One of the distinctive mantras of the modern evangelical church is the snippet from Matthew chapter 7, “Judge not!” This line is regularly cited as proof that it is wrong — always wrong — to judge others. Any concerned believer who senses an obligation to address compromise and error in their ministry has frequently been challenged with this verse — and accused of being judgmental. The problem is, this understanding is far removed from what the passage actually teaches.
Observe first of all that the command is not a ban on all judging but on hypocritical judging. The hypocrite is exhorted, “First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” This assumes and maintains the believers obligation to help his brother with the speck in his eye after he has dealt with his own problem. To read into this passage a “hands off” approach where we are obligated to do nothing — leaving the situation entirely in God’s hands — is a disemboweling of God’s intended message.
Secondly, the context further demolishes the common “emergent” teaching that we will never be right enough ourselves to see well enough to help our brother. “First remove the beam from your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” This is a plain statement from God. How can anyone not submit to this?
Thirdly, the passage ends with a command which we cannot obey unless we first judge men, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” Here we are invested with a weighty obligation to discern whether or not individuals we are dealing with are dogs or hogs. If they are either one, we are to refrain from giving them our pearls and sacred things, lest they mistreat both them and us.
Now the understanding I have laid out here does not justify a brother being harsh or petty in his dealings with his brethren. Nor does it legitimize a censorious spirit. Nor is it a license for a man to attempt to address and fix any problem that catches his attention. It is simply a delineation of some of the main principles that God has laid out for accountability in our regular relationships — as friends, local church, Bible study, pastors, teachers, etc. We do have an obligation from God to participate in this accountability — in both directions. When individuals and churches shut down accountability with teachings like “Do not judge,” they hamper spiritual growth, hinder holiness, and promote the declension that is ravaging the church in these the last days. May we be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
“Eyes wide open, brain engaged, heart on fire.”
Lee W. Brainard