Most people I meet know very little about the Bible, which is all cool. It doesn't so much bother me, because most people I meet who THINK they know alot about the Bible unfortunately don't. But without question the one piece of the Bible even folks like Bill Maher know is the dictum "Judge NOT...!"
Is that in the Bible? Yup. Is it incorrect? Nope. Just incomplete. Matthew 7:1 says,
1"Do not judge, or you too will be judged
In another New Testament book, Luke, we see a similar verse,
"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
In context, it certainly seems to state a truth I think we have all experienced: If you are a judgmental twit, guess what? What goes around comes around. (The revised Richard version) Luke adds the positive statement, "Forgive..." and you'll pay good stuff forward. Like forgiveness. Mercy. Some slack... the kind of stuff we cut ourselves, and hope others will too. It's in that whole "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (The Golden Rule) vein, which incidentally, comes from this same part of Matthew.
In understanding a piece of the Bible, a couple of "rules of thumb" are helpful. One is that context is necessary to understand the purpose of a passage. Here, in context, Jesus is contrasting a life of hypocritical judgmentalism by a group of religious folks. (Wow, times sure have changed, huh?) He's warning his followers that a sincere passion to seek righteousness (right living the way God desires it) can often make us legalistic, high and mighty, and yes, judgmental. As we say in my house, "That's a big no-no."
Not only does it invite the judgment of others, it invites the judgment of God. That's the ultimate result of a self-righteous life of looking down one's moral nose at everyone around...you get to the end of the show and you run into the real judge. And He says, Ok, you spent your life throwing the book at folks--it's your turn pal. What about when you said this to your teacher? (but I was so young!) What about when you did this when your wife wasn't looking? (But she deserved it!) What about when you downloaded old episodes of Knight Rider to watch alone with Chunky Monkey Ice cream? (Ok Lord, I just have no excuse for that one)
Judging others harshly often comes back to bite us here, and certainly in the long run it will before God. But does that mean we should or could never judge anyone for anything?
Well that's an interesting question for a later post. For now--take my little quiz and post away.