Sleight of Tongue
Would it surprise you if I told you I could prove by scripture that God never sent Jesus to earth? Well, watch out. In one of the gospels, the writer says,
“For God sent not His Son into the world.”
There you go. I purposely left off telling you the location of this scripture because it’s one of the most famous scriptures in the entire New Testament – the entire bible, for that matter.
As a Christian, especially if you are a new Christian (or an old one who just has trouble memorizing scripture), you may not remember exactly what verse that was, but you know it has a familiar lilt, like something you’ve heard before. Perhaps it was John 3:16.
Quickly you grab your bible and flip over to John 3:16. You begin reading, and you heart drops. It’s not there. But, wait! There it is. In verse 17 you read the partially quoted verse, taken out of context. Your pulse quickens and your eyes are lit up like hot coals as you spin around to confront —— WAIT! STOP!! JUST STOP!!
Are You Judging Me?
Were you about to call me a fraud? Were you judging me? Well, I hope you were. We all have a protective instinct that causes us to bow up at anything that seems to be a threat to something we love or believe in.
The fact is, the bible really does say that, word for word, (at least it does if you’re reading the King James Version) but, if you believe that misquoted malarkey just because I said it, then you are suffering from what I’m going to call “The ‘Judge Not’ Syndrome.” What I really did was take a carefully selected group of words from within a verse, and quoted them to you in the correct order, but completely out of context, hoping that I could convince you that the gospel was a lie.
Most of you didn’t buy into my lie because you’ve known John 3:16-17 by heart since childhood. I chose this popular verse to show you how easily someone can use the bible to make you believe whatever brand of doctrine they may be selling. If and when somebody does this to you for real, it might not be a passage you are familiar with. To be safe, don’t trust everyone you hear quoting scripture. If you don’t have a bible at that particular time, make a note of the scripture and look it up when you get home.
Yes, there I go again, cautioning you to be suspicious of someone who could possibly change the direction of your heart, your life, or your soul. In the secular world, especially among those who love to pepper their conversation with scripture, this would be called “judging.”
God has made it very clear in His word that we should judge others, and often, else how are we to know if we’re in danger, or being lied to? In a moment I’ll give you some scriptures where Jesus “commands” us to judge others. But, first let’s take a look at the misunderstood “Judge not” verses. Matthew 7:1-5 NKJV says,
“1. Judge not, that you be not judged. 2. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4. Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5. Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Now, before we attempt to understand those verses, we need to hear them in context. In other words, we need surrounding information (preceding and following verses) to provide the setting of the text, or to give clarity and meaning to the ideas or events in the verses.
To quote Evangelist Dr. Donald A Carson (a quote handed down to him by his father), “A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.” I like to use the more condensed and understandable version, “Text without Context is Pretext.” Of course, pretext is “a ‘reason’ given in justification of a course of action that is not the real ‘reason’.” Unfortunately, the lack of context is what caused a bible verse to be so infamously misquoted, thus making it necessary for me to include all five verses in this writing.
To continue, we need to answer a couple of questions, the first being, “Who is Jesus talking to?” In this passage He’s talking to His disciples. That would mean that today He’s talking to us as church members, or believers, from the pastor to the newest convert. Since Jesus is not talking to lost people, or unbelievers, this point becomes very important.
The second question would be, “What does Jesus mean when He says ‘judge not’?” Here, He is forbidding us to pronounce someone guilty before God, and He explains why with a warning found in verse two. In words that we may better understand, He is telling us that undue harshness and a judgmental attitude toward others will result in us being treated the same way by God.
Verses three and four warn us against accusing a brother of something trivial when at the same time, we are doing far worse. A good example of this might be you complaining about the unkempt grass and shrubs, or leaves on the church grounds when you didn’t bother to show up for workday at the church yourself, nor have you bothered to even come to church for four months. You know I could have come up with some more evil type sins than not coming to church, but I believe my point has been made. I’m sure that we could all find ourselves guilty of similar behavior, some to a lesser degree maybe, but still guilty.
In verse five, Jesus has a good point to make. If we would use a discerning eye to spot things wrong in our church, or in our fellow members behavior, we should take what we find and use it as a reminder to ourselves to first clean up our own lives before we try to change someone else. In other words, use some of the “judgement” on yourself. If you’re like me, you’re about to find out that it’s not in your top ten most favorite things to do.
Uh, Sir? Just One More Thing!
Now I’m going to knock the props out from under you with an additional verse. Almost in the same breath, Jesus cautions His disciples to be aware that a time may come when enough is enough. Let’s look at verse six. “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.” – (Matthew 7:6 NKJV) – This is a heartbreaking verse to me, but very important.
First, in order for us to understand the meaning of verse six, we need to understand the symbolism of three words from that verse; dogs, swine, and pearls. In ancient days, Jewish people (don’t forget that Jesus and His disciples were Jews) looked upon dogs and swine as offensive because they were scavengers and unclean. Therefore, they commonly referred to outsiders as dogs or swine. Pearls, in this context, symbolize the great value of the message of the Kingdom of Heaven. So, in essence He is referring to unbelievers (dogs and swine), and the Gospel of salvation through Christ (message of the Kingdom of Heaven).
To give verse six meaning that we can understand today, I’m going to give a commentary taken word for word from the ESV Study Bible Commentary. “Believers are to be merciful, forgiving, and slow to judge, yet they should wisely discern the true character of people and not indefinitely continue proclaiming the gospel to them who adamantly reject it, so that they can move on and proclaim the gospel to others.”
I don’t want to get off the subject here, but don’t miss the double message in this verse. First, Jesus is telling us to use judgment in how long we should try to help an unbeliever. For example, there are people who have learned to show an interest in accepting Christ while they accept charity from a church in the form of food, clothes, and even utility bills. Eventually the church, or churches will catch on and put a stop to the mooching, but not until one or more members became suspicious and ‘judged’ him. Then there are the ones that are concerned about their souls, but after years of refusing to give up the life of sin that they love, God will eventually tell us, “Don’t bother with him anymore. There’s another who needs salvation. Go and share the Gospel with them.”
The heartbreaking part of the double message is that God will only take rejection from a person for a period of time known only to God. It may be more for some and less for others. Only God knows this. Sadly, there are thousands of people that apparently believe that “God is love, and He would never send me to Hell.” Well, yes God does love you, so much in fact that He allowed His Son to be slaughtered on a cross as a sacrifice for your ugly sins. Yes God does love you, but you will spend eternity in Hell if you reject Him.
The Wisdom of Judging
There are many verses that we could use to show you the wisdom of judging, but I’m only going to use one more passage, and it’s located in the same chapter we’ve used above. Matthew 7:15-20 says,
“15. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17. Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.20. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
The first word in verse fifteen should tip you off, “Beware.” You are warned that you should watch out, because there is at least one person out of many that you are going to come in contact with that intends to bring harm to you. When you see them, they all look the same; nice suit, good speaker, outgoing personality. You just don’t know when or where. So you watch them. Look at the fruit they bear. Judge them by their actions and by what they say, against what the Word of God tells you that you should see and hear. When you do single this person out, (maybe he or she is a TV evangelist), it’s very likely that you will have a friend who really likes this “false prophet.” The first words your friend will say to you is, “Don’t judge him. He’s preaching what he believes.” That response makes no sense to me but people continue to use it.
At the risk of making your pastors angry with me, I want to encourage you to question them. Ask them about their beliefs, the doctrine they teach, and anything questionable you hear in their sermons. A good pastor will usually be eager to back up what he preaches with scripture, which he will share with you to study on your own time.
Use Good Judgement
I want to urge you to be very careful about passing judgment on your Christian brothers and sisters. God has warned us about making unrighteous judgments against His own. Don’t bring His wrath down upon yourself.
Honestly, I hardly ever hear true Christians using the “Don’t Judge” verse. That response was designed by Satan to be used by his children to keep Christians at arm’s length. As a Christian, a better response would be, “You need to walk a mile in my shoes before you scold me about my faults.”
Learn how to study the bible. Never read just one verse and walk away. Search for the context of a verse, or the reason that verse was spoken to begin with. Learn the truth of God’s Word through study and prayer.
In closing, I want to leave you with a verse of scripture that should be the foundation for much of your bible study, and a focal point in both your witnessing and your testimony.
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;” (1 Peter 3:15 NKJV)