Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 5 Study # 23
March 30, 2008
37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
1901 ASV Translation:
37 And judge not, and ye shall not be judged: and condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: release, and ye shall be released:
- I. The collected issues in 6:36-38 are "compassion", "non-judgment", "non-vengence", "forgiveness", and "liberality". As a whole, these swirl around a "healthy" attitude of benign helpfulness. The first and last have to do with being willing to help and the middle three have to do with instigating a retaliatory mindset.
- A. In this kind of context (non-judgment...forgiveness) the inescapable implication is that evil has been done.
- B. With that kind of context in view, "judge not" takes on a significant meaning.
- 1. In Matthew's Gospel, the word translated "judge not" has strong overtones of bringing judicial functions into play. It is used in the 5:40 text where the translators render the meaning "sue thee at the law" and it is used in Jesus' promise to His disciples that they will sit on thrones and "judge" the twelve tribes of Israel (19:28). Between these two texts there is the 7:1-2 "Sermon on the Mount" text where Jesus instructs His audience to "judge not" in a deliberate context of how "what goes around comes around". But, in 7:3-5 Jesus addresses the issue of hypocritically criticizing one's "brother" about a small matter while one is personally engaged in a very large activity of the same evil kind. In other words, the issues of Matthew's Gospel seem to be the intolerance of others in areas where one is significantly guilty of even greater evil. The meaning, thus, is: be very careful about how you apply "justice" to others.
- 2. Luke's use differs somewhat. He has the same "judge not" text, but the next time we run into it, it is in a setting where Simon is asked to "figure out" who would love the most in a given setting and, when he does, Jesus says, "Thou hast rightly judged." In other words, "judgment" is simply using the reasoning processes to come to a proper understanding about how things work. This use is further illustrated in 12:56-57 where Jesus "criticizes" certain hypocrites for their inability to discern "what is right". Then, in 19:22, Jesus uses the same word to refer to holding someone accountable for evil in the face of his own awareness of the facts that make his evil untenable. And the last time we see this word in Luke is a text that is parallel to Matthew's record of the promise that the Twelve will "judge" the twelve tribes of Israel. The conclusion that seems most appropriate is that "judging" involves applying the principles of justice to personal situations in an unhypocritical way. The operative words here are "in an unhypocritical way". In other words, the instruction does not mean "make no judgments"; it means "make no blind judgments" ("blind" in the sense that one sees clearly what is wrong with others while being completely unwilling to see the same flaw in oneself). Jesus is not attempting to get His disciples to go through life with no discernment. He is, rather, attempting to get them to be as clear-eyed about themselves as they are about others.
- 3. The word is not found in Mark's Gospel.
- 4. John uses it regularly to refer to "applying the Law to a person". And, in that sense, Jesus is quoted by John in 5:30 as saying, "...My judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father...". In other words, there is a legitimate application of the law to the various circumstances of life and there is an illegitimate application. The legitimate application is in the pursuit of the will of God and the illegitimate application is in the pursuit of advantage over another for one's own gain. In John 7:24 Jesus spoke the words that settle the issue: "Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment." The context of that statement is a situation where people are being extremely "superficial" in their judgments and not even looking for the more fundamental core issues. This usually "works" at the level of a superficial understanding of words that makes their "supporters" engage in "hot" debate over what they mean...much like the child who deliberately tries to get out of discipline because the parent said "words" that should have been applied to a larger set of issues, but, because the child wanted to be free to do as he/she pleased, deliberately "interpreted" them very narrowly. "Don't throw the ball in the house" is deliberately interpreted to mean it is "ok" to throw a shoe, a brick, a pillow, a...(anything that is not a "ball").