Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

The Lord will judge unrighteously?

Posted by BrianJ on March 12, 2007

I’m hoping you can help me with a scripture I just don’t understand. Or maybe I understand it and I just don’t want to believe that it’s true—because then I don’t understand other things. Matthew 7:1-2:

1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

My problem is with verse 2. Here are some possible ways to interpret it, starting with the only interpretation I have ever heard:

A) The standards of judgment I apply to others will be applied by God to me in the final judgment (hence, the title of this post).

B) Any unrighteousness in the standards of judgment that I apply will be counted against me in the final judgment.

C) The “ye shall be judged” refers not to God, but to others: the way I judge others, others will judge me in return (what goes around comes around). The final judgment, as administered by the Lord, will be for all people (jerks or not) according to the Lord’s standards .

I have a problem with “A,” because I don’t like the thought of the Lord acting like anything other than a perfectly wise, just, merciful, etc., being. And it’s not just that I see a problem with the Lord being mean to the mean, cruel to the cruel, and so on; I also have a problem with the Lord being completely tolerant of the completely tolerant (that’s good news to extreme liberals, no? They get no judgment at all!). The parable in Luke 19 is often used as support for this interpretation.
I have a problem with “B,” because I don’t think that’s how the text reads (even though it may be correct).

Option “C” seems best to me. It doesn’t disagree with “B,” and it avoids the problems of “A.” My only problem with it is that I thought of it—I am reluctant to believe anything I think of. (Maybe I judge myself too harshly—now there’s a paradox if “A” is correct!!)

Where YOU come in

My hope is that you will offer you thoughts on this verse, either by commenting on my three interpretations or adding some of your own. And I’m anxious to hear your thoughts soon—I will be discussing these verses Tuesday night and would like to have some more ideas. So at least for this first day, feel free to just throw ideas around—anything at all—and we can take the following days to carefully discuss those ideas.

(P.S. I’m ignoring the changes to verse 1 in the JST: they are not found in 3 Nephi and I don’t see how they affect the meaning of verse 2.)

51 Responses to “The Lord will judge unrighteously?”

  1. Matthew said

    Great question. I want to give some more thought to it. Also take a look at the related question on the wiki for Moro 7:18.

  2. nhilton said

    Brian, it appears to me that it is simply an accountability statement:

    [1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.] = If you refrain from judging you won’t have to deal with the consequences of your judgment.

    [2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.] = The judgment you make will be your responsibility and resultant consequences follow (tho these are not stipulated in the text): And you will be responsible for your expectations of others.

    Perhaps this is too simple, but this is what I think it means. I don’t think the Lord will judge unrighteously based upon our unrighteous judgement. I basically think you’re right-on with B&C and that they don’t exclude one another. It’s just a matter of fact that our judgements have ramifications and we should be aware of such, making us cautious in our judgement of others.

  3. Broz said

    I think the BofM explain this well:

    Alma 12: 14
    14 For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence.

    Mosiah 27: 31
    31 Yea, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him. Yea, even at the last day, when all men shall stand to be bjudged of him, then shall they confess that he is cGod; then shall they confess, who live without God in the world, that the judgment of an everlasting punishment is just upon them; and they shall quake, and tremble, and shrink beneath the glance of his eall-searching eye.

    Alma 11: 43
    43 The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its bperfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, cknowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt.

    We shouldn’t judge others harshly because we judge ourselves. Don’t we use this as an excuse for judging others. We say, I judge the same way I judge myself. This is why we must pray that we will be filled with the Love of God that when he appears we will be like him and that we will “love his coming” and not “shrink” or “fear” for perfect love casteth out all fear that our confidence will wax strong in the presence of God.

    2 Tim. 4: 8
    8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of brighteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

  4. Broz said

    Morm. 9: 4
    4 Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell.

  5. m&m said

    Law of harvest, maybe, too? What you send out will return to you? If we judge harshly, by definition, we will be in error so mercy will have less claim on us? (That is more what I have always thought it to mean.) The Lord can’t judge unrighteously, but He can’t bind justice if we don’t give mercy (or any of the things that He has asked us to do).

  6. Robert C. said

    Great question BrianJ (I love having questions like this to use when it seems a class is getting too . . . I don’t know, formulaic? non-thinking? sure of themeselves?). I think we see something very similar at work several other places in scripture, as early as Nathan’s parable used against King David (Word Biblical Commentary notes there are strong Jewish parallels to this teaching, e.g. Sirach 18:20). Like m&m, I tend to think of this in terms of what we send out will be returned to us, which I take as a mixture of your (b) and (c). It seems to me there is a bit of an appeal to a common belief in this law-of-the-harvest form of justice going on here, more than some deep theological claim about how things work.

    In wondering about this, I stumbled on this article which talks about the psychology of Nathan’s parable to King David and how the analogic story which appealed to David’s sense of justice evoked a moral outrage that David should’ve been applying to himself. I think this is also a very timely article in light of this week’s SS lesson parables. I like to think of these issues in terms of self-deception b/c I think scriptures like this intend to point out the hypocrisy and double-mindedness that is embedded in many forms of sin.

