Luke 6:37: Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Jesus has given us some succinct life lessons: Love God with all you are; love each other; seek the Kingdom of God; don’t worry and trust God; be a humble servant; ask and you will receive. Then there is our Bible verse: Do not judge, do not condemn. Forgive and you will be forgiven.
I want to focus on the idea from Matthew 7:1: “Judge not so that you will not be judged.” We have heard this so many times and I want to examine it this week.
First of all, we hear this from people who do not want their decisions and choices they make about their lives to be questioned or examined. That is not what Christ is speaking about when he says in Matthew 7:1-5. 1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 “Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. 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 turn and tear you to pieces.”
He is speaking about how we judge others, not how others judge us. Based upon this proclamation to not judge, we are tempted to wrap ourselves in the edict, using it as a shield from criticism. We want to tell people that they have no right to tell me I am wrong. They have no right to tell me how to live my life.
But in truth, what someone thinks of us is none of our business. Whether someone judges our words and behaviors has no import over our lives. It is how we are treating others, judging others, and condemning others that effects our soul development.
We are told not to judge others. That word ‘judge’ is an important word and occurs in the Bible in various forms, with a spectrum of meanings. The Greek word krino is the root word judge, as meaning parting asunder, separating out, making a distinction, drawing a division between this and that.
Sometimes the Greek derivative diakrino, which means "to judge through, to see through to the truth, to truly evaluate something," is translated as judge or discern. Sometimes another derivative katakrino, which means ‘passing judgment’ and condemning is sometimes translated as judge or condemn.
When Christ says not to judge, he is not telling us to stop thinking, stop discerning, or stop using the wisdom that God has given us. He is imploring us to stop condemning, damning, and passing judgment on others.
In Matthew 13-20 we are told: 13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. 15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Our abilities to discern are of paramount importance to following the teachings of Christ, otherwise how do we identify the pigs, the narrow gates, the false prophets, and pick the right fruit? We must discern, differentiate, and judge, but not condemn.
The command to not judge is not saying that there is no morality associated with our action and that whatever we do is acceptable or that truth is relative. No way. Words can hurt. Actions can hurt. There is a broad range of productive and unproductive choices. To call an action murder or adultery is a judgment, but it is also to agree with God, to walk in the Light of Christ. When Jesus said not to judge others he did not mean to stop differentiating between right and wrong, productive from counterproductive. But he did not mean for us to pass judgment, censure, and denounce.
From observing behavior, we cannot possibly know the status of a soul after they die. We cannot know the motivations for someone’s actions. We are told in Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
We cannot trust our own understanding because we are limited in our thinking. Our mind is subject to systematic errors in thinking that occur when we are processing and interpreting information from the world around us and these errors affect the decisions and judgments that we make. And oh yes, there is a cognitive bias describing people who don’t believe they have any cognitive biases.
There have been 188 cognitive biases uncovered and one of the most common is one called the Confirmation Bias. Confirmation bias is when a person looks for and interprets information, whether it is news stories, statistical data or the opinions of others, that backs up an assumption or theory they already have. For example, if we are presented with hard evidence that gender bias exists, and we are already convinced that it doesn’t, we are much more likely to dismiss the evidence rather than reconsider our opinion.
Common characteristics of confirmation bias include: An unwillingness to accept the validity of evidence that defies our previously held beliefs; placing greater weight or emphasis on “facts” that appeal to our underlying assumptions, to the exclusion of contradictory evidence; actively seeking out information that “proves” our point; and selective (and often incorrect) recollection of events, facts or statistics.
Most people have this bias: we gravitate toward people who think and believe like us. We lean toward and embrace other people’s theories and opinions we already have. This is natural and exactly why we are not qualified to judge by way of condemning anyone because we cannot see the complete picture. We are incapable. And beside the Confirmation Bias there are over a hundred other biases we could have and probably have several. So, we cannot see this world objectively, and therefore our judgments are fallacious.
This goes for the judgments we have toward ourselves. Many men and women have judgments about how they look, how they act, their relative successes in business or in the family. We compare, criticize and condemn ourselves for our failures. I’m too fat. I’m too thin. I don’t have any money because the government and my family are holding me back, and I’ve had bad luck.
By the way, there is a common cognitive bias called the Actor-Observer Bias. It claims that we aren’t successful because of outside influences. Someone else is not successful because of internal influences. For example, we complain that we botched an important meeting because we had jetlag. However, a colleague bombed their presentation because they are incompetent and lazy.
We are commanded not to judge because we are no good at it. Yes, we can differentiate; we can even be good court judges because we can learn the law and apply it, although even judges are susceptible to cognitive biases in their rulings. But when it comes to judging others – their motives, their spiritual status, we are incapable of coming to proper conclusions, so we are told not to even try.
Instead, John 7:24 commands us to: “Stop judging by mere appearances, and instead judge correctly.” Correct judgement is not based upon appearances; it is not superficial. Proverbs 8:13 says, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame,” which means to not jump to conclusions or make assumptions before investigating the facts. Earlier, Matthew 7:5 emphasizes the sentiment that Christ frowns upon hypocritical judgments. When we point out the sin of others while we ourselves commit the same error, we condemn ourselves.
Self-righteous judgment is counterproductive and hurtful and is not categorized as judging correctly. We are called to humility. In Luke 18: 9-14, Jesus told a parable of a Pharisee who spoke with condescension about a tax collector and then was so full of himself that he prayed: God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ The tax collector simply prayed, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Jesus tells us that it is the tax collector, in his humility, that is exalted.
Untrue judgment is wrong and is no part of correct judging. The Bible clearly forbids bearing false witness Proverbs 19:5 says, “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape”.
Harsh, unforgiving judgment is simply wrong and not part of correct judgment. Titus 3:2 teaches us “…to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.
We are told that by the measure in which we judge it will be measured back to us. But is seems clear that this measurement principle applies to all things that we give, and a pattern is revealed: it is the merciful who will receive mercy. It is the forgiving who will be forgiven. It is the nonjudgmental who will be unjudged.
I pray that we hear and understand the words and meaning of Luke 6:38: Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” I pray that we understand that God sees us as perfect right where we are so there is no reason to judge.
We all have challenges, but as a Child of God we inherit goodness, strength, courage, hope, and above all else – Love. Any darkness or shadow can be overcome through Love. When we judge others, we judge ourselves. When we compare ourselves, our souls are diminished. When we condemn others, we condemn ourselves. When we love others, we are saved and are wrapped in God’s love. Judge not and love each other; love not and be judged.