Why Jesus’s Warning “Judge Not That You Be Not Judged” Is So Popular

Chris —  October 29, 2015

Our culture is infatuated with Jesus’s admonition, “Judge not, that you be not judged (Matthew 7:1-2).” But, as I explained in Sunday’s sermon, the reason this is a favorite saying may not be good news.

There are, arguably, two reasons, our culture so often quotes Jesus’s prohibition of making judgments. First, hypocritical judging, which is what Jesus warned against, is ugly. The person who presumes to know why another person suffers, or the motives of another’s heart, or another’s status with Christ, puts him or herself in the place of God. Jesus warned against such hypocrisy in the strongest possible terms (Matthew 7:2).

Of course, when Jesus warned, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” he did not mean that we are not to make reasoned moral judgments. After all, in this same context, Christ cautions that we should identify some as “dogs” and “pigs” so as to not see truth trampled in the filth (Matthew 7:6).

The second reason that our culture is so enamored with the concept of not judging is that many do not like the idea of judgment at all. “Judge not” means to some that not even God judges. Yet, the idea that God will not judge is patently false. The Bible consistently stresses that God is a God who will judge sin. Consider a small sampling of biblical examples of judgment.

TABLE 1. SELECT BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF GOD’S JUDGMENT

Example Text Comment / Summary
The Fall / Adam & Eve’s Disobedience Gen 3 Adam and Eve rebelled against God and God pronounces a sentence of spiritual death and all the pain and heart ache of a fallen world.
The Noahic Flood Gen 6-9 God destroyed everyone on earth except Noah and his family: the one family who had faith.
Sodom and Gomorrah Gen 19:23-29 God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness, though Lot is spared
The Passover Exodus 12 God struck dead the firstborn in Egypt except those covered by the lamb’s blood (Exodus 12:21-28).
The Golden Calf Exodus 32 God sent the tribe of Levi to execute about 3,000 and more died from a plague because of their idolatry at the foot of Mt. Sinai.
So severe that even Cannabilism Lev 26:14-35 God warned that if Israel broke covenant that the judgment would so severe that there would even be cannibalism (Lev 26:29).
Adult Israel dies in wilderness Num 14:20-38 God vowed that all of the adults of Israel (save Joshua and Caleb), who would not follow Moses into the Promised Land, would die.
Jericho Josh 6 The city of Jericho was completely devoted to destruction.
Jesus promises judgment Matt 16:26-28 Jesus warned that he will return and reward people according to what they have done.
THE CROSS 2 Cor 5:21, 1 Pt 2:21, 1 Jn 4:10 God’s simultaneous demonstration of love & judgment. Love: Jesus died for sin. Judgment: Jesus received the punishment we deserve.
Ananias and Saphira Acts 5:1-11 Ananias and Sapphira lied about their commitment to the Church and God struck them dead.
Herod Acts 12:23 God struck Herod dead while people were praising him for having the voice of a god.
Those who destroy the church 1 Cor 3:17 God warns that people who harm God’s temple (the church) will be destroyed.
Warning to N.T. Believers 1 Cor 10:1-22 Paul warned the church at Corinth that examples of O.T. judgment are warnings for our day as well as then.
Partakers of communion in unworthy manner 1 Cor 11:27-34 Paul explained that the reason some are sick and have died was because they participated in communion in an unworthy manner.
Leaders / Teachers Warned Luke 12:47; Jam 3:1; Heb 13:17 Warnings that those in positions of responsibility have an increased accountability to Jesus when He returns.
The Judgment Seat of Christ 2 Cor 5:9-10; Rom 14:10-12 When Christ judges Christians resulting in rewards for some and a sense of loss for others.
The Great White Throne Judgment Revelation 20:11-15 Follows the Millennial Kingdom and is the occasion when the unsaved of all the world will receive their punishment of eternal hell.
Jesus’s final words in Revelation Revelation 22:12-13, 16, 20 Jesus promised that He will soon return and that when he does he will dispense punishment to those whose who do not know Him.

If these examples of biblical judgment people do not make you uncomfortable, then maybe you are not engaging with this idea of God’s judgment. The judgment of a holy God is a sobering topic. It is so uncomfortable the reality is that many churches in North America speak little of God’s judgment. And, perhaps the reason many pastors won’t speak of judgment is the same reason Jesus admonition, “Judge not that you be not judged,” is the most popular saying in the Bible.

For biblical Christianity, there is no denying the reality of judgment. Some insist that the Old Testament presents God as a harsher judge. But this is inconsistent with the Bible. Look at the table above. Read Revelation 20-22.

Some counter, “Well, then I’m not sure if I want the Bible. I’m not sure that I want judgment at all.”

But the person who objects to God’s judgment does want judgment. All people do. Every sane person believes in judgment. You need only to go to a high school football game and see a bad call and see people express their indignation at injustice to know people believe in justice. Or, watch a political leader make a decision that affects the standard of living. People cry out for justice. We all want judgment if a loved one is harmed. We should!

The fact is that people who object against God’s judgment are okay with justice and judgment. They just want to dictate judgment on their own terms and that, says Jesus in Matthew 7:1-2, is what we must not do. To insist on being the judge is a matter of pride. Only God is worthy of rendering judgment.

But then someone else will counter, “These examples of God’s judgment are harsh. Think of Sodom! Think of eternal hell. How can a God of such harsh judgment be loving?”

This is where we need to go to the middle of the above table and focus on the the Cross! On the Cross we see how God’s love and God’s judgment are both on display. John tells us (1 John 4:10) that the ultimate display of love is that Christ died for our sins. The reason he died, was to give Christ as the propitiation or atoning sacrifice for our sins.

For sure, one reason that our culture appreciates Jesus’s admonition to not be hypocritically judgmental is because such hypocrisy is so ugly and damaging. But, I fear, the greater reason so many quote Matthew 7:1-2 is because they have misread it to mean even God does not judge. About this, unbelieving culture could not be more mistaken. God is just and he will judge sin. Those who do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, will suffer God’s judgment eternally (John 3:36, Revelation 21:8).

See also:

What do Christians mean when they reference the gospel or good news?

The Pastoral Privilege of Telling Christians When Jesus Will Return

Jonathan Edwards Was as High on Heaven as He Was Hot on Hell

A Soft View of Hell Makes Hard People

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  1. This and That 11-7-15 | The Thompsonian Times - November 7, 2015

    […] Why Jesus’s Warning “Judge Not That You Be Not Judged” Is So Popular – But the person who objects to God’s judgment does want judgment. All people do. Every sane person believes in judgment. You need only to go to a high school football game and see a bad call and see people express their indignation at injustice to know people believe in justice. Or, watch a political leader make a decision that affects the standard of living. People cry out for justice. We all want judgment if a loved one is harmed. We should! – Chris Bruans […]