Judge not, lest ye be judged!
If I have heard this once, I have heard it a thousand times. Liberals and people who are grieved by the law will often throw this portion of Scripture up in an effort to intimidate the believer into backing down. Just as the devil has always done, there is a small nugget of God’s Word mixed in, twisted and perverted in to a truth which does not exist. As Christians, there is no command to us to judge not! When we study the Scripture, we see that there are many examples when the believer is supposed to judge. Likewise, we will also see that there are some specific times and restrictions to how the believer is to judge.
First, we will look at the myth that we are not to judge. Matthew 7:1 is very clear.
Mt 7:1 ¶ Judge not, that ye be not judged.
That verse is very clear! Taken alone, out of context, it would seem that one who judges another is in danger of being judged! There it is! The liberals are right! Well, not really. Let’s look at the entire passage and examine Matthew 7:1 in its proper context.
Matthew 7:1-5 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. (3) And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? (4) Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? (5) Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Matthew 7:1 is the foundation of this entire debate, but we need to pay attention to the conjunction ‘for’ which begins verse 2. Verse two warns that one who judges will be judged with the same judgment. We have to remember the broader context of this passage. Jesus was dealing with Pharisees. These are the hyper-religious of the day. They believe their own personal righteousness was their key to salvation. They believed they were perfect in how they kept the law. Sadly, they were even lying to themselves. No one is perfectly righteous. The Pharisees were worse. They knew the law, yet they hid their own transgressions. For example: they might condemn the adulterer for his sin while being flagrantly guilty of the very same sin. If they know the law well enough to judge another, they certainly know how they, themselves, should behave. If we were to look at the adulterer and the Pharisee (who is also committing adultery), we see that the Pharisee, the one who is judging, is the more guilty one. The whole of the passage (Matthew 7:1-5) is dealing with the concept of a Pharisee judging someone. In our time, I would be a hypocrite if I judged and condemned someone for being a thief if I were secretly a thief, myself. However, if I am righteous (I have repented, my sins are covered by the blood of Jesus and I am no longer a thief), and I tell someone they are a thief, my hands are clean.
The Sound of the Trumpet
There is a call to all who are saved which we all must heed.
Ezekiel 33:1-9 Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, (2) Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: (3) If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; (4) Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. (5) He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. (6) But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand. (7) So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. (8) When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. (9) Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
We are in a world in which we are surrounded by lost people – people who must be saved. To walk up to someone and only say, “you must be saved,” begs the question, “saved from what?” We are taught that the law, God’s list of right and wrong, exists to be our schoolmaster. The Law is not in place to beat someone down or to make one subject to another. The law is our Schoolmaster. While the Law does exist to protect us, the primary purpose of the Law is to show us our need for salvation. God gave His Law to show us just how wrong we are, how badly we need to be saved and what we need to be saved from. As saved people, we are all called to evangelize – to tell people of their need. We are commanded to sound a warning. The watchman has a job to do: to warn the people of the coming danger. We have a far greater duty than the watchman. The watchman’s job was to warn of a danger which may be coming. Sin, death and hell are certain dangers for the unsaved. We, as Christians, have a clear duty to sound a warning. By default, this means that we must shine the light of the Word of God in the world to reveal sin. By default, we must name the sins we see around us.
A Righteous Judgment
We have already looked at the myth the Devil puts forward from Matthew 7:1 and how Matthew 7 defines when one can judge with a clear conscious, but there are other examples we can look at and guidelines we can follow.
John 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
First, we cannot judge one based simply upon their appearance. We do not know the person’s heart or motives. It may be that the person we are looking at is a new believer. One who has not been saved for very long cannot be expected to know the nuances and intricacies of Scripture. They are feeding on milk and cannot pallet the strong meat on which mature saint feasts. We must give space for the new believer to grow in the Lord. We must allow the Holy Spirit of God to clean the new believer’s heart.
Though we are to be careful in how we look at people, we are to judge! Imagine a ball game with no rules and no judges. How would anyone know what to do? When would a score be tallied? Who would be guilty of penalties? Who would decide these things? Likewise, we have laws in our land. Someone, somewhere decided that the highways are only safe at a certain maximum speed. Someone decided that, in a civilized society, one should not rob another and one may not murder whomever he wishes. As there are civil laws on the books, there are also people who adjudicate those laws. We call them Judges. Judges sit over us and proclaim whether we have transgressed the law or not.
