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Friday, December 14, 2012

Do not judge. (But kind of do.)

"Do not judge," says Jesus in Matthew 7:1-6. But what does "judge" mean? I can think of a few possible definitions...
  1. Evaluate information and make a decision.
  2. Punish someone.
  3. Decide that you're better than someone else.
So what does Jesus mean here? What is "judge"?

Well let's check out the context. He goes on to say "in the same way you judge others, you will be judged" and gives this metaphor about someone with a plank in their eye trying to point out a speck in someone else's eye.

In other words, "judging" is very closely tied with hypocrisy. "Judging" means holding others to a different standard than yourself, being blind to your own sin and quick to point out someone else's.

And dude, Jesus is so right to call this out. Hypocrisy is an incredibly common sin, and people would get along much better if they realized that nobody's perfect, and that we are often guilty of the things we criticize in others.

So, do not judge.

I like Mark Driscoll's take on this passage. Image source.

But what's this here? "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." So, once you deal with your own sin, you can totally go help others' deal with theirs?

Well, that puts a different spin on "do not judge"... Jesus is not saying we should never address someone else's sin and give them advice/help in dealing with it.

In fact, this makes a lot of sense. If I am honest about my own weaknesses and sins, and I fight against them, then I am uniquely able to help someone else who is struggling with the same problem- and to come across like "I know what you're going through," instead of "wow, you're a loser."

The "do not judge" passage ends with this strange image: "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces." I was not aware that pigs could be so vicious.

So it sounds like Jesus is saying you DO have to judge people- don't trust everyone, don't "give dogs what is sacred." Don't judge, but don't be so naive. But I find it very odd that this verse is here, right after the "do not judge" bit, without so much as a "but" or "on the other hand." (Seriously, that's weird. Maybe it's a translation thing?)

To recap: Jesus is warning against hypocrisy in this passage. Don't be overly critical of others and blind to your own faults. Instead, be honest with yourself, and after you address your own sins, you'll be in a position to legitimately help others deal with theirs- and you'll do it with humility, knowing that we're really not all that different; we're all human, with weaknesses. And, strangely, Jesus ends by warning against being too naive and trusting. Also watch out for murderous rampaging pigs.

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This post is part of a series on the gospel of Matthew.

Previous Post: Things we learn from birds (Matthew 6:25-34)

Next Post: In which I ask (Matthew 7:7-14)

Click here to go to the beginning of the series.

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