Not to judge, or do not judge me?

When some people receive correction, which by the way, is one of the spiritual works of mercy, they come up with a phrase like “you are not supposed to judge me”, “you are judging me”, “do not judge”, “it’s not of your business” and the like, basing it on Biblical passages such as Matt 7:1 or Luke 6:37. But cherry picking passages do not solve the problem of sincerely seeking the truth. Sacred Scripture is not to be understood by picking up some passages here and others there, but in light of ALL Sacred Scripture. First, lets see the above referenced passages taken from our Lord’s sermon on the mount in its context:

[Matthew 7]
{7:1} “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.
{7:2} For with whatever judgment you judge, so shall you be judged; and with whatever measure you measure out, so shall it be measured back to you.

Notice here that our Lord is not saying “not to judge at all”, but “to judge with measure” for He is saying “with whatever judgment you judge…”

{7:3} And how can you see the splinter in your brother’s eye, and not see the board in your own eye?
{7:4} Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter from your eye,’ while, behold, a board is in your own eye?
{7:5} Hypocrite, first remove the board from your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

We cannot judge what we are not able to see, this will make an unjust judgment and able to make the person who judges this way worse than the person who is being judged for hypocrisy is something very grave that our Lord detest. But once we can see clearly, once we have removed the board from our eyes in order to see clearly, once we have removed the thing(s) that blinds us, once we have learned the information so we can clearly see, then we can judge to the extent of what we are able to see, but not further than that. We can judge acts, but we cannot judge the souls of persons (CCC # 1861). For example: A man robs a bank. We can judge that such man committed an immoral act and that he shouldn’t have done it.  But we cannot judge the soul of the person, his intentions, only God knows that. We cannot say “that man enjoys robbing banks” for he could have been forced to rob a bank. Robbing a bank is certainly immoral, but we don’t know what his intentions were, that is beyond our limits or boundaries. We would know his reasons if he reveals those to us.

So in this context, we can understand what our Lord means:

[Luke 6]
{6:37} Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

We cannot judge the (soul of the) person, for this particular judgment only belongs to God; but we can judge the acts to the extent that we can see.

We cannot condemn the (soul of the) person, for this particular condemning only belongs to God; but we can condemn the evil acts and a person to the extent of such evil acts (e.g. sending a person to prison in order to be punished in accordance with his or her crime).

Jesus Christ also teaches:

[John 7]
{7:24} Do not judge according to appearances, but instead judge a just judgment.”

Again, our Lord does not teach “not to judge at all”, but not to judge according to appearances for this makes us unjust judges, only God knows the soul or the heart of persons.

Even a prophet of God can be mistaken by judging on appearances for prophet Samuel thought that Jesee’s oldest son was chosen by God to be the next king of Israel:

[1 Samuel 16]
{16:7} And the Lord said to Samuel: “You should not look with favor on his face, nor on the height of his stature. For I have rejected him. Neither do I judge by the appearance of a man. For man sees those things that are apparent, but the Lord beholds the heart.”

Judging is something that we do everyday for we make use of our free will with our intellect. With our God’s given intellect, we are able to judge what is good and what is bad and then able to choose good even against our inclinations or instincts.

“…That man is rightly called a king who makes his own body an obedient subject and, by governing himself with suitable rigor, refuses to let his passions breed rebellion in his soul, for he exercises a kind of royal power over himself. And because he knows how to rule his own person as king, so too does he sit as its judge. He will not let himself be imprisoned by sin, or thrown headlong into wickedness.” – (CCC# 908).

“The object chosen is a good toward which the will deliberately directs itself. It is the matter of a human act. The object chosen morally specifies the act of the will, insofar as reason recognizes and judges it to be or not to be in conformity with the true good. Objective norms of morality express the rational order of good and evil, attested to by conscience.” – (CCC # 1751).

“Moral conscience, present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil…” (CCC # 1777) – (See also CCC # 2488).

Our Lord Jesus responded to the Pharisee Simon: “You have judged correctly” when Simon responded that the debtor who was forgiven the most would love his creditor more (Luke 7:40-43) – notice that in this case Simon responded “I suppose” (7:43), he didn’t say “I know for sure”; therefore, we all do judgements in our lives, all the time, but our judgements must not go beyond our knowledge. Jesus also taught us: “Be reconciled with your adversary quickly, while you are still on the way with him, lest perhaps the adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you will be thrown in prison.” (Matthew 5:25).

At the sermon on the mount, our Lord Jesus Christ also taught us to beware of false prophets and that we shall known them by their fruits:

{7:15} Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
{7:16} You shall know them by their fruits. Can grapes be gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?
{7:17} So then, every good tree produces good fruit, and the evil tree produces evil fruit.
{7:18} A good tree is not able to produce evil fruit, and an evil tree is not able to produce good fruit.
{7:19} Every tree which does not produce good fruit shall be cut down and cast into the fire.
{7:20} Therefore, by their fruits you will know them.

Therefore, in order to know whether the fruits of somebody are good or bad, we need to judge. We need to make judgments!

Our Lord taught that our judgment must be just:

[Leviticus 19]
{19:15} You shall not do what is unjust, nor shall you judge unjustly. You shall not consider the reputation of the poor, nor shall you honor the countenance of the powerful. Judge your neighbor justly.

[Colossians 4]
{4:1} You masters, supply your servants with what is just and equitable, knowing that you, too, have a Master in heaven.

Our judgements must not go beyond of what we are able to measure or clearly see. If God would not want us to judge at all, then He wouldn’t have permitted Judges to take care of the Israelite people, and we have an entire Book in the Bible called precisely “Judges”, and what do Judges do?

