Thursday, April 28, 2011

Judge Not

"Judge not lest you be judged.'' There are few Bible verses (perhaps John 3:16, Psalms 23, or Matthew 6:9-13) so well known to the public at large as Matthew 7:1. Nor is there any other verse so totally misunderstood. It is commonly taken to mean it is wrong to make any kind of determination as to what is right and what is wrong. If it means that, it not only flies in the face not only of almost everything the Bible says but of what Jesus Himself says in the rest of the sermon (Matthew 5:17-48; 6:1-24; 7:15-27). Now in the context, this verse is followed by the illustration of the man who notices the speck in his neighbor's eye and misses the beam in his own. He is informed he should first remove the beam from his own eye and then he will be able to see to remove the speck from his neighbor's eye. Now note what Jesus does not say. He does not say, "Leave the beam in your eye, leave the beam in your neighbor's eye, and form a society protesting those hateful, narrow people who are opposed to specks and beams." What this passage is against is hypocrisy. However, before we say, "I'm not a hypocrite; I'm a good person, so it is all right for me to judge," we need to note one thing. Nowhere in this passage is there an exception clause. It does not say, "Do not judge if you have a beam in your eye, but otherwise you are safe." It seems to take for granted the judge does have a beam in his eye.

There is a similar statement in Romans 2:1. This verse is in the context of an argument starting in Romans 1:18 and going to 3:20, whose conclusion can best be summed up in Romans 3:23: "for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." So then, in 2:1 when Paul says that those who judge are inexcusable, he is basing it on the fact we are all sinners and therefore cannot claim we are better than those we judge. Rather, we all need to be forgiven by the grace of God (Romans 3:24-26; 4:4,5; Ephesians 2:8,9).

But we are commanded to stand for God's truth and to correct sin (2 Timothy 2:24-26; Galatians 6:1; 1 Peter 3:15). We are even required to employ church discipline in the case of those who claim to be believers (Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 2 Thessalonians 3:14,15). But we are not to render an ultimate, categorical judgment of others. The difference here is one of attitude. Are we doing this in a spirit of gentleness, with a desire to put people on the right path so they will live for God, or  looking down on people because we think we are better than them? So while we should not twist Matthew 7:1 to condone sin, we should examine our own heart before dealing with the transgressions of another.


  1. "The difference here is one of attitude."

    Amen Mike.

  2. Amen! Very well written and I agree with you 100%.


  3. Very nice. It must also be noted that those who push for unlimited "tolerance" are very judgmental against judgmental people. The issue isn't whether or not to judge, but by what standard will we judge, and do we exclude ourselves in judging.

  4. I have to agree with that. There is no one so intolerant as the modern pushers of "tolerance" against anyone who does not accept their standard of "broad-mindedness".