Judge Not, That You Be Not Judged?

I was recently reading some of the comments following some politically oriented news article on the net. One of the commenters used the opportunity to blast Christians in general for being judgmental and therefore hypocrites, since the Bible, which they (we) claim to believe, says, “judge not lest ye be judged.” The next respondent came back with, “You better read the Bible yourself. It does NOT teach ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged.’ I know most people think it does, but they have never actually read the passage, the entire passage. That is one sentence out of an entire teaching. Go ahead, read it yourself…. This is what happens when people who could care less about the word of God use the Bible in a perverted way to support their feelings.” [Spelling and grammar corrected]

I was intrigued, to say the least. Setting aside the fact that perhaps this responder had some issues of his own that needed to be addressed, his point was never the less worth investigating.

The statement, or very similar to it, occurs twice in the Gospels, Matthew 7:1 and Luke 6:37.

Matthew 7:1 [King James Version] Judge not, that ye be not judged.

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

A significant question is regarding, “and ye shall not be judged.” Judged by whom? If this is talking about being judged by God for having judged others, the implications are far different than if this is talking about not judging others so that they will not be judgmental of you. The former would be an injunction against sin. The latter would be good advice for keeping creeps out of your hair (creeps like the guy above who was endeavoring to use Scripture to blast Christians); if the latter, the statement would have to be taken as a proverb, a wise saying that would not necessarily always be true. Some creeps are going to be judgmental of you no matter what you do. Generally speaking, however, if you are not judgmental of others, they will not be judgmental of you.

The section is summarized in verse 12.

Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

Let’s look at the statement as given in Luke.

Luke 6:37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:

38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

The context here is clear. These are proverbs regarding relations with other people. If you don’t judge others, they won’t judge you. If you don’t condemn, they won’t condemn you. If you forgive, so will they. If you are giving, others will be giving toward you. It says, “MEN shall give,” not God shall give. Again, these are proverbs. You can be very giving and men will still discard you, but it isn’t likely.

OK, there are a whole bunch of things here I would like to explain, but my wife says my articles are too “intellectual.” I promised to keep them shorter and less complicated. “Men” appears as “they” in some versions and not at all in others. There is no Greek word for “men” or “they” in the texts. They are translated (as they should be) from the fact that the Greek word for “give” is in the third person plural. The translations giving “men” or “they” are correct.

The difference between, “judge not that ye be not judged,” and “judge not, and ye will not be judged,” is easily explainable. “Hina” [translated “that”] can introduce a purpose clause or a result clause depending on the context. I was originally planning to give a bunch of illustrative examples. If anyone cares, you can ask. So the record in Matthew could also be understood as “judge not and you will not be judged.” The record in Matthew does not have to be saying exactly the same as the one in Luke. These are records of statements made in two different teachings. I think it is more likely that Jesus was making the same statement each time.

Anyway, the blogger to whom I referred above was correct that the context is revealing. No one who actually understands the context of the statement, “judge not and you will not be judged” would ever try to use it against someone else. He would recognize that doing so would not be a condemnation of the other’s hypocrisy. It would be stating an immature threat: “Don’t you judge me, because I’ll come right back at you and judge you back.” This is essentially what the people who quote the “judge not…” line at others are saying. They just don’t know it.

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