The Eleventh Commandment

Many people who know little (or almost nothing) about the Bible can recite a few of the Ten Commandments especially the seventh and the tenth, but there is another "commandment" that quite a few of these folks can quote. That verse is Matthew 7: 1, "Judge not that ye be not judged." They will often cite this when immoral conduct, such as homosexuality, adultery, and other forms of sexual immorality are being discussed, their point being that no one should call into question the erroneous deeds of another. Their reference to this verse is sad because the very ones who quote it frequently do not apply their interpretation of its teaching universally, and second but most important, because their interpretation is a perversion of what it actually teaches.

If the verse means what most think it does -- that it is wrong to form an opinion about someone else -- then the one who quotes it in defense of another is judging if he means that someone else is judging. That is, if you say that I am judging because I quote Scripture to point out sin, then you are judging me!. Also, those who are quick to use this statement only want to apply it when something "bad" is said about another, but never when something good is said. However, if they would make consistent application, then it would be just as wrong to decide that someone or some deed is good and righteous, because that would be judging -- i.e.: forming an opinion about another. And if their reasoning is carried to the logical conclusion, it would be a sin to condemn murder, rape, child molestation, armed robbery, or other heinous crimes because that would be "judging" too.

Many quote this passage and pit it against any and all other verses in the New Testament. Since it is the only verse they can quote verbatim, they make it the preeminent and supreme teaching of the whole Bible. For example, should someone mention that Romans 1:27 and I Corinthians 6:9-10 teach that homosexuality is a sin, they will recite Matthew 7: 1. Applying Divine Standards as a guide for human conduct is not judging.

"Judge not that you be not judged" is not condemning the making of decisions about another. If so, then none would be guiltless because we all render such judgments all the time, such as selecting our friends and deciding with whom we associate. Regarding this subject or any other, to know the correct Bible teaching about it, it is necessary to find out all that is said about the matter. Actually, this and all other passages in the New Testament dealing with judging do not condemn it but tell how it should be done.

In fact, reading the very next verse of Matthew 7 explains what is under consideration. Jesus is forbidding hypocritical judgment. In verses three through five, He explains this hypocrisy with the example of a person with a big log in his eye trying to remove a piece of chaff from another's eye. "Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" (vs 5). His point is that one should clean up his own act before trying to correct someone else. None should attempt to correct another if he has more guilt than the one whose behavior he endeavors to amend.

Romans 2 bears this out. Paul teaches here that it is wrong to accuse and condemn someone for the same thing of which you are guilty. Here, he is teaching that we should avoid inconsistent judgment.

Jesus says, "Do not judge according to appearances, but judge with righteous judgment" (Jn 7:24). Judgments must be factual and not based simply upon what something might seem to be.

Judging is discussed by Paul in Romans 14. The context is dealing with matters of indifference, things which are neither right not wrong within themselves. He is teaching that it is wrong to condemn someone for something when God has not legislated about the matter. The point is: Don't judge by the wrong standard. James 4:11-12 teaches the same principle.

But not all judgments are hypocritical, inconsistent, or by the wrong standard. In the same chapter in Matthew, Jesus says, "Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves" (7:15).

To obey this command requires judgment. How can it be obeyed? By an inspection of their fruits. That which they produce determines what kind of prophets they are. This is righteous judgment which is made after getting all the facts (Jn 7:24).

Righteous judgment involves not letting anyone teach you error and causing you to be lost, a "testing of the spirits" to find out whether or not one is teaching as God would have him (I Jn 4: 1). Paul granted the Corinthians the right to judge him (I Cor 4:1-4). Anyone living a decent, upright life which is pleasing to God would grant the same right to another.

Paul Stringer, Crockett, Texas