Dec 19 2009

Misusing Scripture #1

Category: church,religion,theologyharmonicminer @ 10:19 am

The use and misuse of scripture has been on my mind lately.

It is very popular, when someone wants to blunt someone else’s criticism, to quote Jesus saying, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”  (Matthew 7:1)

This is often said to deflect a valid criticism of someone’s behavior, perspectives, attitudes, etc.  The problem, of course, is that it’s usually a ridiculous application of the saying.

The next verse says this:  “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. ”

The clear implication is that judging is not mere evaluation.  It is, instead, taking action to impose a penalty of some kind, a penalty you have no right to impose.

The New Testament is full of injunctions to be discerning, and it is full of instruction about what to do regarding the failures and sin of others.  Clearly, these instructions imply that evaluation will be done, and that evaluation will be based on known standards.

It would be “judging” if you thought that you were personally empowered to enforce a penalty upon someone else based on your evaluation.  It is not “judging” to observe that someone is not behaving according to biblical standards, though of course some discretion is required in terms of what you do or say about that observation.  That’s exactly what the Biblical instructions are for.

Start a tally.  The next 100 times you hear someone quote Matthew 7:1, ask yourself if they are simply trying to avoid any evaluation of their behavior, attitude or perspectives.

I’m guessing that’s the case about 95% of the time.

Or more.

The next post in this series is here.

5 Responses to “Misusing Scripture #1”

  1. anthony says:

    If someone is interpreting your friendly warning as a judgement then they are probably feeling somewhat guilty. Even if someone is being arrogant and judgemental, that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn somthing from their unsolicited exam. Wisedom is a valuable thing and should be taken at any oportunity.

  2. dave says:

    Woo… we agree!

    This is most definitely something that we can agree with – taking scripture seriously. Of course – we disagree about what that means, how to interpret, etc, but what you mention above is the type of thing that drives me crazy.

    it is kind of like how Evangelicals always use Jer. 29:11 (I know the plans I have for you…) completely out of context and in a way that implies that God is speaking about them, rather than to a specific group at a specific time. Every Bible verse cannot be applied literally to any and every person!

  3. enharmonic says:

    My favorite set of noncontextual verses are these:

    “And Judas went out and hanged himself.” Matt. 27:5
    “Go Thou and do likewise” Luke 10:37
    “What Thou doest, do quickly” John 10:37

  4. Bill Colton says:

    My employee (who is a strong Christian) called me this morning letting me know he spent the evening in the hospital with Kidney Stones. I quoted a scripture snippite to him…”And this too shall pass”. Interesting how we can take a small piece in order to make our point (even if it isn’t the original point of the author).

  5. Anthony says:

    I think the Bible even says that one day we will judge angels.

Leave a Reply