In our last post we addressed Psalm 105:15 – “Touch not the Lord’s anointed”, a verse often used in an attempt to discredit this site. Another favourite verse to quote at us is Matthew 7:1a, “Judge not, or you too shall be judged”. The verse has been discussed multiple times in the comments section, so much of this may seem familiar – but given the regularity with which this objection comes up, it seems worthwhile to dedicate a post to it.
In the verse in question, Jesus is apparently giving a clear command to not judge, right? Wrong, but it is easy to get that impression if you only read half a verse – using the same technique you can get the bible to say “There is no God” (Psalm 53:1). In the broader context of Matthew 7, far from teaching his followers not to judge, he’s teaching them how to judge righteously. Let’s look at the full passage.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)
The issue Jesus is addressing here is the habit many of us have of seeing the bad in others while being oblivious to the fact that we’re guilty of the same thing. We elevate ourselves by putting down others and pointing out their sin.
Jesus then uses an intentionally absurd analogy of someone with a plank of wood in their eye pointing out and offering to remove a speck of sawdust in their brother’s eye. This is describing a process of judging (pointing out the speck) and correction (removing the speck). If we are to believe that the passage teaches us not to judge, then the passage would have to end at this point, but it doesn’t. Jesus tells us we should first take the plank out of our own eye so that we see clearly to remove the speck from our brother’s eye. Still judging and correcting, but this time from a position of righteousness, not hypocrisy.
Let’s consider an example relevant to TB Joshua Watch. As anyone familiar with TB Joshua will know, there are numerous allegations that he has sexually abused female disciples. If you hear one of these allegations, you automatically have a judgement to make, either:
- TB Joshua is guilty
- TB Joshua is innocent
- We don’t know what happened, but the allegations are serious enough that they should be investigated.
Most supporters of TB Joshua will immediately opt for option 2, TB Joshua is innocent. And that wouldn’t be judging, right? Wrong. There are real women who have made these allegations, so by assuming TB Joshua is innocent, you are judging that their allegations are false. Making false allegations such as these would be a wicked crime.
In reality, nobody really believes we are not to judge, and people who quote this half verse do so when its convenient to them, while ignoring it when it applies to them (ironic given the proper message of the passage!). Often when people rebuke us for judging, at the same time they’re judging us, as demonstrated in the following twitter conversation.
Without the ability to judge, the church is rendered powerless against false teaching, immorality and deception. Whatever anyone claims the Holy Spirit has revealed to them becomes accepted. The bible is clear in multiple places that this is not the way it should be, again and again it tells us to test things:
“Test everything. Hold on to the good.” (1 Thess. 5:21).
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God” 1 John 4:1
“you have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false” Rev 2:2
Not only are we allowed to judge, as responsible Christians we must judge – failure to do so will soon result in our faith being hijacked by whichever false teacher next comes our way.
By all means disagree with our conclusions regarding TB Joshua, but don’t do so out of a misplaced belief that to question or criticise anything he does would be in direct disobedience to Jesus – nothing could be further from the truth.