“Jesus Said You Shouldn’t Judge”

Author Tim Barnett Published on 07/05/2016

A while back, I posted the following comment on my Facebook Page:

Everyone—Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jew, New Ager, Atheist—needs to answer the same question: What makes humans valuable in the first place?

Normally, I don’t take the time to rehash a Facebook post, but the response I got was extremely characteristic of our culture and deserves some careful thinking. Under the circumstances, I thought it might be instructive to take a closer look at the retort and then walk through how I would respond.

The retort I got was:

The Buddhists already know. You’d know that if you research them before blindly judging them. You Christians are good at judging, so I wasn’t surprised. I think Jesus told you not to judge, or you’d be judged yourself.

It seems like a Christian can’t say almost anything without someone chiming in, “Jesus said you shouldn’t judge!” For this reason, I think it will be very beneficial to carefully think through how one should respond to this particular challenge.

First, notice that I didn’t say that Buddhism doesn’t have an answer to the question. I simply pointed out that everyone, not just the Christian, needs to answer the question. The commenter seems to assume something about me; namely that I don’t believe Buddhism can explain human value. Moreover, he believes that I’ve come to this conclusion without doing any research, and that I’m “blindly judging them.”

If you are an astute reader, you’ve probably already picked up on the hypocrisy riddled throughout this comment. Hasn’t this person done exactly what he accused me of doing? Isn’t he blindly judging me without knowing anything about me? How does he know I haven’t done my homework on Buddhism? The truth is, it was just assumed.

So my first more general point is that the “judgment sword” cuts both ways. He cannot escape the charge. In fact, nobody can! Here is a little helpful question that I use whenever someone accuses me of judging. The first words off my lips are, “Why are you judging me?”

In this instance, the comment was dripping with judgment. The commenter seems to think it’s fine for him to judge me, but when Christians judge, it’s wrong! Why is it only okay for him, but not for me? It seems to me that there couldn’t be a clearer example of a hypocritical judgment. This brings me to my next, more specific, point.

Second, this person goes even further and makes the very common exegetical mistake that Jesus said we should never judge. He says, “I think Jesus told you not to judge, or you’d be judged yourself.”

Let me be very clear, Jesus never said not to judge. This isn’t my opinion. This isn’t up for debate. If words mean anything, Jesus couldn’t have said not to judge. Just read the text:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1–5)

This text is not prohibiting all judging; it’s prohibiting hypocritical and self-righteous judging. Read verse 5 carefully! Jesus says, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Jesus is spelling out the steps to take to make a proper judgment. He is explaining to his audience how to make a proper judgment (“then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye”).

Jesus isn’t a solitary voice on this issue either. The Apostle Paul affirms Jesus’ word in his second letter to Timothy. He says, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Now just ask yourself, how does one “correct, rebuke, and encourage” without making judgments? It would be impossible.

The irony is that this commenter has unwittingly made Jesus and Paul’s point! The comment was a rebuke of my original comment, and thus a judgment. It turns out that this rebuke was both unfounded (because he didn’t really know my beliefs about Buddhism) and uninformed (because he misunderstands Jesus’ words taken in context). But it wasn’t just any judgment; it was a hypocritical and prideful judgment, which is exactly what Jesus was warning against.

So remember: Jesus never said not to judge. In fact, the command to judge is implicit in His words recorded in Matthew 7. However, we must not judge with a prideful or self-righteous heart. We must remain humble and self-reflective; never forgetting that we, too, are sinful and no better than anyone else.