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A Commentary On Matthew 7:1

by Evangeline Smock, age 16

  From a young age, I have ministered open-air on America's college campuses with my parents. I preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to unbelieving students, convicting them of sin, righteousness and judgment. The collegians immediately take offense when told that God has condemned them for their sin. Soon, a few students will huddle together and search frantically for Bible verses to prove me wrong. 

They rush back with, "Judge not, lest ye be judged." (Matthew 7:1) This common occurrence has provoked me to Biblical study and research on the subject of judging. My intention is to prove that Christians not only may, but must judge. First, I will demonstrate that it is impossible not to judge, and second, that the Bible commands believers to judge. 

 The fact that it is impossible not to judge must be seen by examining everyday activities. All people judge and could no more avoid it than they could avoid breathing. Judging as defined in the American Heritage Dictionary is: "To form an opinion or estimation of after careful consideration: judge heights; judging character." Some examples of judging are: telling someone he is a great person, choosing friends, deciding what church to attend, saying Hitler was a bad man, choosing to walk or to run, or picking what to have for dinner. 

All people must make choices, and every choice is a judgment. Even by choosing not to judge, one is making a judgment; one is simply judging that it is wrong to judge. Therefore, if you do not judge, you judge, and if you do judge, you judge. Judging is an inevitable part of human life. For instance, one must judge whom to marry or whether to marry. Judging is a necessity! I challenge anyone to try to go one day without judging. It is impossible; the very attempt is in itself a judgment. 

After hearing the above argument, some will respond, "That is just logic; show me Bible verses to prove this." It is easy to find Scriptures that command Christians to pass judgment. Six times, in his first letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul instructs believers to judge, and twice he rebukes them for not judging. "But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man." (1 Corinthians 2:15) 

So, if someone is truly saved he has the responsibility to judge good and evil. Later, in chapter 6 verse 3, Paul questions the Corinthians, "Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life?" The apostle reasons that because God considers Christians able to judge angels, the same believers are also qualified to judge people, who are lower than the angels. 

 Finally, in verse 5, Paul reproves the believers for their lack of judgment. "I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? No, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?" The apostle indicates that a wise man will judge. 

Paul is not the only Biblical writer who commands believers to judge. Jesus exhorts in Luke 12:57, "Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?" The Lord expressed frustration that men will not judge right from wrong. In Leviticus 19:15, Moses writes "...But in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor." Here is another one of the numerous verses directing judgment. 

Whether in church life or personal life, sound discernment is always a necessity. For example, what if a man asked a woman for a date? Should that woman not judge him, when she has evidence that he is not of a strong moral character? It would not be wise for her to say, "I must not judge, so I will go out with him." In contrast, is it not also true that by deciding not to judge, and going on the date, she would be judging in his favor? 

Though many ministers preach from the pulpit, "Thou shall not judge," all mainline denominations have some form of excommunication and church discipline. In Matthew 18, Jesus gives the proper procedures to follow to reprimand those who sin. To allow sin to remain in the camp is historically and Biblically corrupt. However, one should always keep in mind that the purpose of chastisement is so that the wayward member will repent and then be restored to favor. 

If the civil authority punishes those who break the law and rightly so, how much more should the church? "The local congregational leadership does well to remember that the Lord requires of their hands an accounting of the blood of each member. What the disciplined member does becomes his responsibility; what the leaders fail to do is ineradicably theirs," L. DeKoster writes in The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 

Many people believe that though as Christians they may judge other Christians, they should not judge unbelievers. Ezekiel wrote to the contrary. The following verses show that the righteous who fail to judge the wicked will be held accountable to God for their souls: 

When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. (Ezekiel. 3:18-19) 

Assuredly, God considers it very important that the righteous should judge the wicked. 

To fulfill the Great Commission to preach the Gospel to all the world, Christians must warn the unbelievers that they are condemned. "And he {Jesus} said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16:15-16) 

Does this verse mean that Christians are to preach God's mercy and forgiveness to the lost, without mentioning that if they reject this good news, they will be damned to hell for eternity? I think not. It would not be right nor fair to fail to tell people the whole truth. Jesus' final words in Matthew 28:19-20 are, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." If disciples are to teach a new way of life, they have to warn that the old life is wrong. 

Anyone that evangelizes discovers that one of the few verses that every sinner knows is Matthew 7:1, "Judge not, that ye be not judged." It is unfortunate that this verse is often taken out of context by those who care nothing for God or his commandments. Reading the next few verses, one can see that the correct interpretation of this passage is very different: 

"For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam 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." (Matthew 7:2-5) 

Jesus is telling the hypocrite not to judge. For instance, the thief should not condemn his neighbor for stealing. But Jesus is by no means forbidding the Christian to judge. In fact, in verse 5 he again says to judge. Jesus directs the hypocrite to first cast the beam (sin) out of his own life; then he may judge justly. When a sinner repents and turns to God, it is then his duty as a good Christian to judge. 

 "And {Jehoshaphat} said to the judges, Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment. Wherefore now let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take heed and do it." (2 Chronicles 19:6-7) 

This verse tells the faithful that it is their duty to judge rightly because they are God's representatives. They must remember to be careful to remain true to God's Word, for they are not actually judging for themselves, but simply teaching the Bible. Evangelists should judge people according to Scripture rather than by their own personal convictions. 

People commonly argue that it is not loving to judge others, but consider Leviticus 19:17: "Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his sin." A reproof might seem un-loving on the surface, but the above verse teaches that one who does not judge actually hates his brother. The Bible teaches that those in sin are condemned to hell. If Christians do not tell their fellow human beings this, they may burn forever in hell. Is it not loving to warn them before it is too late? 

 In conclusion, not only is it impossible not to judge, but it is by far the most right and loving thing to do. I challenge Christians to do their duty and judge in this present world. It is a Christian's obligation to judge! If believers do not judge, they are partly responsible for the sinner's damnation. For when all else is said, "Open rebuke is better than secret love." (Proverbs 27:5) 

Therefore, remember that Christians fulfill their duty more with a loving word of rebuke and judgment when needed than with a cruel word of undue flattery. 

Evangeline Smock





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