Judge not lest ye be judged….. (Matthew 7 v 1) KJV
This is one of the often quoted phrases from the biblical ‘Sermon on the Mount’ and one which is frequently used against us when we express critical views about the actions or behaviour of others, particularly when commenting on the internet, in an attempt to shut us up.
So, what does it mean and should we try to avoid making any sort of judgement about others?
Whether you are a Christian or not it is clear that the established church does not practice what it preaches. Over millennia quite the opposite has been true with constant judgements being made against anyone who disagrees with what it says, often resulting in condemnation, torture and death!
Theologians have debated at length as to what was really meant by the statement (similar statements/proverbs occur in other religions). What they all seem to agree on is that it does not mean that we should suspend all judgement of others. They suggest two key elements:
- That we should exercise care when making judgements about others especially when we ourselves may be guilty of hypocrisy.
- That the reason for being careful is that God or some other divinity will judge us on the same basis that we judge others.
But whether you accept the religious aspect of this or not, do you think it is either right or practical to adopt this approach? I would argue that this is neither possible nor desirable to refrain from judging.
We spend every day of our lives making judgements about people and events. Are we really supposed to accept and ignore behaviour which is rude, discourteous, dangerous and unlawful? Should we remain silent when we judge that an injustice has occurred?
Judgement based on known facts should form the basis of our decisions and enable us to take action. Even if we then decide to do nothing we have taken action.
So Christian or not, please stop using this phrase as a defence when people criticise your or others’ actions and don’t pretend that you don’t judge others not least because when you use this phrase you are of course making a judgement yourself!