“Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus moves from one topic to the next. From teaching about Divine providence, and the care God has for His creation so that individuals do not need to worry, Jesus moves to another large theme in the Bible, being judgmental. Jesus said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matt. 7:1).
When a commandment like this is initially read, there is an immediate inclination to interrupt, and ask in astonishment, “Lord, how is it possible not to be judgmental?” In John 7:24 Jesus also taught that His disciples are to judge, “not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”
So, what we are faced with is a paradox. We have two thoughts that seem to be in conflict, and yet both are true. The solution is found in realizing there are several ways to judge a matter. In fact, the Greek word, krino [kree’no] means “to distinguish; to decide” a matter.
There is Theocratic judgment whereby the Lord, who rules with a rod of iron, oversees the rise, and fall of kingdoms, and potentates. The empires of the Assyrians, Medes-Persians, Babylonians, the Greeks, and the Romans have been judged by God and found wanting. The potentates of these empires have been swept into the dustbin of history.
Ashurbanipal of Assyria (669 – 631 BC), dead.
Cyrus the Great of Persia, dead.
Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, dead.
Alexander the Great of Greece, dead.
All the Caesars of Rome, dead.
There is a Judicial judgment established by God among men on earth to resolve legal issues. This form of judgment is reflected in the Twelve Judges of Israel, and affirmed in Romans 13. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (v. 1). The prophets lamented when justice was being perverted. Micah spoke against those “skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire— they all conspire together” (Micah 7:3). Nevertheless, it is good to have a judicial system with a just judge on the bench, and a fair-minded jury which will render a just verdict based on the merits of the matter before the court.
There is an Ecclesiastical judgment whereby the Church judges’ internal affairs, and will one day judge the angels. 1 Corinthians 6 explains. If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! (v. 1-3, NIV)
With the passing of time, the Church has failed to exercise its responsibility to judge internal affairs according to gospel principles. The reasons for this will be considered in time, in Matthew 18
because the reality of her failure is without question. Nevertheless, when a local Church wants to become a New Testament church, God has provided a framework to render a judgment in righteousness.
Then the Bible speaks about Self-judgment. It is the will of the Lord that a professing Christian evaluate their own life, and sit in judgment on it for the purpose of approval. “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Cor. 13:5, KJV).
If we as Christians will engage in self-judgment, the Bible says, “We shall not be judged” (1 Cor. 11:31).
If we do not stand in righteous judgment on our own lives, then we will be disciplined by the Lord, “that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Cor. 11:32). The people of God are a repenting people. We repent when we look inward and see corruption, confess it, and long to be different. We pray with the Psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalms 139:23-24).
While Theocratic, Judicial, Ecclesiastical, and Self judging are legitimate forms, there is a type of judging which Jesus forbids, and that is the judgment of condemnation.
The judgment of discernment is a righteous form of judgment, but the judgment of condemnation is unrighteous. The judgment of condemnation is unnecessary, it is often unfair, and says more about the critic than the one being criticized. Perhaps they are not seeing the situation clearly.
The story is told of a young couple who moved into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they were eating breakfast, the young woman saw her neighbor hanging the wash outside. “That laundry is not very clean,” she said. “She does not know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.” Her husband looked up, but remained silent. The weeks passed. Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, the young woman would make the same comments. After two months of this, the woman was surprised one day to see a nice clean wash on the line, and said to her husband: “Look honey, our new neighbor has finally learned how to wash correctly.
I wonder who taught her how to do it?” Her husband said, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.”
It is an old proverb that chickens come home to roost, and so they do. If we judge others unfairly, if we want to condemn others and demand a penalty be paid, that type of judgment will sooner or later, come home to ourself. In his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Charles Spurgeon addresses the meaning of Matthew 7:1 with these words. “Some people are of a censorious disposition; they see nothing in others to praise, but everything to blame, and such people generally find that they are condemned according to their own wicked rule.”
Because our Lord modeled what He taught, a story is recorded of a time when Jesus did not criticize, or condemn, a person worthy of both. Loved covered a transgression of the moral law of God. Sin was not covered up, but it was forgiven, based on gospel repentance. I would have you see the situation through the eyes of Jesus. The event is found in the gospel of John (8:1-11).
