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” . 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” . 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:
- Stop judging others in a hypocritical fashion.
- Get the sin out of your own life .
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.
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.
 Eric Bargerhuff, The Most Misused Verses in the Bible, 26.
 Ibid., 27.
18 thoughts on “Judge Not is Not a Shield to Hide Behind”
Amen! Nice post!
Thanks! And thanks for reading.
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.
Thank you for your encouragement, and I completely agree with what you have written.
Thanks for reading,
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).
Thanks for your encouragement Sean.
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..
Thanks for the encouragement and thanks for the link. I will check out the sermon. I pray you guys are doing well.
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.
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!
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.
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.
A bit late coming to your post, but I just found your site and apologies for the long tale.
When I was kid I realized that something was not quite right. At the time I didn’t even understand what homosexuality meant, but I felt it was bad. Worse, there was something in the Bible about it and hell.
And so I cried nite after nite, begging, pleading, praying, bargaining with God to “fix me”, or to please let me die in my sleep, because dying was better than going to hell. What can I say, I was 10! I woke up the next mornings ecstatic because I wasn’t dead which obviously meant that God had “fixed me”. Except He never did. So, very saddened and after trying to plead with God some more nite after nite, I came to the illogical and irrational conclusion that God must hate me.
I wont go into what happened in the decades that followed – just use your imagination.
So now I get to the reason for this. Many years later I met a guy who I completely loved – not in a selfish sense, but very much in a Jesus sense. It was the first time (in the very few times) that I had sex, that it felt normal. There was no self-judgement on my part. I loved him and it felt like the most natural thing to do.
After a year or so we broke up. I was devastated. After months of depression and many visits to (Catholic) church, I saw a pamphlet about therapy and decided to give it a try. The therapist was a Catholic Nun.At some point in the sessions the ex came into the conversation and before I even knew what I was saying I was telling her what I have written above loving him and sex – but in more detail.
After a bit, and to my complete embarrassment, she started to smile. She obviously sensed my discomfort, put her hand on my forearm and told me stop. She then said that she was not smiling because of what I was telling her, and then asked me if I had felt it. I asked her: “Felt what?”
She went on to tell me that whenever she felt God’s presence, while having a session with someone, a sparrow would come and sit on the window sill. Except this time it flew into the room and circled my head a couple times before it flew out of the other window.
So, what’s your take on this last bit? Love is love – just as long as it is genuine? Maybe you want to think on that. If you respond please do not quote the Bible – I will spare you my opinion of it. If you want to quote scripture, quote Jesus.
Thanks – stay well.
Not too sure how you would have me respond without using God’s Word. It is the only authority I can stand on. My opinion doesn’t matter, what Scripture says is what matters. Scripture includes more than just Jesus’ Words. It’s made up of 66 books.
That’s okay Casey – I understand that you think of the Bible as God’s Word. Me, not so sure how much of it is, and how much of it claims to be. Rather stick with Jesus’ simplicity of: if you love me, you will love each other. That covers the 10 Commandments in my book. The rest? Keep searching, as Jesus said we should – and pray that God will help me see the way.
I wish you well on your road to finding Truth.
Jesus gives the love command – Love the Lord your God will all your heart, soul, and mind, which is the first greatest commandment. And love your neighbor as yourself, which is the second greatest commandment – in Matthew 22:34-40 in response to a question by a Pharisee lawyer. In verse 40 Jesus says that all the Law and prophets hang on these two commandments. Yes, that is the 10 Commandments but also all of what the Law and Prophets wrote, which would represent the Old Testament in Jesus’ day. So Jesus’ own words tell us there is more to Scripture than just His Words.
Also, when Jesus says we are to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul, He means we are to completely submit ourselves to God. We are to take up God’s will. Instead of saying, “Let my will be done” we are to say, “Let God’s will be done”. We are to completely surrender ourselves to God humbling ourselves before Him.
Additionally, when Jesus tells us to love others, while this does mean we are to sacrifice our will for others and are to live in peace with our neighbor, Jesus doesn’t mean we are never to disagree with another. Love does not allow folks to do whatever they want. Love gently and kindly tells others where they are wrong. Love calls folks back to God’s will and encourages them to submit their life to Jesus as their personal Savior and follow Him as their Lord.
You see, Christianity is more than a bunch of rules we are to follow. Christianity involves us following Jesus in submitting our entire lives to God. It involves us saying, “Let your will be done, not mine.”
The last thing I will mention is that: The Bible itself is more than a book of rules. The Bible is a love story of how God has provided a way for us to experience a relationship with Him once again. It is a story with a grand narrative of: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration. Jesus is at the center of it all. He is in both the OT and NT. He is our only hope for salvation and a repaired relationship with God.
If we are all sinners, and no one is perfect…wouldn’t that mean we are (or should be) constantly trying to improve ourselves ?
Metaphorically speaking, that log in our eye will never be completely removed since we are not, nor ever will be “perfect” like God.
In which case, we shouldn’t (or in theory, wouldn’t be ready to) judge others.
Just my take on it. I am late to the party as well and will probably never check back to see if there is a response; I am just forgetful like that. Just wanted to throw my 2 cents in.
Thanks for the comment. While we should look at the log in our eye, and seek to remove it, that doesn’t mean we can’t ever talk to another person about their sin. We are to hold one another accountable in order to help them grow in Christ. If we can’t or won’t do that because we think we have to be perfect before we can, then we won’t end up helping others grow in Christ. Pointing out another’s sin, if done in love, is not a bad thing, but a good thing.
Plus, Jesus never said we had to be perfect before we turned to point out another’s sin. That wasn’t His point. His point was for us to tend to the massive log in our eye before working at the splinter in another’s. In other words, we shouldn’t think we are perfect and have nothing to work on when in fact we are far from perfect. We must be willing to admit that and work on that before helping others work on their sin. If, however, we are willing to admit our sin and work on it, even asking others to help us with it, then we are prepared to help others with their sin. To help them see it and to help them work on it.