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Does Luke 6:37 mean that we can't judge? The Bible states throughout the scriptures that we can judge but in a righteous way, so does the book of Luke condemn the act of judgement? Luke 6:37 - New King James reads:

Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Please can you explain this verse to me?

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    "The Bible states throughout the scriptures that we can judge but in a righteous way ..." - Where do you believe this to be the case?
    – user33515
    Mar 1, 2022 at 0:01
  • @user33515 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. John 7:24
    – Nigel J
    Mar 1, 2022 at 16:09

4 Answers 4

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At first glance the Bible appears quite confused about whether we should judge or not:

1. We should NOT judge

  • Matt 7:1, 2 - “Do not judge, or you will be judged. For with the same judgment you pronounce, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
  • Rom 14:4, 13 - Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. ... Therefore let us stop judging one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.
  • 1 Cor 4:5 - Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
  • Col 2:16 - Therefore let no one judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a feast, a New Moon, or a Sabbath.
  • James 4:12 - There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

2. We should Judge

  • Luke 12:57 - And why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?
  • John 7:24 - Stop judging by outward appearances, and start judging justly.”
  • 1 Cor 5:12 - Are you not to judge those inside? {inside the church - ie, we should judge them!]
  • 1 Cor 6:1-6 - (V2) And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?
  • 1 Cor 11:13 - Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?

So, what are we to make of this? It is immediately obvious that these two sets of texts are discussing judgement is two different sets of circumstances:

  1. We should NOT judge the final destiny (heaven or hell) for others - that is a matter for God alone
  2. We should judge our own moral choices - else how can we make any moral decisions. This includes expelling those from the Christian community who flagrantly make bad moral choices (1 Cor 5, 6).

Thus, there is no contradiction.

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The subsequent verses provide valuable context.

For example:

For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again (Luke 6:38b)

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. (Luke 6:42)

See also further discussion in the parallel passages in Matthew 7:1-5. Most students of the Synoptic Problem acknowledge that Luke either copied this teaching from Matthew, or both Matthew & Luke copied it from the same source, so it is highly instructive to compare how 2 evangelists worded the same teaching.

Summary

We are taught not to apply a standard of judgement to others we would not want applied to ourselves. We are also taught not to condemn or make final judgement against another person--that's God's prerogative (see John 5:22)

We are certainly not told, however, not to judge whether a choice that confronts us is good or bad--these are the kinds of judgements we are expected to make all the time.

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    +1 Good answer. The linguistic difference should be made between individual moral choices. Eg Perceiving and choosing for ourselves what the "right" action is to take vs Judgement of what someone else has done. Condemnation. The Bible translations often use the same word for both cases but they are actually talking about completely different things. Then of course if we perceive a person to have chosen the "wrong" action how do we approach correcting this? Do we attack/ condem ? Or Do we try to work with them to correct and overcome it.
    – Marshall
    Mar 2, 2022 at 4:14
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In this passage of Luke (6:37-42), Jesus addresses the human propensity to scrutinize and critique the faults of others. Jesus’ parable draws attention to the role of the eyes and how they tend to focus on the shortcomings of others while remaining blind to our own faults.

Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. – vv 41-42

Just as the person with the log in his own eye cannot see to remove the speck in that of another, a person cannot help someone whom he is intent on judging. Consider the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Lk 18:9-14). The Pharisee judged the tax collector but gave no thought to helping him repent or reform. Similarly, the men who accused the woman of committing adultery (Jn 8:3-11) felt no sympathy for her when they brought her before Jesus to be judged and condemned.

Jesus did not condemn her. And in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, it is the latter who is justified. These stories show how the tendency to judge others is in and of itself a liability that risks incurring God’s ire. In the end, we are all sinners who await God’s judgment (1 Cor 4:4-5, Jam 4:12). What this passage adds to our understanding of this process is how the measure of mercy that we offer others affects the measure of mercy that we ourselves will receive (cf Mt 5:7, Jam 5:9, Jam 2:13)

Pardon, and you will be pardoned. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return. – vv 37-38

Jesus’ stories and teachings show us how to look beyond appearances and external factors to discern for ourselves between right and wrong (cf Jn 7:24, Lk 12:57). We are not called to judge any person but to become better judges of the words and actions of ourselves and others, the final goal of which is to become fully trained models of Christ.

A student is not above the teacher; but everyone, when he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher. – v 40

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In the continuation in this verse (Luke 6:38) is shown the logic: "For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you"; the same is said in Matthew: "for by what judgment you will judge, by the same judgment you will be judged" (Matthew 7:2).

By whom judged? By your own conscience, first of all. For when you judge somebody for, say, adultery and then find yourself committing the same sin, you will suffer doubly: first of all any sin damages soul and ruins our peace with Lord, but in addition to that you also suffer because of a difficulty of forgiving yourself or asking Lord to forgive you, because your own strictness towards your neighbor censures you and blocks your way to accept both divine forgiveness and self-forgiveness. Then you must also ask for forgiveness of being strict to your neighbor and stretch the same generosity to him and his transgression that you wish to stretch towards yourself and your transgression.

But many a people prefer to remain themselves unforgiven and unhappy than to withhold their condemnations of others, so sweet, even if toxically so, those condemnations are for them.

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