  7. Hmm… I’ve always been comfortable with “A.” But I don’t think it is a question of “judging righteously” or “judging unrighteously.” The Greek here is related to our English words “criticize,” “critical,” “crisis,” etc. All of these imply one’s calling someone or something into question, dislodging them from the flow of life in an attempt to think critically about them (hence, the thing or the person experiences a crisis, feels criticized; and hence, the person judging thinks critically). In short, to “judge” is to take up the Other from my own standpoint (whether for good or for evil). And that is what Jesus is saying we are not to do.

    Notice, then, that here Jesus does not say (and notice, I’m ignoring the JST/Book of Mormon) that we should only judge a certain way, but that we are not to judge at all. In short, it is not our prerogative to take up others and things in a critical manner. Inasmuch as we do, we shall be so taken up as well, scrutinized in the spirit of the verses Broz cited. Rather, we are simply to withold judgment: we are to assume (this is charity) the best for all people and all things. In fact, if there is anything we should regard critically, it is our own critical regard: we should recognize how flawed our perception is (this is the point of the following verses), and we should recognize that everything we have to say (even to speak is to make a judgment, at least in the Kantian idiom) is situated and historically limited.

    I’ve been thinking lately about faith, hope, and charity, and I’ve come to think that perhaps one can sense the difference between hope and love in terms of critical regard: hope is the virtue that holds when we critically regard things (I can only hope for what I’ve already reduced, even divested of itself, with my critical regard), but love is the virtue that holds when I critically regard my own critical regard (then it is that I give myself in full charity to whatever asks me for that love).

    Some critical thoughts.

  8. I just lost a comment…. Darn, it was a good one, and I’m not sure I have the patience to rewrite it.

    In short, I like “A”. But I think it is important to notice that the verse makes no distinction between judging well and judging poorly: there is simply a distinction between judging and not judging, and we are told not to judge. The Greek word here is related to the English “critical.” We are not to be regarding critically (whether things or persons?). That is, our thinking is not supposed to begin with us, we are not to call things into question. Inasmuch as we do, we are ourselves to be called into question. Perhaps all we should critically regard is our own critical regard, and that is what the following verses go on to discuss: our perception is flawed, and we are in no place to talk about what we see.

    The point, I think, is then that we are not to judge at all, but to give ourselves in love (without reservation). And inasmuch as we give ourselves in love, so will God give Himself to us in love. And if we take up the whole world in a critical regard (whether for good or for ill), then God will take us up in the same way. Charity covereth a multitude of sins, and harlots (people who sell their own chastity for money, mind you!) will go into the kingdom before the critical scribes and Pharisees. What are we after? Engagement with God and God’s children, or some kind of absolute truth, divested of personality? If the latter, then we will be “judged” and according to the truth.

    In the eventual judgment, doesn’t it come down to this: all who are judged will be judged to be wicked, but the “righteous” will not be judged to be “righteous,” but will not be judged because they do not judge. (And “extreme liberals” might fall into either camp here: those who speak of “tolerance” but do so in judgment, will be judged, and those who speak of “tolerance” because they give themselves without reservation to all, will embrace the God of Heaven.)

  9. Oh, I guess it didn’t get eaten. Well you can all read my translation now.

  10. Robert C. said

    Joe, I’ve sort of wanted to read this passage this way, and I still do to a certain extent b/c I think the point is to contrast an economic/justice way of thinking with a mercy/charity view that you describe so well. However, I’ve often wondered how to reconcile this with the passages in Moroni 7 that Matthew linked to. Would you see this as a difference between “judge” in Greek and English, or just a different point altogether, or what? (I think Matthew’s made some good points about this chapter on the wiki, perhaps we should take up this question on the wiki and then return and report to the blog for those who don’t follow the wiki).

  11. Robert C. said

    Thinking about this a little more (I really need to find time to think a lot more about this!), I think the tension I’m trying point out can be found in Matt 7 itself in vv. 15-20, the “beware of false prophets . . . by your fruits ye shall know them” bit. This makes me think more in terms of judging as Joe describes it vs. “knowing” as it is used in vv. 15-20. Hmmm, I guess this brings me back to thinking that the richer tension for an LDS-reader is with Moroni 7….

  12. I’m convinced that there is a very specific context at work in Moroni 7, one that dislodges the connection between these two passages. Mormon is trying to talk about how to tell good from evil, which, as I read the chapter, seems to be the distinction between true messengers and false ones. As such, the “judgment” in question is one’s ability to recognize whether or not a manifestation comes from God, and that is a very different question. Hmm…. It might be worth working this out on the wiki some….

  13. Robert C. said

    Joe, it seems this leads to a “judge the sin not the sinner” kind of view, no? That is, we judge the content and message of the messengers (and false prophets in Matt 7), but we are always charitable to the person. Of course I’m glossing over all the interesting and rich nuances of the passage with this reduced aphorism, but I think it’s illustrates an important distinction….

  14. brianj said

    All: Thank you very much for your help!

    Matthew: I looked around the wiki to see if I could find any discussion on this. I went to several related verses, but not Moroni 7. I see that the question there captures my dilemma quite well.

    nhilton: A vote for B+C. Okay. But why then don’t we hear this interpretation from the pulpit? Honestly, I wouldn’t even consider “A” if I didn’t hear it so often. (I’m going to do a bit of searching to see if I can’t provide some links to Ensign articles that espouse “A”)

    Broz: You’ve forced me to admit another “doctrine” I am reluctant to accept: that we judge ourselves in the final judgment. I know that is the way Mormon 9:4 reads, but so many other scriptures say that God judges us (with Jesus as our “advocate before the Father”). So I’m not sure if Mormon is to be taken literally.

    m&m: that sounds like another vote for B+C. Interesting thought on justice being bound.

