Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 5 Study # 24
April 6, 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 Restraint Upon "Condemnation".
- A. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says the word group is used in the judicial sense of establishing the proof of a fault and/or executing a punishment for it.
- B. The "problem" in the New Testament is that of Matthew 12:7 where the "guiltless" is "condemned" (Jesus was faulted for permitting His disciples to pluck grain and eat it on the Sabbath). Jesus said, "If you had known what 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice' means, you would not have 'condemned' the 'guiltless'." This is the same basic issue as James 5:6 where "murder" is attached to the "condemnation".
- C. Jesus spoke of a "Day of Judgment" wherein a person would either be "justified" or "condemned" by his/her "words" in Matthew 12:37.
- D. The New Testament uses are related to a desire to significantly wound in contradiction to mercy.
- II. A Larger Issue: the Boomerang Effect.
- A. In Jesus' words, who is going to "not judge", "not condemn", and "forgive"? Is Jesus saying that men will respond in kind, or that God will? If He had men in mind, clearly the promise is highly compromised even by the very uses of the words themselves -- since it is the evil "rich" who "condemn" the righteous "poor" in James 5:6. If he had God in mind, what is he saying about God's response to evil accomplished? If I do evil, but do not "judge" others for doing evil, will God not "judge" me for doing evil? If I do condemnation-worthy things, but refrain from condemning others for condemnation-worthy things, will God refrain from condemning me? [It seems, upon reflection, that Jesus was actually saying "Do not judge others without first judging yourself because if you do, you will be judged for your hypocrisy as well as your own failures of the same kind you find so reprehensible in others. There is no "promise" of escape from the consequences of evil except by refraining from evil; but there is an exhortation to abstain from hypocrisy and a promise that that will yield an absence of judgment and condemnation.]
- B. In what sense does doing the evil of "judging" and "condemning" bring on a boomerang type of consequence that the doing of other forms of evil does not bring about? In no sense: the point of Jesus' teaching is that one must refrain from doing evil if he wishes to escape having evil done to him. But this seems to be a conundrum: in what sense does the refusal to do the evil (of judging or condemning) bring about a restraint in others to do the same to this one who is doing righteousness? God visits "judgment" and "condemnation" only upon those who "deserve" it when the "judgment" and "condemnation" is legitimate. So, is Jesus saying do not do the "legitimate" thing and then it will not be done back to you? Or, is Jesus only speaking of men in their dealings with men where injustice is typically requited with injustice? Is He "promising" that men will do justly to the one who does justly? Or is He simply giving a general proverb? The "logic" makes it impossible for the words to apply to God. He does not return evil for evil. When He "returns" something for evil, it is not evil that He returns (otherwise, "justice" is "evil").
- C. In Paul's diatribe against the "self-righteous" in Romans 2, he raises the question of whether one thinks he can "judge" others for stuff he himself also does and "escape" the judgment of God. In this text, God does "judge", but fairly, because the "judgment" that is being rendered by the men is hypocritical. There is no legitimacy to the notion that God refrains from being "Just" toward those who do evil just because they are "selective" about the evil that they do. In other words, an adulterer will not escape the judgment of God just because he refrains from judging those who, like himself, commit adultery.
- D. The "logic" is thus: Jesus is not instructing His disciples to refrain from a "good", but from an "evil". Therefore, the "judging" and "condemning" can only be "evil", and the only way that can be the case is if the "judgments" and "condemnation" are perversions of justice. So, what Jesus is doing is instructing His disciples to refrain from taking certain "right-appearing" actions that are, essentially, evil because the intent is evil and the "appearance" is illegitimate. In Paul's Romans 2 text, the illegitimacy is not in judging others for evil; it is in doing the same things that are being condemned with an air of "it's OK for me to do this, but not for you". He plainly says that God will not permit that to go on unjudged. Thus, it appears that both Jesus and Paul were inveighing against hypocrisy, not righteous judgment. Neither of them taught (or expected) their disciples to refrain from legitimate judgments and legitimate condemnations: they simply decried the hypocrisy involved in castigating others for what one allows oneself to do. So, what is the conclusion? In order to escape judgment and condemnation, one must not be hypocritical.