The Magisterium of the Church has received the task from God to judge regarding the correct interpretation of Sacred Scripture (CCC # 119), to judge whether an alleged Sacrament of Marriage is null (CCC #1629), among other things.

There are circumstances where we also have the moral obligation to inform a person that a determinate act that such person is planning to do (or is doing) is immoral; also, not to cooperate with immoral acts. We can be committing a sin of omission by letting a person to do an evil act without any action from our part. Pope St. John Paul II taught:

“Christians, like all people of good will, are called upon under grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God’s law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. Such cooperation occurs when an action, either by its very nature or by the form it takes in a concrete situation, can be defined as a direct participation in an act against innocent human life or a sharing in the immoral intention of the person committing it. This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it. Each individual in fact has moral responsibility for the acts which he personally performs; no one can be exempted from this responsibility, and on the basis of it everyone will be judged by God himself (cf. Rom 2:6; 14:12)”. – Evangelium Vitae n. 74.

God Himself is Justice, and through ALL Sacred Scriptures, it is written that God loves a just person, those who live in order to please God and seek HIS justice, not to seek one’s own “justice”.

[Romans 14]
{14:17} For the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but rather justice and peace and joy, in the Holy Spirit.
{14:18} For he who serves Christ in this, pleases God and is proven before men.
{14:19} And so, let us pursue the things that are of peace, and let us keep to the things that are for the edification of one another.

[Psalm 16] (17)
{16:1} A Prayer of David. Lord, listen to my justice, …

{17:21} And the Lord will reward me according to my justice, and he will repay me according to the purity of my hands.

[Psalm 74] (75)
{74:3} While I have time, I will judge justices.

[Psalm 105] (106)
{105:3} Blessed are those who keep judgment and who do justice at all times.

Our Lord Jesus teaches us that a just man is in the right path to Heaven:

[Mathew 5]
{5:20} For I say to you, that unless your justice has surpassed that of the scribes and the Pharisees you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

{6:33} Therefore, seek first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things shall be added to you as well.

{2:25} And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and God-fearing, …

{23:50} And behold, there was a man named Joseph [of Arimathea], who was a councilman, a good and just man

A “just” person in Biblical terms is someone who seeks justice according to the precepts of God, and “justice” is to judge what is right, what is fair, what is morally good. The “just” are those who act in right judgement within their capacity. Notice that our Lord mentions “justice” twice in His beatitudes “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied”, “Blessed are those who endure persecution for the sake of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5: 6 & 10), so it is very important to Him.

The Second Vatican Council teaches:

Man judges rightly that by his intellect he surpasses the material universe, for he shares in the light of the divine mind.” (Gaudium Et Spes, #15., 1).

“This faith needs to prove its fruitfulness by penetrating the believer’s entire life, including its worldly dimensions, and by activating him toward justice and love, especially regarding the needy.” – (ibid, #21., 5).

“It grows increasingly true that the obligations of justice and love are fulfilled only if each person, contributing to the common good, according to his own abilities and the needs of others, also promotes and assists the public and private institutions dedicated to bettering the conditions of human life.” (ibid # 30, 1).

“For man, created to God’s image, received a mandate to subject to himself the earth and all it contains, and to govern the world with justice and holiness;(1) a mandate to relate himself and the totality of things to Him Who was to be acknowledged as the Lord and Creator of all.” (ibid # 34, 1).

“Christians who take an active part in present-day socio-economic development and fight for justice and charity should be convinced that they can make a great contribution to the prosperity of mankind and to the peace of the world.” (ibid # 72, 1).

This should suffice in order to know that “not to judge at all” is not God’s teaching, nor the teaching of His Church.

Last but not least, when somebody says: “do not judge at all”, or “you are not supposed to judge (at all)”, that is actually a self-referential incoherence fallacy. That person is refuting himself/herself for he or she is judging that the other person should not judge. He or she is judging that the other person is supposedly acting wrongly.

See also: (1 Cor 6: 2-3 . 5) (10:15) (11:13).

-Francisco Figueroa.

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5 Responses to Not to judge, or do not judge me?

  1. Matt Z. says:

    Good post. I would also like to add that we should not judge someone until we have sufficient information to make the judgement. St.Bonaventure talks about this in his work on the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit when he talks about the Gift of Wisdom.

  2. Christine says:

    We had a priest who did a Parish Mission in our church.
    He spoke about Jesus feeding 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish, near the Bethsaida area. All ate and were filled and twelve baskets full of broken pieces of bread and of the fish were left over.
    The second miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fish took place in the Decapolis area.
    Jesus fed 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. Seven baskets of that food were left over.
    This priest completely stunned and angered me when he said, that people most likely, had food hidden in bags and under their clothing and Jesus urged them to share and that was the miracle.

    Yes, I judged him and thought: O’ ye of little faith…and how dare to deny the Supernatural.
    The parish priest was present and he did not contradict him.
    I complained to a couple of friends, but was afraid to speak out. They too, were afraid to be considered spoilers.
    So what does a person do in that instance?
    This priest was travelling around the country-side…and I regret for not having spoken out.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I think the best thing to do is to keep silent, and pray. This type of error is fairly common, and those who assert it are not easily corrected.

    • franciscofigueroa1 says:

      It concerns me what is happening at the Seminaries, how the seminarians are taught and lead to be priests. I also think that the anathemas must come back at the next Synods or Ecumenical Council(s).

    • franciscofigueroa1 says:

      “But to satisfy five thousand people with five loaves; to dispense living water to the Samaritan woman, a drink of which will stop her being thirsty ever again; to walk on the surface of the sea with feet that do not sink; to rebuke the storm and level the mounting waves; there can be no doubt these are divine.” – The letter of Pope Leo I to Flavian, bishop of Constantinople, about Eutyches

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