    Robert C: good example with David and Nathan. That looks like “C” to me, because I don’t think that story was meant as a type of the final judgment. Thanks also for the ongoing discussion with Joe. I would say that “judge the sin and not the sinner” betrays judgment” you have already labeled the person a sinner, even as you claim to not judge him.

    Joe: I’m so glad all of your comments got through. I think your version of “A” is not the same as mine. In fact, you seem to be promoting more of a “B”. Here’s a lengthy response to you:

    “In short, to “judge” is to take up the Other from my own standpoint (whether for good or for evil). And that is what Jesus is saying we are not to do.”

    Right, I follow you there (and I like how you point out that any judging—for good or evil—is bad). Then the question is, what is the consequence of judging; i.e. why does Jesus tell us not to judge?

    “Notice, then, that here Jesus does not say (and notice, I’m ignoring the JST/Book of Mormon) that we should only judge a certain way, but that we are not to judge at all.”

    For the question I raised, which focused on verse 2, I thought it was okay to ignore the JST, but if we’re going to discuss verse 1 then I think we have to include Joseph’s thought. I’m happy to discuss it as an “interpretation-JST” rather than a “restoration-JST,” but that still means we have to ask what Joseph was thinking. And if there should be no judging at all (period), then Joseph was mistaken. Unless—and I think you get to this later—the only form of righteous judgment is judgment against things/words/events, but any judgment of a person is always unrighteous.

    “In short, it is not our prerogative to take up others and things in a critical manner.”

    I follow you on the “others” part but not the “things.” Isn’t this what Moroni 7 is getting at?

    “Inasmuch as we do, we shall be so taken up as well, scrutinized in the spirit of the verses Broz cited.”

    That line is why I think your argument sounds more like “B” than like “A.” The difference is that your version of “B” doesn’t have to wait until the final judgment, but can happen at once. That sounds right to me—I can think of numerous examples in the scriptures where someone was “taken up” and judged by God—e.g. King David or Nephi (the one given power to do anything).

    “What are we after? Engagement with God and God’s children, or some kind of absolute truth, divested of personality? If the latter, then we will be “judged” and according to the truth.”

    That is beautifully written and terrifying. (But the later only because I lack faith, hope, and charity.)

    “In the eventual judgment, doesn’t it come down to this: all who are judged will be judged to be wicked, but the “righteous” will not be judged to be “righteous,” but will not be judged because they do not judge.”

    I don’t know. I’m not comfortable with “the righteous will not be judged,” but I will do a poor job articulating why. It’s partly because I don’t think there is anyone who can be counted as righteous, so then we all get judged. It’s also because I can imagine a person with numerous sins except that they never judge, and for them to escape judgment entirely really makes judging the one and only real sin. I also have tended to think that God’s judgment is not entirely something one should want to escape, but rather something that the righteous will look forward to and the wicked will fear. (I’ve written on this last point before, on my blog, and I’ll find the link and an excerpt shortly; Robert may remember that discussion.)

  15. Robert C. said

    Brian, thanks esp. for addressing this last point about the righteous not being judged, I sort of brushed over this on my first reading of Joe’s comment. It makes me think about Satan as the accuser (that’s the meaning in Hebrew, I think the Wikipedia article on Satan mentions this—this isn’t given listed in the Blue Letter Bible lexicon, but I think that’s the most common meaning among current scholars…), so if Satan is banished perhaps there indeed is a sense in which we won’t be accused/judged, but rather received unto God charitably/mercifully/forgivingly. I suspect there might be other scriptures to contradict this view, but I think it’s a very interesting idea nonetheless, one I’ll be thinking more about.

  16. Cherylem said

    Robert #15
    Your comments remind me of Zechariah 3, where Joshua stands before the Lord wearing filthy garments and Satan stands by to accuse him. The Lord snatches Joshua as a burning stick from the fire, rebukes the accuser and then puts clean (rich) clothes on Joshua.

    What I can get of the ritual going on in Zech. 3 is very beautiful on many levels. I recommend reading it other than King James.

  17. Ray B. said

    There is no indication that it is the Lord who will judge us as we have judged others. It simply says that we will be judged. In the final judgment scene of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, each of the characters stands before the Savior and the judgment is self-inflicted. In Alma 12:13-14 we read:

    “If our hearts have been hardened, yea, if we have hardened our hearts against the word, insomuch that it has not been found in us, then will our state be awful, for then we shall be condemned.

    For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence.”

    If we have judged others harshly, and without mercy, we will also judge ourselves in the same way.

  18. Jim F. said

    Take a look at John 3:13-21. It seems to me the doctrine taught there is that the righteous will not be judged (“condemned” in the KJV translation). To be righteous is to be made righteous by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It is exactly not to have become righteous by our own efforts. If we are made righteous by his Atonement, then we are his to bring into the Kingdom. We escape judgment.

  19. m&m said

    We escape judgment.

