bible-1101740_1280In this article, we’ll take a look at several seemingly contradictory sayings, and examine them in light of other verses that will better reveal their intent.

Verse 1 Verse 2 Explanation
Matthew 7:1 – “Judge not, that you not be judged.” Matthew 7:6 – “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” Many people, especially those that only have a cursory knowledge of the Bible, use Matthew 7:1 as a means to deny that Christians should judge, ignoring Matthew 7:6, in which Jesus denies that interpretation, saying we should judge between who would receive the gospel message and who would turn around and attack us with it. For more, see our full article on judging.
1 John 4:8 – “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 Corinthians 5:13 – “God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” “God is love, and Christians should love. Any Christians who do not love are not being like God. Therefore, Christians should accept anything and anyone.” While the premises of the above are true, the conclusion contains the error here. Love does not mean wrongdoing should simply be ignored. Otherwise, it is enabling and even encouraging sin, which is definitely not loving.
James 2:26 – “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” John 6:47 – “Truly truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” Jesus says in John that whoever believes that God sent Jesus will have eternal life. James (who was Jesus’s brother) says faith must be accompanied by action in order to be valid. What this looks like may differ from person to person. For example, the one criminal who converted right at the end of his life in Luke 23:32-43 obviously did not have time to do many good works after he believed in Jesus. Yet Jesus saw his heart, and judged his faith to be genuine. In general, Christians must strive to act in a manner consistent with their faith. One way of putting it is that our good works should come as a result of thankfulness to God, but good works do not save us by themselves. That will always be faith that does that.
Matthew 6:5-6 – “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Emphasis added) 2 Chronicles 20:18 – “Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord.” (or any other verse with public worship) The issue is not, as some people suggest, with the place of prayer, or with the number of people in prayer, but with the intent. After all, if worship was only to be done secretly, that puts churches (places of public worship by their very nature) in a very awkward position. Note that the Matthew verses say the hypocrites pray in order to be seen. Their prayer is not God-focused, but earth-focused. The danger here that Jesus warns of is that prayer should not be done for personal gain, such as only painting yourself as a godly person towards others, but for the specific intent of humbling oneself before God. In certain situations, we may be suspicious of the intent of others (prayer rallies from political leaders, for example), but as long as we cannot prove a purely political purpose, we cannot confidently accuse them of wrongdoing.
Matthew 6:1 – “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 – “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Both of these statements were given by Jesus in the same sermon. On one hand, we should not practice righteousness before other people, and on the other hand, we should let all see our good works. Like the above ‘contradiction’ on prayer, the answer lies in the motivation behind these works. The first verse says that practicing righteousness for the sake of appearances is bad. What is good is if you do righteousness for the sake of doing righteousness, because it points back to God instead of you.

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Further Resources:

The two-part ‘How do I address apparent contradictions in the Bible?‘ article goes over four more sets of verses in much the same manner as shown here.