“Judge Not”

This Sunday my pastor asked me to teach in our Community Service, and he–probably unwisely ;)–gave me total freedom as to subject. I’m going to look at Matthew 7:1-5 both this week and probably next. It’s a passage I often use in my counseling ministry; it reminds us of our bias towards self. We really think the other person in conflict is wronger than us, but we are hobbled in making that judgment because of our inability to see ourselves clearly.

Verse 1 tells us not to judge others, but it doesn’t mean what most unbelievers think it means. It’s not a blanket condemnation of making evaluations about others. We know this because in the same chapter we are told that we can make some evaluations of others (7:6, 19-20). It is a command not to sinfully judge or condemn others.

Years ago I developed this chart to help me understand the difference. Hopefully it helps you too.

By the way, I hesitated to call it discernment because of the misuse of that word by so-called discernment ministries online. However, it’s a biblical word that should be rescued, and maybe by emphasizing grace, I will contribute to a more accurate understanding of it.

Sinfully JudgingGraciously Discerning
To condemn someone (often based on personal opinion). To act in the place of God.
Rom 14:3–4 (ESV) Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
To see things as they really are, as God describes them in His Word.
Phil 1:9 (ESV) And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, Heb 5:14 (ESV) But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.    
Will be spiritually blind to my own lack in the same area (Mt 7:3-4).Will thoroughly examine myself first (Mt 7:3-4; Gal 6:1).
Will be eager to tell about another’s failure.
1 Cor 13:6a (ESV) [Love] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing….
Will deal with the matter as privately as possible (Mt 18).
Will feel superior because of their failure. “I’m better than that.”Will grieve because of their failure. “I’m very much like that.”
Will base opinions on hearsay.
John 7:24, 51 (ESV) Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” 51 “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?”
Jam 4:11 (ESV) Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.
Will be concerned with accuracy.
Prov 18:13 (ESV) If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.  
Will go to him to get the story straight (Mt 18).
Luke 17:3 (ESV) Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, [Has the idea of rebuking tentatively. You might not have the whole story.]
Rejects a sinning brother.
2 Cor 2:6–8 (ESV) For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.
Restores a sinning brother (Mt 18; Lk 17:3; Gal 6:1).

Here are the differences I see. Are there any contrasts that you would add?

Message to Garcia

All four of my children spent a week at the United States Naval Academy the summer before their senior year for the USNA Summer Seminar. It’s an opportunity for students to experience a little of the Naval Academy to help them decide if they want to pursue a nomination and appointment. While there, they heard a story that the Navy has used for almost 100 years. It’s summarized as “Message to Garcia.”

It was a published essay that claims that just before the beginning of the Spanish-American War, President McKinley needed to get a message to the head of the Cuban insurgency, Calixto Garcia. Unfortunately, no one knew where he was in the interior of Cuba. But, he was told, a man named Rowan could find him if anyone could. So the President dispatched Lt. Andrew S. Rowan to find Garcia and deliver the message, and Rowan didn’t ask any questions. He just did it.

One part of the essay summarizes Rowan’s task this way.

How “the fellow by the name of Rowan” took the letter, sealed it up in an oilskin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and delivered his letter to Garcia—are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail. The point that I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, “Where is he at?” By the Eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing—“Carry a message to Garcia.” [1]Elbert Hubbard, A Message to Garcia (East Aurora, NY: Roycrofters, 1914) https://www.gutenberg.org/files/17195/17195-h/17195-h.htm, Accessed on May 11, 2021.

The essay encourages initiative, determination, and independent action to solve problems. The author took quite a bit of historical liberty with it and that and being told “Message to Garcia” when you ask any questions about a task you’ve been given have contributed to the cynicism with which many regard it today. Sometimes it’s a way to cut off discussion and accuse the questioner of lacking initiative.

But “Message to Garcia” is probably what some of us need to hear in our ministries. The average pastor, the average volunteer, and the average servant find it too easy to quit whenever they face any opposition. Christian ministry is not without hazards and difficulties. Probably some of us do need a stiffening of the vertebrae.

A friend of mine used to humorously claim that “Real men quit.” He based that assertion off the KJV translation of 1 Cor 16:13. Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” “See,” he would say, “Real men quit. We’re commanded to quit like men” he would say with a wink. Of course the Apostle Paul is saying the opposite—he wants us to act like men. And real men don’t quit. Or at least they don’t quit easily, right?

I don’t know what opposition your ministry is experiencing. There are a lot of difficult situations that pastors can experience. Not every person you serve acts like Jesus. But don’t give up just because it’s hard. Hard is not bad, hard is just hard. Embrace a little of the “Message to Garcia” and fight through the obstacles. God will give you daily sustaining grace.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9–10 (ESV)


1 Elbert Hubbard, A Message to Garcia (East Aurora, NY: Roycrofters, 1914) https://www.gutenberg.org/files/17195/17195-h/17195-h.htm, Accessed on May 11, 2021.

