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It may be the best known Bible verse in our culture: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1).

As one of our society’s most popular verses, it is also one of the most misunderstood. Too many people, non-Christian and Christian, take Jesus’ words to be a blanket rejection of all moral evaluation. But given that Jesus alludes to his opponents as dogs and pigs five verses later, it’s safe to think Jesus wasn’t condemning every kind of judgment. We see from the rest of the Gospel that Matthew 7:1 is not inconsistent with strong criticisms, negative statements, church discipline, and warnings about hell. Judgmentalism is not the same as making ethical and doctrinal demands or believing others to be wrong.

And yet, after all the necessary qualifications, we must not mute this important command. As sinners, we are apt to assume the worst about people. We are eager to find favorable comparisons that make ourselves look good at the expense of others. We are quick to size people up and think we have them figured them out. But I have learned over the years–both as the giver and receiver of judgmental assumptions–that it’s best not to assume.

Don’t assume you know all the facts after hearing one side of the story.

Don’t assume the person is guilty just because strong charges are made against him.

Don’t assume you understand a blogger’s heart after reading one post.

Don’t assume that famous author, preacher, athlete, politician, or local celebrity won’t read what you write and don’t assume they won’t care what you say.

Don’t assume the divorced person is to blame for the divorce.

Don’t assume the single mom isn’t following Jesus.

Don’t assume the guy from the Mission is less of a man or less of a Christian.

Don’t assume the pastor looking for work is a bad pastor.

Don’t assume the church that struggles or fails is a bad church.

Don’t assume you’d be a better mom.

Don’t assume bad kids are the result of bad parents.

Don’t assume your parents are clueless.

Don’t assume everyone should drop everything to attend to your needs, and don’t assume no one will.

Don’t assume the rich are ungenerous.

Don’t assume the poor are lazy.

Don’t assume you know what they are all like after meeting one or two of their kind.

Don’t assume you should read between the lines.

Don’t assume you have interpreted the emotions of the email correctly.

Don’t assume everyone has forgotten about you.

Don’t assume they meant to leave you off the list.

Don’t assume everyone else has a charmed life.

Don’t assume a bad day makes her a bad friend.

Don’t assume the repentance isn’t genuine.

Don’t assume the forgiveness isn’t sincere.

Don’t assume God can’t change you.

Don’t assume God can’t love you.

Don’t assume God can’t love them.


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Comments:


67 thoughts on “Don’t Assume”

  1. Jared says:

    Thanks so much.

  2. Bill Lavinder says:

    Wow! That is putting the hay where the horses can reach it. Thanks for great application!

  3. David Crabb says:

    Thank you for this!

  4. This hit me hard today with conviction. Thank you for writing this

  5. JG says:

    Excellent! Thank you for this, you don’t know how much I needed to hear this!

  6. Reg Schofield says:

    I think we all have been on each end. Both assuming the worse of another or having it done to us . Great post.

  7. Dan Phillips says:

    Very good word. Dovetails nicely with this, to which I’ll now link it.

  8. Kim says:

    Great list. I like the part about not assuming a bad kid means the parents were bad. When kids rebel in the church, that is the time we find out how ungracious people can be.

  9. Wonderful words of wisdom! I’ve struggled with making this point to people who have misunderstood Jesus’ words to mean a blanket rejection of any kind of discerning words, but with the explanation not always containing the proper caveats to it.

    I will remember these words for a long time as they are the very things that the Lord has been teaching me about the ministry!~

    Peace.

  10. Read says:

    I’d also like to add to the list “Don’t assume fellow believers who don’t take an annual missions trip are lesser Christians than yourself”

  11. Chris Taylor says:

    I don’t like the kids assumptions! It assumes too much and is not helpful.

    Instead, when good parents have bad kids, assume that the parents need better advice and instruction and encouragement on how to get their kids under control. Take them out for coffee and begin the long laborious task of Titus 2 (teach them how to love their children).

    When good parents won’t listen to good advice and encouragement, and refuse to admit that their kids are out of control, then you are free to assume that they are just bad parents.

