Of all the teachings and commentary on this web site, the posts that address the prophetic movement always get the most attention. The feedback I receive from correspondence and face-to-face discussion is either extremely positive or extremely negative. Christians are polarized on the topic of “the prophetic” and exposing sin in the Body of Christ. There seems to be no middle ground to stand on.
When I am being confronted by my detractors, they will inevitably quote “Judge not, that you be not judged,” from Matthew 7:1.
It’s a guaranteed response.
When I hear this overused mantra, it doesn’t anger me, but I do have to admit a certain level of frustration. This reply just reinforces the truth that people would rather repeat what they’ve been told by their leaders and peers than pick up the Bible and study His Word for themselves.
Exactly WHAT is Judging?
I want to take a closer look at Matthew 7, but before we break down the Scriptures into smaller segments, we need to take a good, long look at the definition of the word “judge.” Society defines “judging” an entirely different way than we see in the Word of God – or the dictionary, for that matter.
When I look up the word “Judge” in the dictionary [the verb form of “judge” is applicable to this study], the definition is as follows:
JUDGE: (1) to pass legal judgment on; pass sentence on (a person) (2) to hear evidence or legal arguments in (a case) in order to pass judgment; adjudicate; try (3) to form a judgment or opinion of; decide upon critically (4) to decide or settle authoritatively (5) to infer, think, or hold as an opinion; conclude about or assess
We can see from the definition above that to “judge” someone is to assess a person’s guilt and render a punishment commensurate to that guilt. Judging affects how we feel about a person, and how we treat that person. We can see an example of this in the book of James.
“My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or, ‘Sit here at my footstool,’ have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?”
Characteristics of Judgment
Notice how the person guilty of unrighteous judgment shows partiality to the rich person and disdain for the poor person? They judge them based on their station in life and treat them accordingly. This is a correct definition of judgment.
But here is where our understanding goes awry. Pointing out sin or wrongdoing in the Body of Christ is NOT the same as judging someone. If I tell someone “your sin is an abomination in God’s eyes,” I am NOT judging that person, I am merely saying something about the sin this person is dealing with.
If I say “Your sin is an abomination, YOU are an idiot and THIS is what I’m going to make sure happens to you,” I am passing a sentence on that person. When I form an opinion of someone’s worth and treat them accordingly, I am walking in judgment.
This may stop some people in their tracks and say, “Whoa! I don’t want to be guilty of THAT! I don’t want THAT kind of sin on my record when Yeshua comes back!”
Then what do you do with the verses that tell us TO judge? What right do we have to give one verse precedence over another?
The truth is, we DON’T have that right, but we DO have the responsibility to study the Word of God (in its entirety) and figure out what God is saying to us. There is a danger in accepting just one passage of Scripture and preferring it over a slough of other verses that seem to declare the opposite.
The Truth About “Judge Not”
I’m not claiming to know EVERYTHING on this topic, but one thing I DO know is that the overused “judge not” passage (Matthew 7:1-5) should NOT be used as a “trump card” on the topic of judgment.
When we carefully analyze this scripture, we will see what a weak and feeble argument “judge not” is, when used in a situation where sin is being pointed out either with a person or with the Body, in general. The truth is, if you read all the verses in context, Yeshua was giving us criteria to use WHILE judging. He was NOT telling us that we shouldn’t judge.
Let’s take a closer look at Matthew 7:1-5 and see how Yeshua felt about judging.
“Judge not, that you be not judged.”
Most people will faithfully quote this verse as they naively buy into the errant mindset that we shouldn’t judge or “find fault” with anyone and leave all discernment and all critique in the hands of their make-believe “god.” I say “make-believe” because their god is not the God of the Bible, but a god of their own making, a god that they were made to believe would look just like them!
Yeshua wasn’t finished when He said “Judge not, that you be not judged.” He had more to say about the topic that would clarify exactly what He meant. Let’s take a good look at the following verses (v2-5). There’s more to this topic than meets the eye.
Judgment For Believers
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
These verses are commonly understood to mean that we shouldn’t ever judge anyone at all, because we don’t want God to judge us. This understanding has to be incorrect, because the Word says that we will be judged by our words and by our deeds.
“For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
“But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds'”
In both of the verses above, it is BELIEVERS who are being addressed, not sinners. And, while it’s debatable whether or not this judgment has to do with sending someone to heaven or hell, one thing is certain, God’s judgment is unavoidable for all of us.