    Isn’t “not being condemned” a type of judgment? Is judgment always toward condemnation or can we be judged to be righteous? A judge can either condemn or exonerate, no? I have always understood this as escaping the demands of justice (although Elder Scott recently talked of how justice can be our friend and guarantees the blessings God promises if we are righteous) and having mercy have her claim, not escaping judgment altogether. Is this just semantic, or are you suggesting something different? (Trying to understand what you are saying.)

  20. brianj said

    All: Thanks again for this discussion. I just met with my friend and we had a very nice discussion, one that I hope (expect) will benefit many this Sunday. It’s late at night for me now, but I’ll try to post my summary thoughts soon.

    Jim F: I have to think about John 3 some more. My friend and I looked at those verses tonight. I’m not sure how to read them in light of other verses that suggest that all men will be judged—the righteous and the wicked. (I’m not citing any particular verse because I think there are many—maybe I’m making it up?) I realize that the Greek word for judge (something like “krinete”) can be translated various ways, so I’m wondering if John intended for it to mean something like “judged” or something like “condemned/damned.” The later is more easily reconciled (for me) with those scriptures I alluded to about a universal judgment.

    I realize that part of my problem may be terminology: “judgment” could mean very many things, from the daily “scrutiny” we get from God, to the “final accounting,” to “condemnation.” So maybe I am misunderstanding in this discussion because of that.

  21. brianj said

    m&m: I was writing #20 as you posted #19. You capture my sentiment well.

  22. Jim, thanks for the John 3 reference. That is a beautiful scripture to articulate this point.

    m&m, Brian, et al, here is basically what I have in mind:

    If we are judged, then we will be found guilty. There are two ways this difficulty could be fixed. On the one hand, we could be made righteous (not guilty), so that when we are judged we are not found guilty. On the other hand, we could simply go un-judged, so that we are never found guilty.

    The more I read the scriptures, the more I’m convinced that the atonement works out the latter of these two possibilities. I think one would be, in the end, hard pressed to show in the scriptures how it is that we are made righteous (at least, in order to have a good judgment passed on us). Rather, we have scriptures like Mosiah 3, where the angel tells Benjamin that only children (because they are without law) are to be saved because they are not subject to judgment; and then we are told that we must all become little children. Baptism itself is a death and burial: the old man of sin, who was to be judged, is laid aside, and we come out of the water as types of Christ, as typological christs, thus emerging as judges rather than as the judged.

    Perhaps the Book of Job is an interesting text to take up here. The whole book is about judgment. The friends condemn (judge) Job repeatedly, and Job constantly tries to explain that he outstrips judgment because he has not condemned the poor, the fatherless, the widow. When YHWH finally speaks from the heavens, He does not judge Job, but He does judge the three friends. And how interesting it is that Job constantly asks for a trial through the whole thing. I’ve got to go re-read Job….

    Anyway, I hope what I’m saying there is clearer.

    Now, as for the JST: I think we very much should consider the JST, but I was trying first to take up the plain meaning of the Greek. It would be interesting now to take up the JST and to see where that takes things next.

  23. m&m said

    Joe,
    OK, brother, :) you will have to do more convincing for me, given scriptures that say that the Lord will “judge the world” (e.g., Acts 17:31, 2 Ne. 29:11, Mosiah 3:10, 3 Ne. 27:16 [is “held guiltless” being “un-judged”? I don’t read it that way.).

    Perhaps most compelling to me is the following:
    JST 2 Corinthians 5:10
    10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive a reward of the deeds done in the body; things according to what he hath done, whether good or bad.

    Thoughts?

  24. m&m said

    Hmmm…lost a comment. Joe, I would choose door #1. There are plenty of scriptures that talk about the Savior “judging the world” (I suppose that could be argued to mean those who aren’t His chosen, redeemed ones), but the following seems to support the idea that the judgment will be for everyone:

    JST 2 Corinthians 5:10
    10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive a reward of the deeds done in the body; things according to what he hath done, whether good or bad.

  25. Matthew said

    There is more than one way of looking at the atonement and therefore more than one way of looking at the final judgment (clearly the way we see the atonement as acting is very much related to how we see the final judgment). I really think both views are true. At different times in the scriptures different prophets will use these different ways of looking at the atonement and judgment to make different points. I’ll try to spend some time over the next 24 hours making this case with a couple of different scriptures–unless someone wants to beat me to it :)

  26. Matthew said

    (The site seems to be having trouble keeping up with the comments here. I lost one too.)

    Here’s a quick recap. I’ll write it out more later. In short, the prophets speak about the atonement in more than one way in the scriptures and thus they also speak about final judgment in more than one way. I don’t think we have to choose between these views.

  27. nhilton said

    Brianj and all: As others have mentioned, the “judgement” you’re quoting means “condemn.” So, taken in textual context, the audience to whom Jesus is speaking is being told not to “condemn” or “cut off” other people. These are members of the church, of course, so the instruction is SO CONTEMPORARY!

    Again, it’s imperative to read the verses IN CONTEXT. The previous verses (Matt.6:+19-34) focus the listeners'(readers’)minds on things of an eternal nature–basically casting their eyes Heavenward (vertical orientation)in faith vs. the carnal or earthly stare (horizontal) at their material needs & peers.