As the narrative unfolds, John remembers there was a crowd of people one day, it was early in the morning, who was listening intently to Jesus as He sat teaching in the Temple area. Suddenly there was a commotion in the assemblage. Strong men were pushing and shouting as they shoved a woman through the crowd, forcing her into the presence of Jesus without common courtesy. Their voices were as rough as their hands on the woman. Finally, the men and the woman were in front of Jesus who was still sitting. What was the matter? The men turned out to be scribes and Pharisees, numbered among the religious leaders in Israel. As such, they felt they were the guardians of public and private morality.
Somehow, in some manner, these men had discovered a woman, whom they barged in on, with her lover in the act of committing adultery. With moral outrage the Scribes and Pharisees thought to bring this woman to Jesus to see what He would say about her. Their intention in dragging this woman through the streets of Jerusalem, to a public gathering, to be exposed in shame and humiliation, was not so much about her, but about them. The scribes and Pharisees had a secret agenda at the public expense of someone else. Such is the nature of mean-spirited religious people.
They are angry, they have a secret agenda, and they do not care who they use or hurt to advance their cause. The secret agenda of the scribes and Pharisees was to put a question to Jesus that would put Him in opposition to Moses, thereby providing a basis for them to accuse Him of violating the Law.
To the Pharisees, this situation provided a perfect opportunity for them to accomplish their objective. All they had to do was to ask the right question, and so a word of warning is given.
Be careful of people who ask questions who have proven themselves to be your enemy.
Over the years, I have been questioned by more than one person pretending to be seeking information. What they really wanted to do was to accuse me, or find a basis for a predetermined accusation. Beware of questions.
The scribes and the Pharisees posed a question to Jesus. They said to him, “Master,” or “Teacher,”
notice the religious chatter of flattery, this woman, was taken in adultery, in the very act.”
No mentioned was made of the man. “This woman, was taken in a sinful act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such a woman should be stoned: but what do You say?”
To their eternal astonishment Jesus said nothing.
“Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.”
From His sitting position Jesus simply learned over and began to write letters in the sand. Meanwhile, the scribes and Pharisees asked him again and again what He had to say about the situation.
They were not going to be ignored, or denied, and something else is learned about religious people who are out of control themselves morally. Not only are they mean spirited, not only are they clever by asking leading questions with a hidden agenda, but they are relentless in their determination to accomplish a specific goal.
While the scribes and Pharisees continued in self-righteousness to present, with angry determination, their question to Christ, Jesus continued to write letters in the sand. This is the only occasion recorded in Scripture where Jesus wrote something. But what did He write?
With a sanctified imagination we can only speculate, but it is possible Jesus wrote the words of the Decalogue, for the Bible says that after a while the scribes and Pharisees stopped talking, and they looked down to see what Jesus was writing.
Perhaps the Lord wrote the word “idolatry” in the sand. The first commandment says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).
It is possible the Lord traced the letters for “blasphemer.” Exodus 20:7 says, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”
While the scribes and Pharisees initially clamored, Jesus wrote words designed to arrest their conversation, and bring conviction to their own hearts. Suddenly Jesus stood up.
The scribes and the Pharisees wanted Him to speak, then say something He would.
“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her,” said Christ.
Then Jesus stooped again towards the earth.
More letters were traced into the sand:
disobedient to parents,
While Jesus traced His words, a holy hush fell over the crowd. The Bible says something very unusual and strange began to take place, for they which heard the words of Jesus, “being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.”
The order of conviction seems to be significant, for John observed that conviction came first to the eldest, and then to the youngest. It is a sign of maturity to be honest about one’s own moral failures in life. People are not easy to convince of the evil they are doing, or have done. There is much irrationality in the behavior of people who do wrong. All they know is they “want what they want” and they will say and do anything and everything to have their own way no matter who they must trampled on, no matter what values they must trample, and no matter what argument they must conjure up.
Mean people are determined to have their way. And so, conviction is slow in coming, but if God is present, conviction can and must come. “Beginning at the eldest, even unto the last” the scribes and the Pharisees began to go away confronted by their own conscience by the letters in the sand.
Finally, the sound of silence was broken as the crowd around Jesus began to speak in low voices once more over what they had just witnessed.
The religious bullies were gone.
Jesus stood up. “Woman,” He said, “where are your accusers? Has no man condemned you?”
The woman caught in adultery, in the very act said,
“No man, Lord.”
“Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
The scribes and Pharisees called Jesus’ “Teacher,” Master,” but she called Him, “Lord.”
What do you call Christ?
“The angels called Him Jesus,
but I call Him Lord.”
~ Dottie Rambo
And the Lord Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1).