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Judge Not is Not a Shield to Hide Behind

It is not uncommon to hear people say:

Aren’t we all sinners? What gives you the right to make moral judgments about someone else? Isn’t that God’s job?” “Do not judge, or you to will be judged.”

A Real Life Example

I posted an article one time on Facebook that questioned homosexuality. One comment I received said, “Aren’t you a Christian? I thought Christians were not supposed to judge others.” After which, my friend, or used to be friend, de-friended me.

Some people who make these claims know where this verse is found, and other do not, but both groups are using this verse out of context. Incase you did not know, the verse is found in Matthew 7:1.

Why is this verse commonly used, or might I say, misused?

People desire to shield their sin. They want to keep others at bay. They desire to have “unrestrained moral freedom, autonomy, and independence” [1]. In short, they don’t want anyone to question their behavior, thoughts, or ideals.

What Does This Verse Really Mean?

Even though people use this verse to dissuade others from judging their behavior, the verse actually does not mean we cannot ever judge another person. Let’s look at this verse in context, and you will see what I mean.

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

After reading this verse in context, it should be apparent that what Jesus is addressing here is not all judgment, but hypocrisy. He was after the Pharisees who judged others without first dealing with their own sin.

In these verses, we see first, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees by telling them to “Judge not.” Then, He tells them “the measuring stick they used to measure the lives of others will be the same measuring stick held up against their lives by God Himself” [2]. After which, we are told that the Pharisees sin is greater than the sin of those they were judging. They had a log in their eye, which is by far greater than a speck.

The key to these set of verses comes in verse 5 when Jesus tells them to remove the log in their eye first before dealing with the speck in their brother’s eye.

Essentially, Jesus is giving them two commandments:

  1. Stop judging others in a hypocritical fashion.
  2. Get the sin out of your own life [3].

So then, Jesus is not telling us that we cannot judge others. Rather, He is telling us that we are not to be hypocritical. We are not to judge others, when there are massive sins in our lives that we are not willing to deal with.

It is like a father chastising his daughter for her suggestive and scandalous dress, then after she leaves, he looks at pornography. His actions are hypocritical. He is not dealing with his own sin before dealing with the sin of his daughter.

Can We Judge?

The answer is yes. In fact, it is our duty to judge others, so that they will grow in their Christian life. We are to spur one another on to growth and godliness, and we are to keep each other accountable. Hebrews 10:24-25 says,

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

In order to stir one another up and hold them accountable, we have to look into people’s lives and make judgments about how they are living.

However, if we are not humbly submitting our own lives to the Word of God for review, and if we are not willing to allow others to help us in that task, then we are not to judge others. If we are examining our own lives, and we are dealing with our own sins, living a life of genuine repentance, then we can judge others.

So then, we can judge others, but not before we deal with the sin in our own lives.

The Proper Way to Judge

When we judge others, we must do it in a loving way. We are not judging them in order to make ourselves look better. We don’t come at them from a morally superior position. No, we approach them in love, humbly recognizing we are all sinners, we have all fallen short of God’s glory, and we all need Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. If we approach people from that position, then we have a right, neigh a duty, to speak into their lives, so that we may wage war on the flesh together.

Conclusion

Jesus did not say these words, in order to keep us from ever making any moral judgments about others. Nor is He giving us this verse so we can shield our own sin from review. Rather, He is attacking the Pharisees, who were hypocrites because they did not deal with the massive amount of sin in their lives (log) before passing judgment on others, whose sin was not as great (speck). So then, when we look at this verse in context, we see that we can judge others, as long as we are first judging ourselves, and as long as we are approaching them in a loving manner.

Resource

[1] Eric Bargerhuff, The Most Misused Verses in the Bible, 26.
[2] Ibid., 27.
[3] Ibid.

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12 comments on “Judge Not is Not a Shield to Hide Behind

  1. This is such a timely explanation of judging according to Jesus’ comments. In the moral climate we live in where just about anything goes we need more remarks like this to lift up the Gospel.

  2. You are right on track here. I think it is interesting that this verse is misapplied unevenly, at best. It is the incantation of those whose sins are more socially acceptable at this time (like homosexuality). However, those same folks will quickly judge Christians as hateful and fearful hypocrites. They don’t want the same measure applied to them (as Jesus mentions here).

  3. Excellent post. We heard a really good sermon concerning the power of the Word and how it can divide us in Amarillo on May 13. You might enjoy hearing it..
    hillsidewired.com

  4. Thanks for the thoughts Casey. I agree with your quote of Bagerhuff on why this verse is so often misused. I find interesting how few people get to the part where Jesus says, “First remove the log from your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your out of your brother’s eye.” According to that it is appropriate to point out the speck’s in others’ eyes so long as 1) We have dealt with logs in our own eyes first, 2) We are pointing it out to help our brother remove it not to simply point out faults.

    Thanks again,
    William

  5. William,
    You are right on with your thoughts on when we can judge others and why we are judging them. It is not to point out their faults just for the sake of pointing them out. It is so they will continue to grow in their Christian life.

    Thanks again for reading and commenting. Good stuff!

    Blessings,
    Casey

  6. Hey Casey, I enjoyed this post. I recently used Jesus’ teaching here as a prooftext for dealing with 1 Corinthians 5. I preached three sermons from that chapter on “A Theology of Church Discipline”. Here’s the three links-
    Part 1, To Save a Life- http://sermon.net/oasischurchofarlington/sermonid/119907945
    Part 2, Contagion- http://sermon.net/oasischurchofarlington/sermonid/119921002
    Part 3, The Company we Keep- http://sermon.net/oasischurchofarlington/sermonid/119927171

    Part three contains the reference to Matt 7:1-5.

    I hope things are going well for you in your new ministry.

    • Jeremy,
      Thanks for reading and for your encouragement. I will have to check out the links you provided; especially, the one dealing with Matthew 7.

      Things are going well for me. God has truly blessed me and Jen with a great church in a great area. I pray you guys are doing well also.

      Blessings,
      Casey

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