The Verse the Culture Misquotes Most Regularly in an Effort to Quiet Christians

As a Christian, I’m often at odds with the culture around me. As our society embraces a growing number of unbiblical behaviors and attitudes, I find myself becoming more and more vocal in my opposition. I’m not alone; many other conservative Christians are also taking a stand for what the Bible teaches, particularly when it comes to moral behavior. Maybe that’s why I seem to hear Matthew 7:1 tossed around so frequently by those who want Christians to quiet down:

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged.”

do not judge

Whenever we, as Christians, speak out against something in the culture, one of two labels is immediately employed in an effort to silence us: we are either branded “intolerant” or “judgmental”. To make matters worse, the second label is often attached to the teaching of Jesus Himself. Are we Christians defying the words of our Master when we speak against the behaviors, attitudes or worldviews affirmed by others? Did Jesus command us to be silently non-judgmental?

This selective use of scripture by the opposition is perhaps the finest example of what we at Stand to Reason are addressing when we caution people to “never read a Bible verse.” Matthew 7:1, when read in isolation from the larger context of the Sermon on the Mount, may seem to command a form of silent acceptance and tolerance advocated by the culture, but a closer examination of the verse reveals Jesus’ true intent. If Jesus was advocating some form of quiet tolerance, how do we explain the following statements?

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (verse 6)

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (verses 13 and 14)

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (verse 15)

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (verses 21, 22 and 23)

Wow, Jesus seems vocally judgmental in these passages. Some people are dogs and swine, unworthy of our efforts. Some people are wrong about the path they choose. Some people are false prophets. Some people are true disciples and some are not. Jesus sure seems comfortable making judgmental statements about people in these passages. How could Jesus say such things when he began this part of the sermon by saying, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged”? Maybe we should revisit the first verses of Matthew 7:

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 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? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5)

It turns out that Jesus is not prohibiting vocal discernment in these passages, but is cautioning against a certain kind of unbecoming behavior: hypocritical judgmentalism.  We are called to live differently so that we can effectively identify and address unbiblical behavior in our culture. I cannot be a practicing thief and effectively caution against thievery. I cannot be an active adulterer and effectively advocate monogamy. I’m going to have to “first” stop and assess my own behavior (take out my own “log”) before I can “then” caution others about their behavior (help them take the “speck” out of their eye). This is a “first / then” commandment. Both sides of the directive are important; Jesus is commanding two equally critical actions. First, we must change our behavior; become people of God who are above reproach. Second, we must actively engage others about their behavior. Some ideas are good and some are bad. Some prophets are true and some are false. Some people are right, some people are wrong. We are called to make statements about such things after we eliminate hypocrisy in these areas of our own lives. We, as Christians, are called to (1) live righteously, and (2) speak out about unrighteousness. We are less likely to do this, however, if we allow folks misquote Jesus in an effort to silence us.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.

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17 replies
  1. Mt says:

    In short it means, don’t judge because you’re also a sinner. Unless you really believe we can be perfect enough to judge…I thought the more appropriate argument would be don’t judge your brother.

    Reply
    • Louie says:

      No, that is not what it means. Jesus tells you to remove the log from your eye first, then you can help your brother. It’s like this… If you are telling your brother not to steal things while you are driving around in a stolen car, your are not going to be effective. Fix your issues first, then turn to help your brother.

      Reply
  2. Andy Ryan says:

    “It turns out that Jesus is not prohibiting vocal discernment in these passages, but is cautioning against a certain kind of unbecoming behavior: hypocritical judgmentalism.”

    Jesus said ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone’. That’s not saying only people who’ve not cheated on their wives can criticise marriage cheats – it reads more like that NO-ONE bar Jesus or God can judge.

    As for hypocrisy, all the Christian leaders who backed Trump DO come across as very hypocritical. He’s lied with impunity and boasted about trying to have sex with married women. When people point this out, the Christian leaders reply that God can use imperfect people to do his work. But these are the same leaders who said Bill Clinton’s infidelity made him a bad choice as President.

    Reply
    • Ed Vaessen says:

      I don’t blame people for judging differently according to what they think is in it for them. We are all opportunists at times.
      I think we should laugh because of this fundamentalist Christian desire to show the world that they have access to something higher, where in fact they behave exactly as all others.

      Reply
    • Jeremy says:

      Andy

      Got to say I agree with you on just about everything on this one. But I would only add that it is ok to call out sin even if we are sinners do it but not arrogantly and egotistically but humbly. Also that no christian should be propping Trump up as some kind of great man that will save this country for Christians. Also if they are going to say that God uses people like Trump to do Gods work then it also applies to Obama. In the case of Obama based on my experience most Christians on the right would say Obama is evil and of the devil devoid of God, which is intellectually inconsistent and dishonest when it comes to using God to further an agenda.

      Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

        Jeremy, it comes down to this. There are certain conservatives who opposed Obama because he wasn’t conservative, and they support Trump because they perceive him to be conservative. But it’s not enough for them to make that argument, they have to claim that God is against Obama and God is for Trump. It’s just a way of trying to bolster their argument – or make a claim without forming a real argument.

        As an aside I’d argue that Trump fails many tests of being a conservative, and fails virtually every test of being a Christian. The one thing I can see to support the Christian mindset is his opposition to abortion, which I’m guessing is at any rate a position he takes purely to gain votes rather than out of any deeply held principle.

