as to his preaching he told him to "reprove, rebuke and exhort" (2 Tim. 4:2). Certainly the reproving and rebuking is a form of criticism. This is to be done in love (Eph. 4:15) but it is to be done! When Peter sinned Paul withstood (rebuked, criticized) him to his face before the whole church (Gal. 2:11-14). When one sins against me personally and refuses to repent and apologize when I talk with him in a private way, I am to take witnesses with me and rebuke him before them. If that does not bring the desire effect then I am to tell the whole church about it (Matt. 18: 15-17). This has to be done just as Matt. 7:1-5 has to be
followed. We cannot pick which we will obey, we must obey both!
None of us are perfect! But that does not remove our responsibility of trying to help others (beside the effort to be put out to keep sin out of our own lives) live right before God. There is a difference in an imperfect person who is striving for perfection being critical of another and an imperfect person who is not trying to do better being critical of others. The statements of Jesus in Matthew 7 were directed toward that individual who was making less effort to please God than the person whom he was criticizing. The Lord was not talking about those who are honestly trying to live right pointing out mistakes in the lives of others. As we work with another we will see instances when people do not live up to the teaching of Jesus in the scriptures. When we do it is our responsibility to point out the failure and encourage them to make changes in their lives. This is a form of judging but it comes under the heading of judging righteously and this is not only allowed but it is commanded by the Lord in John 7:24. To fail to judge righteous judgment is to sin! To be a hypocritical judge is also to sin. Let us do neither! -J. F. Dancer, Jr.