George Booker
Biblical Fellowship

11. Judging and Not Judging (Matthew 7:1,2)

We are on a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Jesus has come up from Judea after his experience of temptation in the wilderness; he has gathered round him many disciples and is teaching them — “a light shining in a dark place”. His teaching is altogether extraordinary, as one having authority, and not as the scribes. His opening note is something new and beautiful: “Blessed!” Blessed are the poor... the mourners... the meek... the pure in heart.

He comes at length to judgment — judgment not in the sense of discernment and discrimination, but in the sense of fault-finding and condemnation:

“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matt. 7:1,2).

The context is the “parable” of the mote and the beam (vv. 3-5). The saying is found in the rabbinical writings, and is an example of the caustic Jewish humor.

It is not difficult to make the transition here from the case of individuals to that of ecclesias or “fellowship” groups.

“With what measure we mete and with what judgment we judge, we shall ourselves individually and communally be assessed” (The Committee of The Christadelphian, “Fellowship — Its Spirit and Practice”, Vol. 109, No. 1291 — Jan. 1972 — p. 12).

Who belongs to a “perfect” (or even “near-perfect”) group? Are there not always problems nearer to home to occupy the industrious brother, without the necessity of seeking to remove a “mote” from an ecclesial “eye” halfway round the world?

We should never judge those in other “fellowships” more severely than we would wish to be judged in the weakest link of our own “fellowship”. And if such judgment would make us wince, then perhaps we should re-evaluate our situation!

“The wonderful thing about the Speaker [of Matt. 7:1,2] is that he himself is so clear-eyed! There is neither beam nor mote there! He can judge without ‘hypocrisy’. And he will. ‘The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son’ (John 5:22). Whosoever therefore usurps this function is guilty of ‘contempt of court’, ‘the court above’! Hence an apostle says to his brethren in the midst of their carnal jealousies and strifes: ‘With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you... but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes....’ (1 Cor. 4:3-5)... Do not behave as though you sought your brother’s damnation rather than his salvation. ‘He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends’ (Prov. 17:9). Do not do it; God hates it!” (C.C. Walker, “Judge Not”, The Christadelphian, Vol. 61, No. 720 — June 1924 — p. 266).

It must not be supposed that Matthew 7 prohibits all ecclesial “judging”. Obviously, there are times when ecclesias (through their arranging brothers, or by other means) are called upon to “judge”. But in such cases it must be the clear pronouncement of Holy Scripture which provides the basis, and not a whim or passing fancy or even a tradition, well-intended though it be! And judgment must be approached very carefully and humbly, according to the spirit as well as the letter of Matthew 18. Some good rules to observe in such cases, which reflect the Spirit teaching of the verses under consideration, are as follows:

  1. Do not impute to your brethren evil motives (James 4:11).
  2. Do not condemn your “weak brother” for what you may consider to be his “imperfect” service (Rom. 14:1-13).
  3. Do not withhold forgiveness when the Bible teaches that God can offer it (James 2:13). Under no circumstances has our Father laid upon us the burden of being stricter than He has expressly said Himself to be!
  4. Do not anticipate Christ’s judgment (1 Cor. 4:5). Our brother is above all else “another man’s servant” (Rom. 14:4), not our own!
In all the above the emphasis is upon this: We must only with extreme care and reluctance undertake to pass any judgment. We must do so only when absolutely necessary, and not just to satisfy some whim or to elevate ourselves by casting others down. And we must never assume our own infallibility; the Holy Spirit power of “judging” (such as that employed by the apostle Peter upon Ananias and Sapphira) has long since ceased from among the ecclesias.

With all the above agree the wise words of Brother Roberts:

“It is certainly true that no man ought to speak of a brother’s faults behind his back until he have spoken to himself alone, and afterwards with others. But even then, you must be quite sure that the fault is of a kind that would warrant you in withdrawing if he do not submit. If there is any doubt on this head, be silent, and leave the Lord to judge at his coming. We generally find men unwilling to leave things to the Lord. They act as though they had no faith in the Lord’s coming, and as if Paul had never written:

‘Judge nothing before the time, till the Lord come who will make manifest the counsels of the heart’ (1 Cor. 4:5) —

that is, the secret motives which no man can know, and which require to be known before a correct estimate of his action is possible....

“It would be wrong for us to judge in personal cases. It is possible to say what ought and what ought not to be done, as a matter of duty for all men; but when it comes to a question whether these are or are not done by particular men, we enter a forbidden field. We must not judge; we must not condemn. We must leave the Lord to do that at his coming.

“We can, of course, withdraw from a brother who walks disobediently and defends it; but even this we must not do till we have seen him a few times and given him every opportunity of justifying himself. If men were more busy judging THEMSELVES, which they are COMMANDED to do, they would not have so much propensity for judging others, which they are forbidden to do” (“Judge Not: Condemn Not”, The Christadelphian, Vol. 35, No. 411 — Sept. 1898 — pp. 388,389).

“The scriptural command is, over and over:

‘Judge not, that ye be not judged.’

“With our puny little limited minds, it is impossible for us to judge fairly, even if we should have all the facts. And we never have ALL the facts... We must never judge motives, or seek occasions of fault-finding, or believe and peddle hurtful rumors, or talk behind peoples’ backs, or speak of sins — either real or supposed — TO ANYONE EXCEPT THE PERSON INVOLVED. In doing such, we condemn ourselves. The stern penalties of the law of Christ are very fearful against any of these fleshly abominations:

‘As ye judge, so shall ye be judged’ ”

(G.V. Growcott, “Tribulation Worketh Patience”, The Berean Christadelphian, Vol. 61, No. 3 — March 1973 — p. 81).

“This is a very important first principle of the Truth. The warning is:

‘With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged’ (Matt. 7:2).

“Therefore it is always wisdom to judge with mercy and kindness and compassion and fellow-feeling, wherever we must judge at all. When we indulge in the flesh-satisfying practice of judging and criticizing others, we are not only directly disobedient to this command — we are also manifesting that we do not have the mind and spirit of Christ, and therefore are none of his” (G.V. Growcott, “Be Ye Therefore Perfect”, The Berean Christadelphian, Vol. 57, No. 2 — Feb. 1969 — p. 51).

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