    Just sayin’

  12. Daryl Little says:

    Chris,

    Or you can assume the kids are sinful while not assuming that good parenting will necessarily fix that.

  13. “Don’t assume bad kids are the result of bad parents.” True THAT!

    Thanks Kevin!

    @Chris Taylor: Don’t you think parents working hard to “save their children” is just another form of works righteousness?

  14. DA says:

    Don’t assume everyone in a church (including the pastor) is a Christ-follower.

    Don’t assume those who do not go to church are not Christ-followers.

    Don’t assume if the sign outside the building has the word “church” in it that you’ll actually find one on the inside.

  15. @DA: Don’t assume church-goers aren’t Christ followers either.

    Also, I think it’s a fair assumption that if you are living in sin and enjoy it and don’t plan on changing, you probably aren’t a Christ-follower. Like Kevin said, “do not judge” does not mean a rejection of all moral evaluation.

  16. “Don’t assume the poor are lazy”…I could preach for years on this one…thanks Kev.

  17. raddestnerd says:

    Was being convicted of this lately. Your article is bringing healing to my mind. Also this line, “Don’t assume a bad day makes her a bad friend.” encourages me to reconcile with a friend of mine. He was having a bad day. Thanks for writing this. Love to you bro.

  18. Chris Taylor says:

    Dear Heather,

    Is it okay to work hard to save anyone? Paul thinks so:

    Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1Ti 4:15-16 ESV)

    If it is okay to save both yourself and your hearers, why should your children be excluded? I understand the concern with being self-righteous, and with trying to earn your (or another’s) salvation. But that is an entirely different category than working out your (and your children’s) salvation with fear and trembling.

    Warmly,

    CT

  19. sarah says:

    yes, yes, a thousand times YES. I wish everyone would read this!

  20. @Chris,
    Yes, if that was remotely what I was saying your answer would be warranted. But what I said was parents working “to save their children” (an act that can only be done by God) is another form of works righteousness. Notice that the bible says, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” it does not say “work out your children’s salvation.” This is an individual’s task.

  21. Eric Rasmusen says:

    True, but…

    Don’t assume that famous author, preacher, athlete, politician, or local celebrity will read what you write and care what you say.
    Don’t assume the divorced person is not to blame for the divorce.
    Don’t assume you’d be a worse mom.
    Don’t assume bad kids aren’t the result of bad parents.
    Don’t assume your parents are clued-in.
    Don’t assume you shouldn’t read between the lines.
    Don’t assume everyone remembers you.
    Don’t assume they didn’t mean to leave you off the list.
    Don’t assume the repentance is genuine.
    Don’t assume the forgiveness is sincere.
    Don’t assume God loves you.
    Don’t assume God loves them.

  22. Heh…Eric, don’t you think people have no problem NOT assuming all of those things?

  23. Trey says:

    Something I’ve learned over the past few years really coincides with this post. I’ve seen that giving people the benefit of the doubt is an essential way of showing grace towards others. We can’t so quickly assume that we have another person’s motives or actions fully understood. Excellent post,I really needed to hear this.

  24. @trey, I totally agree…it opens us up to be hurt, but isn’t that what real love is all about anyway…

  25. Eric Rasmusen says:

    Yes, Heather, do think people have trouble with these things. I think Christians have a big problem of trying hard to overlook sin and pretend it doesn’t exist when it comes to people they know (they’re less gracious with strangers, perhaps). It’s much easier to assume my friends are never at fault, genuinely repent, are truly my friends, etc. than to confront a fallen world.

  26. @Eric, well, you must be a particularly nice person, or me and everyone I know are just…jerks. hahaha! I’ve never met ANYONE who didn’t assume the worst at all times about others. Have you ever heard the oft repeated phrase, “Christians shoot their wounded”? From my experience we are more gracious to strangers, and less so to other Christians.

