Have 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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