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“Judge Not . . .”: An Analysis of Luke 6.37-49

Lesson ▪ 1995
Tags: Luke 6:37-49; Judging; Christian ethics


Introduction

There is much debate among Christians concerning the subject of judging in general, and concerning Lk 6.37 in particular. Given the fact that judging is prohibited in this text, some feel compelled to ask whether there be any place in godliness for the condemnation of immoral behavior. Unfortunately, many discussions of judging do not take into account the verses that follow the prohibition; and understandably so, for on the surface, they do not seem to bear on the subject. But such is not the ease, as this study will demonstrate. In fact, the subject of judging is in view all the way from v 37 to the end of the chapter.

Suffice it to say for now that the benefits of refraining from judgmentalism (“. . . ye shall not be judged . . .”) are experienced in earthly life rather than in the afterlife. In other words, in eternity God will not absolve someone’s sin simply because he or she was forgiving during life on earth. However, God does seem to have in effect control measures that ensure that, in the present, the more forgiveness and tolerance one imparts, the more one is likely to receive. Jesus’ discourse begins with a series of commands—two negative and two positive (vv 37-38). Accompanying the commands are the promises that one is likely to be treated with the same amount of grace with which one treats others.

37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

Lessons from Four Walks of Life

Having pronounced the initial commands and promises, Jesus proceeded to illustrate and amplify his basic teaching with lessons from four walks of life.

The Lesson from Education
“Judging is the privilege of the teacher.”

Jesus’ first lesson springs from the practice of discipleship—a personalized form of instruction that appears to have been prevalent for centuries leading up to New Testament times.* In discipleship, one individual (the disciple) would adopt as his or her own the views and lifestyle of another (the master).* In vv 39-40, Jesus taught that, in discipleship, judging is the privilege of the teacher. A master, by virtue of his position, can aptly apply discernment to the conduct of his disciple. A blind man, on the contrary, can provide no meaningful direction to another blind man, because he has no advantage over his student (v 39). The application is, then that we ought to refrain from judging others’ behavior, except in those relationships in which we can appropriately be characterized as spiritual mentors.

39 And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?
40 The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.

The Lesson from Medicine
“Judging is the profession of purity.”

The second lesson Jesus taught relates to the field of medicine—and more specifically, to the science of ophthalmology. Medically speaking, it is obvious that one whose eyesight is severely impaired is unqualified to diagnose another’s less serious visual impairment. In the spiritual realm, it is utterly ridiculous and hypocritical to point out another’s fault when one’s own fault looms even larger. Thus, in vv 41-42, Jesus communicated the message that “judging is the profession of purity.” By this is meant that judging is by nature a succinct statement of one’s own flawlessness. The application is, therefore, that we are to refrain from judging except in such cases when we are not guilty of the offense which we would point out in another’s life.

41 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
42 Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.

The Lesson from Agriculture
“Judging is not an evidence of character.”

Jesus’ third lesson is based on the agricultural principle that a plant produces fruit that is consistent—in kind and quality—with its own nature. The spiritual correlation is that one’s personal character is made evident by one’s behavior. Thus, while the text plainly states that godly conduct is the expression of inward goodness (v 45), it is implied by the context that “judging is not an evidence of character.” Practically applied, this principle teaches that we ought to refrain from judging if our motivation for doing so is to appear godly.

43 For it good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth it corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
44 For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.
45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

The Lesson from Architecture
“Judging is not a source of stability.”

Jesus’ fourth and final lesson emanates from the basic architectural principle that a building without a firm foundation is doomed to destruction. In the spiritual realm, a life that is lacking stability is certain to suffer damage in the course of life (v 49). The text teaches that spiritual stability is the product of obedience to Christ’s words (vv 46-48). The argument from silence is that, contrary to what we may be inclined to think, judging others does nothing to enhance our spiritual stability. The application is that we ought to refrain from judgmentalism if we use it as a ploy to enhance our spiritual standing.

46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
47 Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:
48 He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.
49 But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.

Conclusion

On the basis of the interpretations made above, it is reasonable to conclude that the intent of Christ’s statement, “Judge not . . .” was not to prohibit entirely the condemnation of moral wrongdoing in others’ lives. Rather, it was to ensure, first, that such condemnation is never made except from the vantage-point of authentic spiritual authority; and, second, that the motivation for such activity is never the personal gain of the judge.


* Trever, George Henry. “Disciple.” The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, s.v.


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