1 Thessolians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
How can one prove all things which are good if we do not discern what is bad?
Acts 5:1-5 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, (2) And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (3) But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? (4) Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. (5) And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
Here is a couple who owned a piece of land which they sold. Their claim was that they were selling it and giving all the proceeds to the church. As Peter told them, it was their land. They could do whatever they wanted to do with it. If they wanted to sell it, and keep part of the sale, they could have. However, they wanted to be seen as big givers. They allowed their pride to get in the way of the truth. When it came time to make the offering, they gave part of the sale price to the collection, sand said it was all they had. The did not have to give all they had, but they claimed that they did. Peter called them out for the liars they were. The judgment Peter pronounced on them was a stern one – death. It is not within most of us to be as discerning as Peter was. In fact, if everyone who lied to the preacher were to fall over dead, we would have empty churches. Still, lying is a sin, and Peter named this couple’s sin to their face. He did this with a pure conscious, with the leading of the Holy Spirit of God and with the Word of God to back him up. Nevertheless, no matter how you look at this situation, Peter did judge them.
Try the Spirits
We are plainly commanded to try the spirits. Literally, to examine those around us to see if they be of Christ or not. As we saw in an earlier passage, there are some who walk into the church, who are disorderly. Who seek to destroy the work of God. There are some who come into the church with the intent of stealing the sheep away.
1 John 4:1 ¶ Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
There are many doctrines and teachings in the world which would corrupt the Christian’s walk with God as well as his testimony. We are to examine, and yes, judge those around us to see if their teachings are true and just!
Col 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Heb 13:9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.
As believers, we are commanded to try or examine each and every one around us. All we need to do is compare their speech and their actions to the Word of God. When we examine someone, and we see that their conversation or their action is disorderly, we have another command:
Romans 16:17-18 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. (18) For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
In this passage from Romans, we see that we are commanded not only to examine those around us, but to mark the ones who would divide or cause strife within the church.
Does God hate the lifestyle of a sodomite more than the actions of a gossip?
Pr 6:16 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: (17) A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, (18) An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, (19) A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren
Let’s look at seven things the Lord calls an abomination, and how this passage describes the gossip, shall we?
Many of my preacher friends are quick to thump their pulpit and waive their Bibles as they preach against the sin of homosexuality. Often, their preaching is to a resounding chorus of “Amens,” or others crying out, “Preach, preacher preach!” Yet when seven other abominations are mentioned, the church house often falls deathly silent. When we mention gossip, is the plow getting too close to home for YOUR comfort? This passage mentions seven different sins and names them all as an abomination. Often, we will pick each one out and preach on the individual sin, not realizing this passage is speaking directly to the gossip. James speaks of the tongue as a fire. He compares it to a rudder – small member which can drive a very large ship. As a fire, the tongue can certainly do great damage. Every year, we see what a little spark can destroy as it grows and rages out of control in a forest fire. The tongue of a gossip is no different. Oh, the gossip is a well camouflaged critter. She will come to you with lips dripping of honey, she will lure you in with her kind and flattering words. Ultimately, she will ferret out your deepest secrets. She will seem to be your best friend.
A proud look
Indeed, the gossip is a proud one. After all, she does no wrong. When a family is wrecked, a heart broken or a testimony shattered, she had nothing to do with it. She was only doing what any Godly person would do. She just shared a prayer request.
“You need to pray for so-and-so, they are in …”
I’m sad to say there have been times when I have encouraged this by listening. My friend, LISTENING TO THE MANURE IS AS MUCH A SIN AS SPREADING THE MANURE.
A lying tongue
This should be quite obvious, but the gossip will lie. Yes, even the dear, sweet one who is sharing that prayer request. You can’t think for a minute that she is anywhere near God, can you? Her first lie is her claim to be a Christian! She is a devil! Oh, she is a good actor, but so is Lucifer.
John 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
Like her father, the truth is not in her. Like her father did in the Garden of Eden, she will mix a little truth in with a little deception to contrive a stunning tale. You can be certain her tale will suit her needs and promote her agenda. When she has no use for you or when you are just too juicy to pass up, her tale will tear you down.