    In a way this is as it should be. We are people who have the truth and should be held to a higher standard, but to say we don’t assume the worst is just…well, outrageous! I mean, maybe you happen to be in a very loving community. If so good for you! And I’m in a loving church too, but we don’t seem to have any trouble with assuming the best all the time.

  27. Eric Rasmusen says:

    What I notice in myself and others is that we don’t want to confront anyone about their behavior. Thus, when a friend of mine gets divorced, I’m strongly tempted to assume it’s the other person’s fault, because that’s less embarassing. I think most churches are like that too, because to look steadily at someone and see their sin is troublesome, because we all feel guilty about not rebuking them. Indeed, most churches do no church discipline at all, and people resolutely close their eyes at sin in their midst, and pretend they’re all sinless. Instead, we devote ourselves to opposing sin in the abstract.

  28. Julie says:

    We are not to assume, but we are also to be responsible. Out of the heart the mouth speaks; even a child is known by his actions, whether his conduct is pure and right. My words, and actions, are a reflection of my heart. My words are heard or read, so I better mean them if I say them. My actions speak louder than my words, so I need be careful what I do. I need to keep my eyes on Jesus, and from now on off blogs.

  29. Hugh McCann says:

    Nice list. You CAN assume that you’re always dealing with two sinners: him and yourself!

    Jesus there explains that we are to discern/ judge pigs, dogs, false prophets, lousy fruit/ trees.

    Isn’t the bogus judgment Jesus condemns that of consigning another to hell? It’s not (imho) about “assuming the worst about people.”

    The immediate verses following tell of a brother whose sin you spot. You are to deforest your own eyes first, and then help the brother, no?

    And it seems the whole deal is summed up in v. 12 ~ So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. {ESV, Crossway}

    P.S. Right on, Eric R.!

  30. Luci says:

    This was water to a thirsty soul. “Don’t assume that God can’t change you.”

  31. Sherri Acheson says:

    Communicate,communicate,communicate, in this world of techinological communication devices, we as humans still have that problem of face to face, open hearted, we need each other dependance.

  32. David Sims says:

    and..don’t set yourself up as Judge…. agree only with the Divine Bench… call good what He calls good, call evil what He calls evil, and don’t posit that good is bad, or the other way around.

  33. Diane says:

    Hugh MaCann wrote:

    “Nice list. You CAN assume that you’re always dealing with two sinners: him and yourself!

    Jesus there explains that we are to discern/ judge pigs, dogs, false prophets, lousy fruit/ trees.

    Isn’t the bogus judgment Jesus condemns that of consigning another to hell? It’s not (imho) about “assuming the worst about people.”

    The immediate verses following tell of a brother whose sin you spot. You are to deforest your own eyes first, and then help the brother, no?

    And it seems the whole deal is summed up in v. 12 ~ So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. {ESV, Crossway}”

    Amen. We are quick to call out amd make rash and harsh judgments about people while we are doing the very same sins ourselves. Sentencing them while we cover our own sin, therefore showing our hypocrisy.

  34. David Van Lant says:

    Awesome!!!!

  35. purisomniapura says:

    Our fallen sin nature makes us conducive to being censorious. We will always struggle with this propensity in this life…but victories are attainable in Christ Jesus!

  36. Hugh McCann says:

    Our fallen sin nature makes us tend to obsequiousness. We will always struggle with this propensity in this life…..but victories are attainable in Christ Jesus!

    They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them. {Pro. 28:4}

    This complements Matt 7:1 ~> Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. {Gal. 6:1f}

  37. Rick says:

    I’d like to say that I share the same concern that Eric Rasmusen shared.

    I know one example in particular of a pastor who humiliated and broke down his wife for years. And after ignoring repeated warnings from church leadership, he found himself holding divorce papers. He then falsely accused her, played the victim card, drove the leadership away, had his four buddies self appoint themselves as elders, and had them call him back as the pastor.

    He then linked to this article as support for not assuming the divorced person is to blame for the divorce.

    So while I do agree with Kevin’s article, I also think it needs to be balanced with Eric’s encouragement to not assume complete innocence as well.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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