    Immediately after this “pointing of the eye/heart” Jesus launches into the lessons on “minding your own business.” Clearly we are to judge as the last line of Matt.7:5 indicates, “…AND THEN shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” and the guidelines for judging found in the BofM. After this clarification on how we are justified in correcting others, vs. 6 repeats the warning about *even* venturing to correct others. Then follows the promise that we will know what to do, or receive the KNOWLEDGE we need, as we attempt to correct others and ULTIMATELY, v. 12 tells us to LOVE ONE ANOTHER, THE END (so to speak).

    All of Matt.7 is about NOT CONDEMNING others, but rather, to love one another & if we fail to do this we’ve missed Heaven completely, no matter what else we’ve done to justify our entrance. Taking Matt.7:1-2 out of this complete picture is to miss the greatest message of Jesus’ teachings: LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

  28. nhilton said

    Brianj and all: As others have mentioned, the “judgement” you’re quoting means “condemn.” So, taken in context, the audience to whom Jesus is speaking is being told not to “condemn” or “cut off” other people. These are members of the church, of course, so the instruction is SO CONTEMPORARY!

    Again, it’s imperative to read the verses IN CONTEXT. The previous verses (Matt.6:+19-34) focus the listeners'(readers’)minds on things of an eternal nature–basically casting their eyes Heavenward (vertical orientation)in faith vs. the carnal or earthly stare (horizontal) at their material needs & peers.

    Immediately after this “pointing of the eye/heart” Jesus launches into the lessons on “minding your own business.” Clearly we are to judge as the last line of Matt.7:5 indicates, “…AND THEN shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” and the guidelines for judging found in the BofM. After this clarification on how we are justified in correcting others, vs. 6 repeats the warning about *even* venturing to correct others. Then follows the promise that we will know what to do, or receive the KNOWLEDGE we need, as we attempt to correct others and ULTIMATELY, v. 12 tells us to LOVE ONE ANOTHER, THE END (so to speak).

    All of Matt.7 is about NOT CONDEMNING others, but rather, to love one another & if we fail to do this we’ve missed Heaven completely, no matter what else we’ve done to justify our entrance. Taking Matt.7:1-2 out of this complete picture is to miss the greatest message of Jesus’ teachings: LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

  29. nhilton said

    Sorry, everyone. The above two comments are repeats due to my difficulty in getting the BLOG to accept either of them. Sorry. :(

  30. nhilton said

    Brianj: [P.S. I’m ignoring the changes to verse 1 in the JST: they are not found in 3 Nephi and I don’t see how they affect the meaning of verse 2.]

    I think the JST is extremely relevant on two counts: #1, it distinguishes WHO is getting the message about judging and #2, it affirms the need to judge RIGHTEOUSLY, per the last part of v. 5. Clearly we ARE TO JUDGE and anyone using “judge not” as a scapegoat for getting away with sin or accepting sin or turning a blind eye to sin is in error & JS pointed that out with his addition. 3 Nephi doesn’t include this addition, but other parts of the BofM do, i.e. Moroni 7:15-18 & the D&C.

  31. Robert C. said

    m&m #23 & #24: Thanks for searching the scriptures for me, the comments on this thread indeed have me questioning the way I’ve read many scriptures regarding “final judgment” (scare quotes b/c I’m questioning my previous understanding of this so much, related to a more general questioning I have of my understanding of the 2nd coming, eschatology, etc.). I think the “judging the world” scriptures could be taken as supporting Joe’s point, that God will judge the world, but not those who are chosen out of the world.

    Matthew #25 & #26: I agree with you, I think our understanding of atonement and final judgment are very much linked, and that the scriptures do not speak in a simple univocal way on these matters. That is, along with nhilton, I think we need to be very careful about the context and speaker of each passage of scripture on these matters b/c words can have such different connotations in different contexts.

    (I can’t remember how much I’ve actually written on the wiki, but I’ve looked at Alma 34 a fair amount this past year thanks to some discussion at the New Cool Thang blog and ideas in Blake Ostler’s Exploring Mormon Thought regarding the penal-substitution theory of atonement. In short, most at the NCT blog reject the penal-substitution theory as being true in a modern theological sense and that this is not what Alma 34 is advocating. I’m a bit more inclined to think that there is a penal-substititon idea at play in Alma 34 that is not being rejected, at least directly. I’m in general less interested in a modern theological framework than the main contributors at the NCT blog seem to be, which is why I like Matthew’s point on this.)

  32. seanmcox said

    I like nhilton’s comments. The context is very important.

    I think I generally like the idea of judging the sin, not the sinner, except I think that in life there is an extent to which we must effectively judge the sinner. My thoughts are centering around a classic misapplication of forgiveness.

    I consider the family which has discovered that grandpa has been molesting little Johnny Doe. Does forgiving grandpa entail giving him unsupervised time with Johnny? Does turning the other cheek involve giving him free access to the other children? Clearly not. However, in making even the minimum necessary alterations in the family’s relationship with grandpa, they must recognize a danger in him and effectively judge him especially dangerous.

    Inasmuch as “judge not that ye be not judged” has become a motto for turning a blind eye to dangerous and even evil individuals in society, it is a passage which at the very minimum is dangerously unclear. I generally insist on the JST. (To me, it is scripture.)