        Reply
        • Jeremy says:

          As of right now I would say he does fail the test of being conservative especially as it pertains to business practices . But regardless I open to seeing what he does and even more interested to see how conservatives react, as of now its not going well but not horrible. I guess I just want to see people start being more for actual truth and holding politicians accountable while not going along with said politician because he was their guy.

          Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            Jeremy, I’d argue strongly – very strongly – against the ‘not horrible’.

            First thing is that Trump is a con man – he’s in this for money and validation. The guy to watch is Steven Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist who up till recently was just the co-founder of far-right website Breitbart. It’s Bannon who is running the show and changing America to suit his views. Breitbart is a cesspool of white supremacists. If you visit the comments section of any of their stories you’ll need a shower afterwards.

            Trump has just given Stephen Bannon a role normally held by Generals. Forget the ‘team of rivals’ of Lincoln, Trump has surrounded himself with family members, far right demagogues, and business cronies. He’s clearing house, sacking anyone with the smallest amount of dissent against him. They’ve already turned on the press, Trump this week literally called the fourth estate ‘our opposition’.

            The muslim ban may not bother you – perhaps you even welcome it. But note that it doesn’t include ANY countries whose citizens have launched attacks on Americans. The 9/11 attackers, for example, all came from countries NOT on the list. Interestingly, all the exempt countries are the ones Trump does business with.

            I’m British – some of our own MPs would be forbidden to travel to America under this ban because they were born in countries like Iraq. So would some of our olympic athletes. An Oscar nominated film maker from the middle east won’t be able to attend the ceremony. I’ve seen pictures of a five-year-old in handcuffs this week. None of these things say ‘not horrible’ to me.

            So we’ve got bans on huge groups of people, attacks on the press, a huge emphasis on nationalism, people being painted as ‘enemies of the state’, a leader who brazenly lies to the public, is openly admires dictators in other countries, has threatened a whole US city with martial law (Chicago) and who is openly admired by neo-Nazis and the KKK.

            Jeremy, these are the first steps towards fascism. This is exactly what it looks like at the start. This is how it begins.

          • toby says:

            I would say he passes the test of conservatism when it comes to how he does business. The extreme conservatives hate government and regulation and want some la la land free market that will magically take care of everything on it’s own. As such they push the laws and regulations to their limit and find loopholes to evade them. Or they outright break them. The conservatives (regarding business and money) are every man for himself. I believe it was the co-author of Trumps book that said he doesn’t consider succeeding more than others “winning”. He doesn’t want others to succeed at all. He’s an entitled man-child. A jerk that probably hasn’t heard anyone tell him “No” in 30 or 40 years.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            Toby, to be fair to conservatives, Trump’s trade protectionism is against their philosophy, that says there should be free trade everywhere – if a country can provide goods cheaper than another then everyone should be able to take advantage of that so we all benefit.

            Arguably, Trump fails the ‘small government’ test too. Though I’d say in reality most right-wing governments try to grab more power just as much as left-wing ones do.

          • toby says:

            Toby, to be fair to conservatives, Trump’s trade protectionism is against their philosophy, that says there should be free trade everywhere…

            I would agree and that goes to the narcissism that his coauthor talked about in interviews. No one else can be successful but him. Now either he thinks that protectionism will bring that for the US as a whole or that it will somehow enrich him personally. It could be the latter as we see his unwillingness to remove himself and his family completely from his businesses and not disclose his taxes which could possibly point out clear signs of personal gain and constitutional conflicts. Personally I hope someone hacks into them and leaks them.

            Though I’d say in reality most right-wing governments try to grab more power just as much as left-wing ones do.

            Oh definitely! Except it’s okay when they do it! It’s their clearly visible and hypocritical double standards. Take for instance the rumblings of democrats to filibuster the supreme court nominee and suddenly the GOP is all “A president has the right to have his supreme court justices confirmed! . . . except when he’s a democrat and it gives them the majority on the court . . . and it’s an election year! Yeah, that’s it! Let the people decide!” Well I’m sorry, but the people don’t decide on supreme court justices and if they do it’s with their previous presidential choice. They may technically follow their own rules and the constitution, but they push to the edges of ethics and decorum to get their ways. Gerrymandering, suppressing voting, obstructionism, double standards. Dear god, how they would whine like little female dogs if their president was obstructed like Obama. And likely it all goes back to that line in there personal philosophies implanted by Reagan, “Government can’t fix the problem, government is the problem.”

    • Michael says:

      Big Difference, Trump’s indiscretions are in the past. He has exhibited none of traits in his current life. It appears that he is changed in his heart.

      Reply
  3. Ed Vaessen says:

    Brian says:

    “Ed, Can you help me understand in what ways I behave exactly as all others?”

    I cannot speak for you. I was talking about fundamentalistic christians in general. They live the same like others. Not of course ‘exactly’, as I stated before, because no two people or groups live exactly the same, but enough to make clear that there is no difference that matters. They are not better people than others, nor are they worse. The believe in God does not change that.

    Reply
    • Suzy says:

      I guess that depends on how you define a ‘fundamentalist’ Christian. If he/she fundamentally agrees with Jesus’ teaching as described in the post/blog and acts accordingly then hypocrisy cannot be levelled at them. If we don’t then u have every right to question our labelling ourselves as fundamentalist!

      Reply
  4. Luke says:

    The author wrote:“First, we must change our behavior; become people of G-d who are above reproach.”

    Well, that’s easy! I know tons of people who never sin (are above reproach. I’m being sarcastic, of course.

    Reply

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