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Judge Not

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Matthew 7:1

This verse is one of the most abused and misunderstood in the Bible. It is often quoted to silence a rebuke against sin, pacify a guilty conscience, or justify not dealing with a sinner about salvation. Jesus plainly is dealing with hypocrites in the passage (Matt. 7:5) who are severe in their judgment of others. This critical, fault-finding spirit should not characterize a child of God. The principle of judging must be understood in the light of other scripture passages that admonish believers to judge certain things. For example:

  • Judgment by civil courts to control crime in a sinful world; Rom. 13:1-4; Titus 3:1-2; Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 2:13-15

  • Judgment by the local church of those that are disorderly within its fellowship or those who embrace false doctrine; Matt. 18:16-17; Rom. 16:17; 2 Thes. 3:6,14; Titus 3:10

  • Judgment by individuals regarding those who do wrong or engage in sinful acts; Matt. 7:15-16; 1 Cor. 5:11; 1 Jn. 4:1

Whatever fault we see in another person may be a speck of sawdust compared with our own lack of love that stands in contrast like a massive log (Matt. 7:3). No one can help another person in their spiritual growth while having a critical spirit toward them. The scribes and Pharisees were guilty of this false judgment about themselves, other people and even the Lord Jesus Christ. Their self-righteousness encouraged this censorious spirit in judgment. Unfortunately this same critical and competitive spirit is alive and active among believers today.

There are several scriptural principles regarding judgment that one should consider before flippantly quoting Matthew 7:1 or quickly dismissing it in order to be critical of others.

1. Judgment should begin with oneself

If we turn the spotlight inward we will find enough to keep us humble before the Lord without being occupied with others’ shortcomings. We have enough to give account for at the judgment seat of Christ answering for our own behavior without worrying about the actions of others.

2. There is no place for pride

Some mistake natural gifts for spiritual achievement. If you are intelligent, popular, had a good upbringing and a certain level of good conduct comes fairly easy, you are likely to believe that all this goodness is proof that you are “right with God”. Is it divine patience when the nature of the man is one which nothing could ever move? Is it divine humility in one that always avoided confrontation? There is a mysterious paradox inherent in Christianity, the apostle Paul describes it as “treasure in earthen vessels.” It is the manifestation of divine power in the presence of human weakness. There are some Christians that are fearful or impulsive, credulous or impatient by nature, etc., yet there is at the same time a precious treasure, Christ within, that shines triumphantly through their human frailty, enabling faith in the presence of doubt, joy amidst pain, anger without sin, unconditional love when love is not returned, etc. The exceeding greatness of the power to live beyond our nature is not of ourselves but of God. We must be careful that we don’t think more highly of ourselves than we should. As C.S. Lewis wrote: “Most of the man’s psychological make-up is probably due to his body: when his body dies all that will fall off him and the real central man, the thing that chose, that made the best or the worst out of this material, will stand naked. All sorts of nice things which we thought our own, but which were really due to a good digestion, will fall off some of us: all sorts of nasty things which were due to complexes or bad health will fall off others. We shall then, for the first time, see everyone as he really was.”

3. If people measure themselves by someone else then let it be alongside of Jesus Christ

The hypocrite believes other men’s sins are worse than his own. He compares himself with the drug addict, the prostitute, the immoral, and prides himself on his own church attendance, morality, and respectability. The mistake this person makes is measuring himself alongside the wrong standard. When God judges men it will not be by the standards we choose, it will be by His own (Rom. 2:1-2) – how do we measure up next to the sinless Son of God?

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