    In any case, we are also told to be wise as serpents and yet harmless as doves, and I generally consider that this requires judgement, even, to some extent, of individuals.

    nhilton’s comments suggest another situation in which it is important to “judge” individuals. (Though the savior gave clear cautions on that as well.)

  33. brianj said

    m&m, #23: that is a great example of the type of scriprture I had in mind.

    Matthew, #25: excellent point. I think in this discussion we have also been using different meanings of the word “judge.”

    nhilton, #27: “As others have mentioned” (including me, see #20) “the “judgement” you’re quoting means “condemn.”” While BLB (actually Strong’s) gives several different definitions for the word, I am most comforable reading it as you do: “condemn.” Though I think it isn’t always used the same way in the BofM and D&C, where it (at least sometimes) seems to mean “scrutinize/determine/choose.”

    I got the impression from the rest of your comment that you think we are in stark disagreement, but I don’t think we are (as I implied in #14). I hope I never seemed to be promoting reading out of context, but after your comment I fear that somewhere I came across that way. The original question of the post was whether God applies our standards back on us—meaning, that he acts like us—and I (and you also?) do not think this is correct.

    I am seeing some disagreement on whether it is okay for us to judge others. I think I fall more in line with Joe on this in saying that all judgment of people is unrighteous. I think I understand your reasoning in Matt 7:5—that it allows judging others—but I read that differently. If Jesus is saying that we can judge others only once our eyes are completely free of splinters (sinless), then he may as well say, “You can judge others once you are perfected; i.e. not in this life.” I think the guidelines for judging in the BofM (at least in Moroni 7; I’m not certain what you had in mind) apply to judging things, not people (I recognize that I am in disagreement with Joe here, who earlier stated that we should not judge anything at all).

    By the way, when you write “Clearly we are to judge…” I assume you do NOT mean “we are to condemn” as in the Greek meaning of the word. Am I correct?

    “All of Matt.7 is about NOT CONDEMNING others, but rather, to love one another.” I agree that that’s an integral point (though I stop short of saying that the whole chapter is about this).

  34. brianj said

    nhilton, #30: Yes, you caught me on a very poorly worded sentence that I regretted writing and debated editing.

    When I wrote “I’m ignoring the changes to verse 1 in the JST: they are not found in 3 Nephi and I don’t see how they affect the meaning of verse 2.” I was focusing on the question of whether God mimics our poor judging standards when he judges us. On that particular question, I don’t see how the JST changes anything: 1) We can’t read the JST as “the way it’s really supposed to read,” because the BofM doesn’t follow it, and 2) for that specific question I don’t see how it matters who Jesus was talking to or whether he said “righteously” or not.

    On the point of whether we should judge others, I agree that we should consider the JST. I made a similar point to Joe (see #14 and #22).

    “Clearly we ARE TO JUDGE and anyone using “judge not” as a scapegoat…is in error. 3 Nephi doesn’t include this addition, but other parts of the BofM do, i.e. Moroni 7:15-18 & the D&C.” As I mentioned in #33, I think there might be a distinction between judging people and judging things. Actually, I think a better way to say that is that there is a difference between judging people (which is always unrighteous) and making choices about how to act (which is righteous if done by the light of Christ). Let me know if I am making sense and if you can see how I am reading it this way—not necessarily that you agree, of course.

  35. Robert C. said

    Brian’s comment brought to mind Mosiah 26 where Mosiah as King passes along the job of judging to Alma when sinners are being accused and are brought forth. Alma’s prayer and the response thereof is fascinating. In quickly rereading this, I’m particularly struck by how Alma is instructed to accept all into the church who “confess and repent” of their sins. On the one hand, it seems even in this case that there isn’t much need for judgment: if someone says they’re sorry, it seems Alma is instructed to take them at their word. Except for the phrase verse 29: “if he confess his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of his heart, him shall ye forgive . . . .” This, it seems, is where judgment (as I think most have been using the word in this thread) comes into play, “judging” whether somebody is sincere or not. (Fortunately, I’m not a “judge in Israel” and don’t have to worry about such issues!)

    Also, I think the introduction of judges in Mosiah 29 is another very interesting passage to think about on this topic, how and why secular judges were introduced into Nephite politics. If we can make sense of Mosiah 26, then perhaps we could understand better an important distinction between judging from an ecclesiastical vs. secular standpoint.

  36. Let me clarify a couple of points regarding things I’ve said.

    Brian, I included “things” in judgment early in this discussion because of the lack of any direct object in Jesus’ saying. And I think it holds–though I’m not prepared to speak about how broadly or how narrowly that word should be interpreted. But let me say at the same time that I read Moroni 7 as suggesting not only that we are to judge things, but that we are to judge people. In other words, I see two very different things at work in these two passages. A better way to describe the way I’m thinking about Matt 7 is to say that the lack of direct object is suggestive of the fact that Jesus is not particularly interested (at least in the first two verses) in what or whom is being judged: the saying is about a way of relating to the world (persons and things, then?).

    And now more broadly to everyone: I offered a reading (as opposed to a translation) of the Greek above precisely because of the difficulty of translating the word uniformly or consistently. When we can write a short list of “possible” translations, we are admitting to the fact that none of those words adequately represents the sense of the original language. If we limit the Greek word krino to either “condemn” or “judge,” we have missed the weight of the word: dictionaries do not provide a list of possible meanings we can choose from, but a list of nuances a foreign word can translate to in an English sentence. In short, it would be very good to remember what Saussurian linguistics has taught us: a word only means in and through the words with which the word is spoken/written.

