“Judge Not” and the Importance of Discernment
In this video and the following transcript, I share some thoughts:
A reader asked me, “You say in a blog post that the most quoted verse these days is ‘Judge not.’ Can you give some insight into this verse? How do we know if we’re judging correctly or not?”
This is a great question. Let’s look at Matthew 7:1-2:
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
So clearly here Jesus is saying, “Don’t judge.” But the context is king when we’re interpreting Scripture—and in verses 3-5 he goes right on to say:
How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 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.
It’s clear that “Judge not” does not mean you can’t see a speck in your brother’s eye or that in seeing it you have no responsibility to help your brother remove it. On the contrary, He’s saying yes, see that speck in your brother’s eye, but take the log out of your eye first so you can help him.
So “judge not” doesn’t mean “Don’t discern.” We are to help each other, which requires a certain amount of discernment. Then, Jesus says in the very next verse (6):
Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.
Well, without even getting into the meaning of that verse, we can see that this requires discernment. Clearly it requires we see that a person can be acting like a pig and that there are certain things that we need to be careful of putting in front of them.
Right in the immediate context of “Judge not” you have with great clarity evidence that you are still to be discerning. We are not to go around condemning people. But at the same time, we’re to recognize what God says in His Word. If God says in His Word that adultery is a sin, and He clearly does, I am not being judgmental if I look at a person committing adultery and conclude that they are sinning. I’m simply believing what Scripture says.
If I have a relationship with that person, I need to go to them and say, “You know, what you’re doing is not right. God is not pleased with this and He’s going to judge you for it. You need to repent and turn to Christ.”
You might say, “Now that’s condemning them and judging them.” No—that’s just believing what God has said is true and then trying to help the person because sin is in no one’s best interest. Sometimes we act as if we should look the other way, just let our friends and family members go on with their sins, and never say anything about it. Well, that’s not good for them. Sin is not good for us; righteousness and holiness is. And it’s good for our brothers.
So judge not, yet use discernment.