Judge not, that ye be not judged
by Robert C. Oliver Contributing columnist
It is not at all uncommon for someone to point out some action, religious practice or doctrine of another, only to be confronted with the words, “the Bible says judge not, that ye be not judged”. The implication of this answer is that no one can point out error in anyone else. However, the same text that is used to denounce judgment by one individual over another, teaches that one is to judge. Note that the issue in the first five verses of Matthew chapter seven is hypocritical judging. He goes on to say, “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:3, 5). They have the obligation to cast out the mote from their brother’s eye, but only after they have removed the beam that is in their own.
The Bible instructs those who would serve God faithfully to actively involve themselves in teaching the truth to those who are in error. Paul told the Ephesians, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11). To Titus, Paul spoke concerning some who were not holding to sound doctrine, telling them to “rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Tit. 1:13). The key to the judging of man by man is found in a command of Jesus. He said, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24). The Psalmist tells us, “My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness” (Psalm 119:172). Thus, one must compare the words and actions of others to what the word of God says. If they do not agree, then that person has been judged to be in error. Shortly after the “judge not, that ye be not judged” statement, Jesus said, “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:18-20). One old preacher said after being told that he shouldn’t judge, “I’m not judging, I’m just a fruit inspector”.
The passage that we began with indicated that one should first get the beam out of their own eye before attempting to get the mote out of another’s eye. This brings one to the question, but are we not all sinners? Do we not all have some motes and beams in our eyes? It is true that all sin. John, writing to Christians, say, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us…If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (I John 1:8, 10). The answer is in that those spoken of knew of their own “beams” and had no intention of getting them out. We know that from the Lords’ pronunciation of “hypocrite” to describe what they were doing. All should get their own house in order before trying to straighten out the house of another.
When Jesus came, He said that “the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). That job was left in the hands of His apostles when he ascended into heaven (Mark 16:15-16). And, ultimately the job has been passed on to Christians from generation to generation. The apostles were told that they were to be “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). Paul told Timothy, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (II Tim. 2:2). That is what Christians do! Whenever and where ever they encounter error concerning serving God, they try to correct it.
Peter said, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (I Pet. 3:15). Rather than be offended that someone has questioned some practice or belief that one has, it is incumbent upon that person to prove that questioned practice or belief by way of the word of God. Certainly they should not be ashamed of the gospel (Rom. 1:16). Certainly they should have studied the word enough to know how to prove what they believe and practice (II Tim. 2:15). It is important that we know what we believe and that we know why we believe it.
In closing, let us also take note of the fact that one who is sure they have the truth, and sure that another is in error and is seeking to show them the truth, must do so in the proper manner. Just prior to telling the Ephesian brethren to reprove those who were in error (Eph. 5:11), Paul told them, “But speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). When Apollos was in error concerning his teaching of Christ, Aquila and Priscilla took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly (Acts 18:26), yet they were not offensive. “Buy the truth, and sell it not” (Prov. 23:23).
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