“Don’t judge me.”
We’ve heard that before, right? Many times.
The sayer of which then presumes to claim some sort of self-righteousness despite being confronted in some sort of compromising situation.
That three word sentence then throws the questioner into a conundrum. “Wait, but there’s an issue, but I don’t want to judge…, wait, what?” It’s like saying “I plead the fifth.” Somehow this expression is a social get out of jail free card that gets the perpetrator off the hook. It’s as if the one in the wrong now has gained the moral high ground in an unexpected maneuver. Surprise!
What’s happening here?
I think this moral trickery comes from the fact that our little phrase is a paraphrase of a biblical text.
Matthew 7:1 – Judge not, that you be not judged.
I guess if Jesus said not to judge others that we shouldn’t do it, huh? Let’s just all turn our brains off and stop being mature reasoning adults. We also wouldn’t want to use any discretion.
So what do we do with the text, and with the verses immediately proceeding? Keep reading.
Matthew 7:6 – 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.
Has it ever hit you that in order to determine if someone is a dog or a pig we need to make a judgment? So Jesus has essentially said, “Don’t judge, but judge.” Is Jesus contradicting himself? (Hint: no, it’s a riddle, and the secret is motive.)
First, what is the meaning of a dog or a pig? What do the Scriptures say? I went looking and this is what i found.
2 Peter 2:22 – But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”
We judge by what someone does. I think what Jesus is trying to convey in the first five verses of Matthew 7 is that judging motive is what we shouldn’t do. Really, there’s no way we can. How can we possibly know what someone is thinking? Reading the heart is fortunately not a responsibility that God has given us.
1 Samuel 16:7 – For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
What God has given to us is the responsibility to look at someone’s actions, and see if they are abiding by God’s moral standard, the commandments. This way we have an objective standard of right that is outside of ourselves by which we can properly judge someone’s course of action. “You are repeatedly making bad decisions (like a dog to vomit). We need to deal with your course of action. I am not setting myself up as a standard to judge you. Who am I? But by the light of God’s word we can both see this needs to be dealt with. Let’s ask God for help.”
Don’t judge. But judge.