Hands that shed innocent blood
When we, as preachers, lift this verse out, we speak of the fool who is quick to do harm. Perhaps, if we are preaching to the youth, we might speak of the bully who torments his classmate. We must remember that the act of hating a brother is murder!
1Jo 3:15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
As you watch the gossip, you will see bitterness and hatred slip through her deceitful lips. Yes, when she is talking about you, behind your back, she is showing her hatred for you. She is tearing your down. She is trying to destroy you.
A heart that deviseth wicked imaginations
The gossip is, indeed, a creative one. She studies you, analyzes you. She finds out things about you and molds them into her craft, weaving her story into something she can use. Her fiction is based in the truth of your life, wrapped in lies to feed her perverse pleasure. If she were seen as the liar she is, there wouldn’t be a problem. The problem is in her inevitability. When she is in her character (that of a sweet, caring Christian who’s only goals are the cause of Christ and edifying believers) she seems so believable. Combine her act of believably with the smallest nugget of truth, and he lie has credibility. All the time, it is not the truth at work. It is not the leading of the Holy Spirit of God moving in compassion in her heart. It is her imagination at work.
Feet that be swift in running to mischief
If it can be left unsaid, leave it unsaid. There are many times when it is sufficient to simply ask someone to pray for a brother. Do we believe God is so small that He does not know our needs? In fact, God knows our needs better than we do. If we simply pray, “God, you know John’s need right now. Please work in his heart and in his life.” God knows our heart and God knows John’s need (John is a hypothetical person). We don’t need to give God the nitty-gritty details of John’s need. If we don’t need to share the details, why does the gossip need to share John’s details with us. Oh, life would be so boring, but there would be so much less drama.
Can you help John? No? Then why do you need to know all about his need? The Gossip wants to share his need so you will know what problems he has. The gossip wants you to know John’s weakness because the gossip also wants you to know how she would never do that.
He that soweth discord among brethren
This goes directly to the gossip’s goal. As long as their is discord, as long as their is trouble in the camp, she is happy. She is happiest when she is in the middle, manipulating the strife and contention to her own advantage. Given half a chance, she would tear a church down to its foundation. She must be marked and avoided.
A false witness that speaketh lies
Half-truths, innuendo, imaginations, outright lies – these are all the tools of the gossip.
Revelation 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
If someone truly feared God, they would be edifying their brothers and sisters in Christ. Moreover, they would be seeking the lost to bring them into the fold. They would be reproducing – bearing fruit. The gossip is not a believer. I believe that if we could examine their heart, they are not fully persuaded that God is real. Oh yes, they will tell yo they are saved, that they know Christ, but they are, after all, liars. Their deeds are listed among the seven things the Lord considers to be abominations! They murder in their heart. Though we did not discuss it here, the gossip has made herself a whore by selling her own righteousness for a few moments of pleasure in her heart. Her rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. In her pride, she is her own idol and she is certainly a liar. She is condemned.
Just as we should not hate the sodomite, we should not hate the gossip. That would make us a murderer, just as she is. There are some things we must do, however. First, we must pray for her. We must pray for her salvation and we must pray for her exposure. Apart from salvation, the gossip has a bleak future ahead of her. Our words will never sway her, only the Holy Spirit of God can draw her. But, we must also pray for her exposure. Everyone around her must understand that she is a devil.
Rom 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
Yes, God does want us to mark them and separate from them. This is actually a part of Biblical church discipline. This separation, or breaking of fellowship, was designed by God to give God a chance to move in their lives. It is painful, but it is for their own good.
So, which does God hate more, the sodomite or the gossip? If we look at history, we see where God destroyed the cities on a plain because of sodomy. But that was a different time. Today, we live in a time of grace. The judgement of God has been tempered, for a season. Do not misunderstand – sin will be judged. But which sin is worse? I cannot say. Sodomy creates a confusion among the genders which God clearly hates, and hates on many levels. Gossip breaks fellowship among believers and destroys churches. Where sodomy is a sin which attacks the church from without, gossip is a cancer which destroys the church from within.
If pressed, I would dare not say one sin is worse than the other. I would have to conclude that the gossip and the sodomite are very much in the same boat.
Are you a gossip? As you read this, if you were honest with yourself, would you say you are guilty? Confession and salvation are your only option. Repent and turn to Jesus today.