    Also more broadly: I hope no one understands me to be denigrating the JST in any way. I hold the JST in the highest regard (as soon as I finish my present work on the Book of Mormon, I will be writing a book on the JST), and I hold it to be revelation. But I hold the Bible, at the same time, as scripture that is binding on me. I am therefore uncomfortable with taking up the JST as a way of getting around the biblical reading. And moreover, I’m not sure how we can ever get a very clear sense for what the JST is telling us until we have engaged the biblical reading quite seriously first: because the Church has never published a full “Inspired Version,” we do not have an “original text” we can just read, but only corrections and notations. Moreover, it is vital to recognize that there are several JST manuscripts, and that they do not agree with each other all the time: subtle differences and editorial shifts in those manuscripts themselves make quite a bit of difference in interpretation.

    As for context: I totally agree that we ought to look more carefully at context, though I’m not convinced we’ve even begun to do so. Context is of enormous importance, but it is only to be understood by the same slavish labor we are trying to do with verses 1-2. It is also important to remember that context can only be understood in light of the text: text and con-text (with-text) are interpretable only in relation. So yes, let’s get to the context, but let’s do so quite carefully.

    Finally, about judgment of the world and escaping judgment: I think that both models are readable in the scriptures (I’m all for a pluralistic text!). Of course, however, I’m not quite sure that the two models are quite so distinct as it probably looked like I was trying to make them. I made this point at first, and then I erased it: escaping judgment and being righteous amount to precisely the same thing. Perhaps the distinction I have drawn deconstructs itself.

    Anyway, a few responses that hopefully clarify a few things.

  37. Ooh, Mosiah and judgment… I’m thinking, Robert.

  38. m&m said

    I am therefore uncomfortable with taking up the JST as a way of getting around the biblical reading.

    This really confuses me. I see the JST as not a way to “get around” the biblical reading but to get a more accurate one.

    Hmmm….Unless perhaps it’s to get an additional reading. ???

  39. nhilton said

    Ahhhh, Brianj, so many questions/comments to reply to. Sometimes this blog sounds like a lot of talking heads to me…it’d be so much easier to JUDGE what ya’ll say if body language, voice inflection, etc. were a part of it. :) But, alas, it isn’t.

    No, Brianj, I don’t think we’re at odds in any particular point. But, let me try to answer each specific question…not sure I can in this medium, but I’ll try…

    I’ve read enough of you to know context is paramount with you so I didn’t think YOU were out of context. Having read this chapter 100 times, at least, over the past 2 weeks I really do believe the whole darn thing is about our relationship with others. I find it, as the conclusion to the Sermon on the Mt., teaching the great commandment of LOVE.

    I do think it neccessary & O.K. to judge others but note the caution & consequence clauses as the point of the text. Again & again we’re told in the scriptures TO judge (not condemn) others based on works, appearance, etc. Thinking you can go thru life w/o judging others is naive. As a parent you’re constantly judging others: yourself, your kids & those your kids come in contact with–all in the aim of good, of course. It’s this self discipline in the nature & intent of the judgement that Jesus is speaking of, I believe. Simply the title “Judge In Israel” leaves no room to doubt that judgment is necessary & expected.

    I think JS’s note of who the audience is tells us that this message is intended for “the choir.” This point being made, it’s especially pertinent to us today, as members of His church. I think church members are prone more than many people to judge. Ironic. And in so doing, they may intentionally or accidentally “cut off” people who would otherwise be coming to God.

    Maybe the JST adds the point while the BofM doesn’t because of the difference in the audience. The Jews were accustomed to judging, condemning & cutting others off in their approach to God? While the BofM peoples didn’t have that fault?

    [By the way, when you write “Clearly we are to judge…” I assume you do NOT mean “we are to condemn” as in the Greek meaning of the word. Am I correct?] Ya. My take-home message is: If you must judge, judge righteously with love after receiving direction from the Spirit AND whatever you do as you judge will be your responsibility.

  40. m&m said

    Maybe the JST adds the point while the BofM doesn’t because of the difference in the audience. The Jews were accustomed to judging, condemning & cutting others off in their approach to God? While the BofM peoples didn’t have that fault?

    Quite possible since in Bountiful, the wicked folks were destroyed.

  41. brianj said

    nhilton: discussions on blogs do tend to get a bit “mushy,” don’t they? (or “talking heads” as you put it)

    I’d like to put together something like a summary statement of what I have learned this week (or what I think I have learned, since I may be wrong). I don’t know when I will have time to do that, but it’ll be on a separate post. Then maybe we could approach it with a fresh look, and I could carefully and more precisely word it, and the discussion would be a bit tighter. I really fear that I am losing some great insight from you and others due to blog limitations.

    Robert: I have to admit, I am not following you (in #35). Try to remember that your mind works on a much higher plane than mine.

    Joe: thanks for the clarification. I think the biggest confusion I had was that I thought you were commenting on judging in general (as it is used in all scripture) as opposed to focusing on just this single verse. I never took you to be denigrating the JST at all, by the way.

    All: I’m wondering how much less confusion we would have had if I had made one rule at the beginning: absolutely no using the words “judging” “judge” or “judgment.”