Know Your Wife

According to some polls, there is a certain percentage of men who cannot remember the date of their marriage. You would think the percentage would be zero, but it’s a range that is much larger than that. I can remember not only our anniversary (will be 29 years on May 29th! Is there such a thing as a Golden Anniversary—besides the 50th—like your Golden Birthday?) but I can also remember the date when I asked Laura to marry me. I’d prove it to you, but I also use it in some passwords, so you’ll just have to trust me. I know I’m congratulating myself on something that is possibly the lowest bar for fulfilling 1 Peter 3:7, but apparently some husbands cannot meet even that low standard.

What’s in 1 Peter? A Christian husband probably knows in the Apostle Paul’s writings that he is commanded to love his wife in the Apostle Paul’s writings, but tucked in 1 Peter 3:7 is another command that is ignored to his marriage’s harm.

1 Peter 3:7 (ESV) Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way….

This phrase has a variety of translations.

(NKJV) Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding….
(NIV84), Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives….
(NASB95) You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way….
(NRSV), Husbands, in the same way, show consideration for your wives in your life together….
(HCSB), Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives with an understanding of their weaker nature….

You can see that some translations think it means to be considerate of your wife, and others—most—think it means live with her with knowledge. Some Bible scholars take it to mean be considerate, or use your authority considerately.[1]Edmund Clowney and Peter Davids

However, I agree with most that it means live knowledgeably with your wife. It is translated as a command because of 1 Peter’s specific grammatical rules [2]It’s a participle, but in 1 Peter participles are often considered imperatives.

So what does it mean to live with your wife according to knowledge? Peter doesn’t say what kind of knowledge is needed. A bit surprising I think, but several commentators believe it has special reference to the marital sexual relationship. The word was certainly used that way in the LXX—the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The word is sunoikeo [συνοικέω], and it’s used in each of these passages.

Deuteronomy 22:13 (NKJV) “If any man takes a wife, and goes in to her, and detests her,
Deuteronomy 24:1a (NKJV) “When a man takes a wife and marries her….
Deuteronomy 25:5 (NKJV) “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.

So this word in 1 Peter 3:7 at least means don’t be a brute in your sexual relationship. Be considerate. It’s more than just maintaining an intimate relationship with your wife as the Apostle Paul commands in 1 Cor 7. It’s more than fulfilling your sexual duty to your wife. It means to do so with understanding. Husband, are you a selfish lover? Are you only interested in your pleasure, or do you make sure your wife enjoys this part of your relationship? Do you know what she likes? What gives her pleasure? Whatever dwelling with your wife according to knowledge means, it includes the sexual relationship.

But it’s also more general knowledge too. It means to have knowledge in all areas of your wife’s life.

You need to have a curious mind about your wife. What are you supposed to know? The cynic says, “Who can figure out women?” Well, there is one that you better figure out—your wife. You need to be a student of your wife. You can’t throw up your hands and say, “I’ll never figure her out.” You need to be proactive in trying to know her. What intrigues her? What discourages her? What are her dreams? What are her strengths, weaknesses? What are her goals? What does she enjoy? What does she dislike? How can you encourage her? What does she want to change in your marriage? What does she struggle with? What sins continually tempt her? How can you help her grow?

When we were engaged, I use to kid my wife about “Laura Logic.” These were humorous statements that made sense to Laura, but not necessarily to me. But rather than laughing, I should be working toward a doctorate in Laura Logic. I need to understand her.

The purpose of this knowledge isn’t to win some contest—like a Christian version of the old show, The Newlywed Game. It should be insight that leads to loving and considerate care. You cannot cherish someone that you don’t know. So to cherish your wife, as every Christian husband must, you need learn about her.

This command requires effort. This isn’t knowledge that just comes by living with a person. We wouldn’t need to be commanded to do it if that were the case. That would come over time, naturally.

And notice nowhere in Scripture are we told to dwell with our kids or parents according to knowledge. That might be wise, but it’s not commanded. No, it’s specifically your wife. It wouldn’t be unusual in counseling for me to find a husband that lived with his wife for years and didn’t really know her. He never put in the effort.

A couple of decades ago a friend of mine was getting married. He and his fiancé were getting discouraged because a few older couples in the church were telling him that marriage is great at the beginning, but eventually you develop different interests and you become roommates, not best friends. That’s sad, and not at all what God intended.

Husband, you should enjoy obeying this command to know your wife. Put some effort into knowing her, and you will also be cherishing her. A cherished wife is a blessed wife.


1 Edmund Clowney and Peter Davids
2 It’s a participle, but in 1 Peter participles are often considered imperatives.