To Judge or Not To Judge

judgeHave you heard Christians argue about the word “judge?” I’ve heard it a lot ever since I was a teenager in church. Sometimes a person would say that we should not judge others and they quote Scripture to back up their view. On the other hand, another Christian would disagree and say that the Bible does affirm that we can “judge.” And so the debate rages on between the two. What is really the truth about this? I find it amusing now but it was previously confusing to me. So let me share with you what I have learned.

What the Bible Says About “Judge”

The Bible does confirm that we are not to judge in Matthew 7:1. It says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

On the other hand, the Bible does also confirm that we can actually judge as it says in 1 Corinthians 6:2: “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!”

Same Greek Word, Different Meanings

So, is there a conflict here? Take note that in both places, it’s the same Greek word krino that is used and in both places, it’s also translated into English as “judge.” Does the Bible contradict itself? How do we reconcile these seemingly opposing views?

Well, actually this is again a case where it is really important to really understand first the context in each particular situation. In a previous blog, I explained that words derive its meaning depending on how it is used in a sentence within a particular context.

In the case of Matthew 7:1, a little bit of checking the context where the word “judge” is found will tell us that what is meant here is the attitude of condemning. Jesus is telling his audience not to condemn others when he said, “Judge not.” In real life, how often do we see and hear people condemn others. It’s a common sin among us. Some condemn other people so easily they don’t even think about it. It has become a habit. Jesus reminds us that oftentimes, we can become so judgmental we can see easily the speck in other people’s eyes but we can’t see the plank in our very own eyes!

Anyway, that is the context of what Jesus said in Matthew 7:1.

On the other hand, in 1 Corinthians 6, we find that the same word, “judge” (translated from the same Greek word, krino) is used but in a different context. What Paul meant was that we can truly discern, analyze, figure out, consider the pros and cons, deliberate on the matter, decide, come up with a conclusion and be like a judge in a courtroom. He said that we will judge the world and angels and therefore we should be able to “judge trivial cases” based of course on God’s standard of righteousness and justice.

This is clearly another context using the same word, “judge” which is the same Greek word, krino both in Matthew 7:1 and 1 Cor. 6:2.

This is again another lesson in biblical interpretation. Let us remember this always: Words derive its meaning depending on how it is used in a particular context.

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What is Heaven Like?

God’s Great Love

Dancing ParableDr. C. Baxter Kruger has really helped me a lot in my understanding of how great God’s love is for all of humanity through his writings. It was a great blessing for me that I was able to hear him personally when I attended a conference back 2007 in California. Here’s an excerpt from his booklet entitled, “Parable of the Dancing God” which explains what I mean:

  • Heaven a Party, a Feast!

    “It has been said that while the Bible speaks often about heaven, it does not actually tell us much about what heaven is going to be like. Well, if you want to know what heaven is like, here it is. It is a party. It is a feast. It is a celebration thrown by God the Father and He is the lead dancer. Heaven is about being at the Father’s party and being the celebrated guest of honor, in spite of your disqualifying failure.

    The first of these three parables says that there is “joy in heaven” (v. 7, NASB) over one sinner’s rescued life. In the second parable the angels of God throw a party when a sinner gets the point and turns from his nothingness to the Father. In the third parable there is no mention of joy in heaven, no mention of angels throwing a party, there is only this wonderful picture of the dancing God. There is only this vivid image of the Father running, embracing, and kissing this fallen son, and commanding a great celebration.

    That is heaven. It is the excitement of God; it is the Father’s dancing joy, exploding into the greatest party in history.

    Is that not a wonderful picture of what church is to be like here and now—the joy of God taking shape in our hearts and producing a celebration? We are into “models” today when we talk about the church. Well, here is a great model: the partying church.

    The Heart of Missions and Evangelism

    Is this not the very heart of evangelism? Should it not be that when people, like the older brother (v. 25), come in from work, they hear music and dancing in the church, and want to know what this is all about?

    Is this not the very heart of our mission? Are we not called to be a celebrating people who are so excited and filled with the grace and joy of our Father that the celebration gets the attention of the world?”

If you want to get a free eBook copy of this booklet, please click this link.

Derived Meaning in Scripture

Bible

One valuable lesson I learned in Bible interpretation is this:

  • “Words derive its meaning from how it is used in a sentence within a particular context.”

This is not my original idea. I learned this from others who know better than me and I fully agree. Another way of saying this is that:

  • “The message of the text is not conveyed through single words alone but through words in relationship with each other as they occur in a specific literary context.”

This is really very helpful and is always a good reminder as we try to understand and interpret the Bible.

Derived Meaning: Same Word, Different Meanings

A good example is the word judge found in the 1611 King James Version of the Bible. In Matthew 7:1 Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” This is quite a direct statement coming from Jesus himself and is quite clear.

But on the other hand, we find that the apostle Paul seems to be telling the Corinthian Christians that they can and should judge. Here’s the verse in 1 Corinthians 6:2: “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!”

As we can see, the same English word judge is used in both verses but it seems to be telling us two opposing instructions. And please take note that in both verses, the same Greek word, krino is used translated in English as, judge. Jesus tells us not to judge but Paul tells us that we can and should judge! Is there a conflict here?

Context, Context, Context!

Of course there is no conflict! I explained this matter in another blog post. Most of you will have already figured out by now that context is important in properly understanding the meaning of words whether it be in the Bible or in our daily communication with others.

Although the same word, judge is used, but the contexts are different! There’s a world of difference! Let us therefore not rely on our own “expertise” about the Bible, the Hebrew or the Greek languages. As we have discovered, the Greek word, krino which is translated as judge in both passages in the King James Bible can have different meanings depending on how it is used in a particular context.

Hope this bit of information will help improve our understanding and appreciation of what God is truly saying in the Bible.

Suggested Further Reading: