The bible tells us in Matthew 7:1
“Judge not, that ye be not judged”, and as a general rule, that’s not a bad thing. However, I think we’ve taken this principal a bit farther out of context than what it actual means. I mean, sure the Bible says:
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
But, that’s not all it says; not even close. Farther on down the line we see quite a different instruction for judgement.
Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
–1 Corinthians 6:2
What to do now? God has both said that we should not judge, and that we are worthy to judge even the smallest matters. Are we to judge? God says that we are, but also that we’re not, so where do we draw the line? Well, there is a distinction between judging and condemning. To condemn is to act as a judge passing final sentence on a criminal. To judge could mean something as lightly as gossip: for what is gossip and slander but verbal expressions of judgement. The judging we should pronounce is in Christ alone. We will judge the world, but its verdict has already been set, we will condemn it with our authority given by God.
How does someone judging you make you feel? Well, if you’re like Paul, you might feel something like this:
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.
–1 Corinthians 4:3
In other words, Paul is saying “I don’t care what you say about me”. Paul gets it, that the things of this world don’t matter: that includes what people think or say about you. It should never effect you unless it should effect you. What I mean by that is, other people’s opinions of us can either stem from our actions or their imaginations. You can tell if they’re being negative for the sake of it, or if there is a problem in your life that they see and it’s affecting your witness. Judgement can be a good thing sometimes, whether we like it or not.
We are told often in Scripture to examine ourselves, to investigate and to judge who we are and where we stand; to uncover things in our lives that should not be there.
For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
–1 Corinthians 11:31
He’s not saying that if we pronounce judgment upon ourselves then no one else will have anything to add. He is saying that if we are actively examining and judging ourselves, we will discover and get rid of the things in our lives that others would see and judge us for. In a sense, the entirety of the message, “judge not that ye be not judged”, is another way of saying, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”.
Well, that makes all of us lousy judges because we will never be perfect in this life. However, we should judge ourselves, and we will judge the world. Righteous judgment is never wrong and it only comes from God. That’s why Paul said, “Yea, I judge not mine own self.”. He wanted to make it abundantly clear that the judgement came from God and that he would get no credit for the examination and vetting of his self. Man’s judgement is always selfish and prideful, but God’s judgement worketh repentance unto righteousness.
But what about all the other kinds of judging? The Bible does say that we will not be tempted more than we can bear. Are we not supposed to judge stupid? Isn’t calling something “stupid” just passing judgement on it? How do we distinguish between the judging we can do, and the judging we should not…?
These verses by themselves tell us that we should or should not judge, but together, they tell a different story. Allow me to clip and paste these verses together.
But with me it is a small thing that I should be judged: for if we would judge ourselves in the smallest matters, we should not be condemned.
Paraphrased, these scriptures have the message that if we judge ourselves, (by Christ’s Spirit living within us), we will not be so quick to judge others: beholding the beam in our own eyes. But also, that if we judge ourselves daily to purify our hearts, we will not be as prone to judge, and therefore not receive the condemnation that comes from condemning others. Well… Unless of course it’s something really boneheaded. Just kidding: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect”.
As always, thanks for reading.
–the anonymous novelist