We can see from verse 2 that whatever judgment we use, we will be judged in like manner, and with the same severity, so it is a serious thing to level a judgment against someone. But we need to remember, this is NOT talking about pointing out sin, it’s talking about being biased in our treatment of others and how we sentence or punish that person in public (or in private).
With this understanding of what judgment is, we need to take a careful look at ourselves and make sure we have no planks in our own eyes.
And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me remove the speck from your eye;” and look, a plank [is] in your own eye?
This verse is asking a question. It’s saying, “Why would you want to judge someone for having something in his eye when you have something in yours as well? You both have the same problem! In fact, your problem is bigger than your brother’s problem!”
Indeed, those who want to punish or condemn someone for something that they are also guilty of are definitely out of line.
Don’t be a Hypocrite
“Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Right here, Yeshua calls the person who judges a hypocrite! A hypocrite is one who points the finger of judgment at another, who is guilty of the same crime or misdeed.
If I call out the sin of lust in my brother’s life, but I have a problem with drinking, does that make me a hypocrite? No, it doesn’t. But if I ALSO have an issue with lust in my life, that makes me a hypocrite.
So, is Yeshua saying not to judge? Absolutely not! He is saying not to judge when you have the same issue as the person you are judging. Both people in the Matthew 7 analogy had WOOD in their EYES – hence the label “hypocrite.” One didn’t have wood in their eye and the other have a bad leg. They were both guilty of the same sin.
In this verse, He wants to make sure the person judging SEES CLEARLY before he/she passes judgment on another. If we were to bypass judgment in every situation, Yeshua would have never given us that option. He would have simply said “Do not judge anyone, ever …leave it all up to me!” and that would have been the end of it.
Let me make this a little more personal.
I still have the temptation to listen to rock music. I AM in the process of “breaking free” from this sin, but I’m not perfect yet, so you will not catch me giving someone a lecture on the evils of rock ‘n roll, nor will you see me punishing them. That plank is still in my eye, so I would be a total hypocrite if I did that to someone else.
However, I’ve never beat on my wife, and I never will. I can righteously and truthfully say, “Men who beat on women are wimps and sissies, and are in serious danger of burning in hell. They need to repent!” And if they beat on their wife (or any girl) in front of me, I might dole out punishment.
There is no plank in my eye, with this sin.
Paul Agrees with Yeshua
In Romans 2, Paul also talks about what happens when a believer judges another while being guilty of the same sin:
“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds:’ eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness–indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.“
Judgment in the Church
In the verse below, we see Paul judging a situation in the Corinthian church without even being there or performing a “first-hand” investigation! This shows us that, when it came to sin (and especially sexual sin – now rampant in the Body), Paul was ruthless, and instructed this congregation to be ruthless as well.
“For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
Reading further in 2 Corinthians, we find that the congregation actually followed through with Paul’s orders and kicked the guy out of the church! This type of action is considered intolerant by today’s seeker-friendly congregations. They’ve developed an entire theology around this abominable system, and it is gaining more and more traction each day.
Later on, the Corinthian church welcomed the man back with open arms. They were ruthless with sin, but were likewise quick to forgive a person, if he had truly repented. You see, their definition of “Love” (and God’s Love) contained a hatred of sin. This is something we are sorely missing today, in our faith.
No Judgment of Sin Gives the Devil an Open Door
Do you see how dangerous isolating a Scripture or taking a Scripture out of context can be? Because Christians have adopted a “judge not” philosophy, sin has thrived in the Body. The devil knows that he can deceive and con and steal, right in the midst of our marriages, relationships and meetings, because the Body has grown ineffective and inert. When the saints do not wear the Breastplate of Righteousness, their hearts are open and exposed before the enemy.
“Let the righteous strike me; [It shall be] a kindness. And let him rebuke me; [It shall be] as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it.”
“Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise [man], and he will love you.”
“Poverty and shame [will come] to him who disdains correction, But he who regards a rebuke will be honored.”
This is a call to the saints! We have given up too much ground! It is time for us to stop hiding behind the fear of man and start calling sin out in the open. Of course, we are to do this with discernment. I’m not saying that we should crush the tender-hearted or destroy those who are barely holding on.
However, when you see people who call themselves brothers (or sisters) sitting comfortably in the midst of their sin, or (worse yet) justifying and making excuses for their sin, and causing others to sin, it is time for action!
Remember what James said:
“Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”
Isn’t that what it’s all about – saving people from their sins? And notice that the “sinner” in these verses is a person who has “wandered from the truth?”… Selah