For my first established blog series, I have decided to write about something that tends to come up in Christian conversation sooner or later. If you read the title, you can see that the topic in question is Misquoted Bible Verses.
We live in a society that is seemingly obsessed with putting sayings and quotes on EVERYTHING: bumper stickers, t-shirts, coffee mugs, journals, etc. Christians are especially bad about this. There’s nothing wrong with wearing a shirt that has a Bible verse or two on it, but there IS a problem when we read that verse and fail to understand its context.
Context is a big reason for my writing on this topic. If we take a single verse, pull it from its context, and start trying to use it to prove a point, we can make that verse mean anything we want. We can use them to bind people’s consciences, enforce a non-biblical standard, or even use them to excuse sin. Such is one verse we will be looking at today.
Ever asked someone why they are doing something (sin or otherwise) and they respond by saying, “Well don’t judge me. The Bible says to judge not.” As it happens, they are both right and wrong. Specifically the latter. Let take a look at the single verse the are speaking about:
“Judge not, that you be not judged.”- Matthew 7:1
Reading that verse by itself seems to support the notion that we should never judge, yea? It seems to say that if we judge someone, we in turn will be judged. So, if we want to avoid judgement, we should never judge. But, there’s more to be said, as the text continues:
“For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 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.”– Matthew 7:2-5
Now we have the full picture. In his teaching about judging others, Jesus isn’t implying that we are to never judge. So what is he saying? He’s telling us to not be a hypocrite. Jesus is saying that if we use a standard (the Word) to judge that actions of others, we will in turn be judged by it. For a fun example, if I were to tell someone I knew that they should never ever drink Pepsi and that it’s bad to do so, but then turn around and drink a glass of Pepsi myself, I have done two things: I have proven myself a hypocrite and have also invalidated any credibility I had with that person.
Jesus had quite a vendetta against hypocrisy, calling the Pharisees out for it on numerous occasions. Here’s one such occasion:
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”– Matthew 23:13-15
As you can see, Jesus has very harsh words for hypocrites, saying that they will not enter heaven due to their corruption and their corruption of others. In reality, most people who cite Matthew 7:1 in defense of their own sin are in fact the very hypocrites that Jesus abhors and warns about.
In the latter portion of our main text, Jesus makes another analogy concerning hypocrisy. He speaks of someone with a log in their eye insisting that another person with a speck in their own eye remove said speck, while the log remains in the. Jesus chastises, saying that the hypocrite with the log in their eye remove their hindrance first. What does this tell us?
It sets up a standard of accountability.
By taking care of our own “logs,” we are then able to aid a brother or sister who is dealing with a speck. Yet, it setting a standard of accountability, Jesus does one other thing. Notice how the other person’s sin is called a speck and your own sin is called a log? It’s Jesus’ way of telling us to ALWAYS consider our sin bigger and more grievous than our brother or sister’s. We must never insist that our sin is lesser than another’s. Instead, we must always consider our own sin greater than those around us. We find this also in the words Paul wrote in Romans 12:3, “ For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
So, what’s the ultimate takeaway here? It is that we should live a life obedient to the Word, not marred by hypocrisy, considering our own sin greater than another’s and in so doing becoming freed to help each other overcome sin by the power of the Holy Spirit in sanctification. The standard we use to measure others will be measure to us. Jesus would have us be sure that we are to living in obedience.
“Judge not” does not stop us from holding each other accountable. It reminds us to check ourselves according to the Word of God.
In other words, Jesus wants you to check yourself before you wreck yourself.