  42. Robert C. said

    Joe #36, any extra clarification you could make on how you understand Matt 7 and Moroni 7 in light of each other would be appreciated. Are you suggesting more of a “condemn” meaning of the word “judge” in Matt 7 versus more of a “discern” meaning in Moroni 7, or that these are two teachings that seriously conflict when placed next to each other, or something else entirely?

    BrianJ #41, I like to think that I’m simply too brilliant for others to understand me (alas, most adults outgrow this teenage mentality…), but I’m afraid I’m simply inarticulate—I don’t really have a clear idea in mind regarding Mosiah 26 and 29 (else I would’ve articulated it better!), so you should simply take my comment as saying: “Oh, lookie, the word “judge” is used in these two chapters also, I wonder how this might help us think about judging….” I simply tried to phrase this thought in a way that would make it sound profound.

  43. Robert, I mean something else entirely regarding the distance betweeen Moroni 7 and Matt 7. I’m not sure how to articulate it right at the moment. Let me do some thinking… and perhaps some posting on the wiki?

    m&m, it would certainly be a threadjack for me to take up the JST at any length here. I did a post on the JST in our first week up, but there were few of us then. Perhaps it’s worth doing again and with a renewed focus.

  44. Matthew said

    So a lot of great discussion. I’m wondering where we ended up. It seems most think that “judge” in verse 1 should be read as condemn. Therefore “condemn not that ye be not condemned.” That makes this similar to your A without the implication that the Lord will judge unrighteously.

    This reading also responds to your other question: “I also have a problem with the Lord being completely tolerant of the completely tolerant.” To say that as much as you go around condemning others you will be condemned does not, in my view mean that there is no other way to get condemned.

    Right?

  45. BrianJ said

    Matthew: I think you’re right, both in how you summarize the discussion and how you interpret the verse. I am still thinking of putting together a more detailed summary of this discussion and what I’ve learned—maybe it will be my first foray on the wiki!

  46. nhilton said

    During GD SS today, a great comment regarding Matt 7:1-2 was made such that we should read these verses in the possitive sense, similar to the golden rule (Matt7:12)imperative, instead of the negative. (The golden rule is found in negtive form in Rabbinic Judaism & also in Hinduism, Buddhism & Confuciansim. It occurred in various forms in Greek & Roman ethical teaching. Jesus stated it in positive form, per NIV notes pg. 1479) With such a reading it is the Savior saying to his disciples that the same mercy we extend to others will be extended to us by God.

    I had another comment made during class, a classic: “We will judge ourselves.” Why do LDS believe we will judge ourselves, instead of God? Where does this “doctrine” originate. I don’t believe we will judge ourselves, but that we will participate in our judgement in a variety of ways. I think this is an erroneous LDS belief. Help, Anyone?

  47. BrianJ said

    Nhilton: “Why do LDS believe we will judge ourselves, instead of God? Where does this “doctrine” originate?”

    I think this comes from verses like those cited by Broz in #3&4, above:

    Alma 11: 43
    …and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt.

    Morm. 9: 4
    Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell.

    I think there are other examples as well, but I can’t look them up right now. Anyway, I think that is one way to read those scriptures, but I don’t read them that way myself (because, as you suggest, that reading requires that we ignore the scriptures that say that the Lord is our judge). I think the real point of those scriptures is that the Lord will judge us and that we will see and confess that his judgment is just and could not be any other way.

  48. Robert C. said

    BrianJ & nhilton, I think these are fascinating issues to contemplate. Here’s one way of thinking about it that I’ve wondered about: When we come into the Lord’s presence, perhaps His light will make it impossible to deny Truth (I’m planning on doing a series of posts on truth, so for now I’ll just vaguely capitalize it without trying to explain what truth might mean), and that very process of seeing ourselves under the light of Truth is what judgment is. That is, Final Judgment will be acknowledging our past sinfulness, something that will make followers of Christ praise Him for redeeming them, and make the unrepentant weep and wail. My point is that I’m not sure there will be a difference between God judging us vs. judging ourselves inasmuch as we are brought to stand in God’s presence where I think we will be forced to look at ourselves as we “really are.”

  49. nhilton said

    #48, So do you think even the wicked will see the truth of their condition and condemn themselves? What about Sons of Perdition? Outer darkness vs. light & truth. Interesting.

    Since I have your attention, I have another question, rather off-topic but it’s bugging me & I wanted your thoughts. In the Bible, Matt. 6:9-13, the Lord’s Prayer has JST notes and, as noted in another post, the last line “…For thine is the kingdom…Amen.” should be left off to continue the textual continuity regarding the atonement and forgiving others relationship. However, in the Book of Mormon version of The Lord’s Prayer neither the JST changes in Matt. nor the omitting of the last line are included. With the BofM being directly given to JS, how could the Lord’s Prayer be “mis-translated?” Which I think it is in the BofM.

  50. nhilton said

    It’s interesting to me that Matthew, the tax collector who would have been CUT OFF, CONDEMNED or JUDGED by the religious & prevented from worshipping in the synogogues & considered unfit for the kingdom, recorded this sermon on juding.

  51. […] wrath. We’ve talked before about some of the theological unpleasantries associated with this here (see also here and here)—the main problem is that these views seem to make God out to be […]

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