The Bible contains many pearls of wisdom for living a God-centered life. Unfortunately, over time, many of the verses have been twisted to fit our own perspective and purposes. One of the most often-quoted is from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 7, Verses 1 and 2: Judge not least ye be judged. Though there are many interpretations for this verse, the crux of the matter for so many people is: Judge Not. So much easier to say than live.
What does it really mean?
This verse comes from a teaching of Jesus regarding how we are to interact with others. The Sermon of the Mount was a message about how to live a Christian life, with love of God at the center. The first two verses of this chapter have been repeated countless times, but they tend to fall on deaf ears, then and now.
Those who are afraid that their behavior is falling short of Christianity often use these words as a shield. “Don’t you judge me. You don’t walk in my shoes,” is a frequent self-defense. Though we can’t take this verse to hide our overtly harmful or wrong behavior, it does point out the flaws in judgmental thinking. After all, we can only walk in our own life. We really don’t have a clue what leads people to make different choices.
What was Jesus telling us?
In historical context, Jesus was pointing out once again the hypocritical behaviors of the Pharisees. These Jewish leaders were taking God’s instructions and beating people over the head with them while they engaged in behavior that contradicted what they preached. Jesus was warning them and us that we can’t see what God sees. Our judgmental is flawed due to our own failings and sin.
No one is perfect in this life. We all have our struggles with sin and temptations. While its true, that blatant criminal behavior draws a natural tendency to sit in condemnation of such evil, we are cautioned to consider our own failings. Yes, murder is one of the worst crimes possible, but when we slander another’s reputation, we are murdering their soul in the eyes of another.
Why can’t we pass judgment?
The taking of a human life is never justified. But its also wrong to ruin someone’s reputation based on our outward observations. We often pat ourselves on the back that we have never fallen into the sin of illicit drug use or engaging in an affair. But, are we addicted to any foods or drinks? Do we justify stopping at the coffee shop every morning for our $6 cup of coffee while scoffing at the bum on the corner struggling to stay sober one more day?
Maybe we have never broken our marriage vows, but do we “cheat” in other ways. Do we place a thing, hobby, activity or interest above spending more time with our spouse? How many times have we spent an hour discussing someone’s struggles in life and then made remarks that maybe they aren’t praying enough or living right?
Passing judgment will not help someone to find God’s path. Instead, we are ourselves stumbling if we spend our days feeling smug that we go to church without fail and send our children to Sunday school so they “grow up right”.
We all fall short, every day
Jesus was guiding us to see ourselves clearly. Only God has perfect knowledge and vision. We can only work on our own Christian walk. Yes, we can offer support and guidance to those who ask for help. We most certainly should pray for those we see in pain. But the keyword here is to recognize that they are in pain. Someone who is struggling with addiction, affairs and other serious problems are in pain. They may not realize that underlying cause, but it’s there.
If we choose to pass judgment and feel superior, we are falling into an age-old trap. Feeling like we have it all together often leads to us pushing others down because they don’t measure up, or turning others away because they feel inferior. Both are reasons that many find Christianity too difficult to follow.
What does it look like to live Matt 7:1-2?
Jesus is not telling us to deny our human-ness. He is only reminding us that we are all sinners in that we are not perfect. No one can live a life free from error, sins and temptations. We all have our addictions and times that we fall short. The real point is to understand that we can only strive to be as Christ-like as we are meant to be. We look through the fog of own own perceptions. Only God has the ability to see into a soul and heart and understand the reasons why someone makes the choices they do. We can only support one another.
Judge Not, it is easy to say, but difficult to refrain. We wrap ourselves in the comfort of our goodness. However, even though we may truly live as closely to God as possible, we are not perfect. We have moods and thoughts that we wouldn’t want others to know about. That is why we can’t judge. We don’t want God to extend the same judgement toward us. For many of us, judging may be our secret sin.