To Judge or Judge Not: Facing the Facts

Judge with gavel

Part One

It was 7:00 p.m. on a Halloween night. Amidst a flurry of 6 year old Frozen princesses and 13 year old Walking Dead, our perpetually late letter carrier showed up. My first thought was to drop a candy bar in his bag and say, “Well, don’t you just look like a real mailman in your little costume!”

But I didn’t. I bit my tongue. Because one of the worst things I’ve experienced in life is the judgment of others, so God forbid I should do it myself. But, oh, I was tempted! Why? Because we’re wired to make judgments. We judge whether to go to the market or wait till the rain lets up. Whether to open our front door to the guy in the Metallica t-shirt who says he’s “from the gas company.”

And yet, how many times have you heard someone say, “You’re judging me!” as if it were a universally bad thing? Where did it come from, this ban on something we so frequently do?


He’s the one who put the negative spin on the whole judgment thing. It was Jesus who said (in Matthew 7:1), “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Resulting in untold numbers of conversations like:

A: You need to stop playing video games 16 hours a day and get a job!           B: There are people who make a living doing this. Stop judging me!

A: I saw you take that new laptop from the company mail room!                     B: Do you know how little they pay me? Stop judging me!

Without further insight, many are quick to turn Jesus into a roll-me-a-doobie savant whose message is, “Just do your own thing, and don’t tell anybody else what to do, dude!”

But Jesus did explain what he meant. In the very next verse, he says: “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged.” And then he illustrates with an intentionally sarcastic metaphor: “Why do you focus on the speck in your brother’s eye and ignore the log in your own? First pull the log out of your own eye, and then you’ll be able to see clearly to pull the speck out of your brother’s!”

His point? It’s why we judge that’s the issue. In fact, elsewhere he commands us to “judge with right judgment” (John 7:24). But judging in the Matthew 7:1 sense is judging with wrong judgment. Because its purpose is condemnation, and God is in the correction business, so if your goal is condemnation, you’re in the wrong business, dude.

superioriteeshirtCondemnation doesn’t fix anything, it merely makes the accuser feel superior, and in dong so, harms both. “I’m better than you” is the small print Jesus exposes when he says, “Why do you focus on the speck in your brother’s eye?”

Three words are used for judge in the Old Testament. The first two mean to “govern” (shaphat) or “correct” (yakakh). But the third (duwn) signifies “final judgment,” and is used exclusively of God—with one ominous exception: Genesis 4:16 prophesies that a descendent of the tribe of Dan “will judge (duwn) like a serpent.” Because of this verse, Saint Irenaeus concluded that the Antichrist would come from the tribe of Dan! Jesus uses the equivalent term when he warns, “Anyone who says ‘you fool’ (i.e. who passes judgement on another’s character) is in danger of hellfire” (Matthew 5:22).

I once produced a short film entitled The Limited, in which a “good man” dies and finds himself boarding a train en route to see The Judge. On board, he ends up finger-pointingseated across from a hungry, unpleasant woman. He avoids conversing with her or offering her food. When the train arrives, he climbs a long set of stairs and finally meets his Judge…

The woman from the train.

To read Part Two, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to To Judge or Judge Not: Facing the Facts

  1. numrhood says:

    matthew 5:47
    genesis 4:41
    john 7:49


  2. We must judge things in order to go through life, but we are not to be “judgmental”. Good story.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Fascinating word from Iranaeus. I wasn’t aware of that quote and would love to read the primary source. My patristics could do with improvement! If memory serves, he was taught by St. John himself. Likewise, if memory serves, the tribe of Dan is omitted from the lust of tribes in the Revelation to St. John.

    Thanks for your reflection above regarding judgment. You pique my curiosity with regard to Dan.

    Blessings to you and yours,


    Liked by 1 person

  4. *list of tribes in Revelation…

    Typo there. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have often struggled with judgement. We are always judging and deciding, thank you for the idea that it is the reason or intention behind the judgement that is the important piece to examine.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Good piece. Yes, those in the “Judge not – EVER!” camp need to reread the verses. Jesus does say that once the plank is out of our own eye, THEN we’ll see clearly and be able to take the speck out of our brother’s eye.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. joyroses13 says:

    Great post and what a way to end! I can almost feel the man GULP! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. TEP336 says:

    Nicely done, Mitch. For the first bit, you had my internal apologist all riled up. Nice bait and switch. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  9. M.B. Henry says:

    Ooooh that sounds very interesting what you’ve set up in the film! I often feel that the best way a person can make a difference is to stop pointing outward and turn inward. Look in the mirror and ask “how can I be a better person today?”

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The post is true. We walk a fine line in society and must be under the leading of the Holy Spirit when to talk to others, otherwise we can come off as judgmental!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I like it. You are a good narrator, for you know how to tell a story well, and I enjoy reading what you have to say. Thank you for using your gift to help us to understand. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is, by far, the best post I have read on the issue of “righteous judgment”. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m always working on not being “judgey” of others. As you said, I have my own logs to pull out!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I, too, have been guilty of holier-than-thou judgments, only to have Our Lord visit the same conditions which I judged upon me and those close to me. He definitely taught me hard lessons, but I have become a better person for it? I hope; surely I have become more understanding and quick to judge.
    On the other hand, I have noticed a definite misuse of “WWJD” and “Judge not” by those who are in error and will not be rebuked or receive (brotherly) admonitions, yet most definitely judge and judge harshly those who would show them the right path, as Jesus commanded.
    I will be visiting your pages regularly.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Pingback: To Judge or Judge Not: Getting Personal | Mitch Teemley

  16. Tina says:

    Oh, now I’m confused about judging. There’s a wrong and a right judgement? Hmm…well now I’m wondering about my own post about judging. I’m also wondering if I was really judging wrongly or not. Maybe this is why I was so confused about this particular post of mine. Ugh… I don’t know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      When Jesus said, “Judge with right judgment,” he was talking about motives. “Right judgment” isn’t “judging” in the sense many people use the term, i.e. condemnation. It’s discerning what is right or true, and then humbly seeking to restore someone (or something). In other words, it’s an act of grace, of love in action.


      • Tina says:

        Okay. Now I feel like I wrote a post outing myself for condemning people. That definitely wasn’t my motivation. (Outing myself, or condemning.) I was definitely frustrated with a few people, either because I thought they were being insensitive, condemning, or just not doing what they should, but I definitely just wanted people to behave. So I don’t know what you call that. And now I’m super self conscious of my post. I don’t know what I’ve done know what I’ve done right or wrong any more.

        Liked by 1 person

      • mitchteemley says:

        Read it. Liked it. Do you have the complete picture? No, and neither do I, but we’re learning. And in the meantime outing ourselves on occasion (i.e. confession) is a good thing (as long as we don’t forget He still loves us); it gives others permission to do the same!


  17. Pingback: Pride Goes Before the Free Fall – God's Kid Speaks

  18. Jennie says:

    You hit the nail on the head.

    Liked by 1 person

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