Judge Not – What does it really mean?

Court Room

It is not uncommon to hear people to 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.”

Some who make these claims know where this verse is found, and others do not, but the common theme is that it is used 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].” They don’t want anyone to question their behavior, thoughts, or ideals.

That is a secular way of thinking. It is not a biblical way of thinking. Jesus is not giving this command so others can hide behind it. He is not giving this command as a license to sin. The Bible is clear about that.

  • The Bible gives us commands we are to live by.
  • The Bible tells us we are to hold others accountable.
  • Jesus provides us with the steps to church discipline.
  • Jesus provides us with a church so that we can stir one another up and encourage one another in the faith.
  • Jesus provides us with people in our life to point out our sin so that we will grow to be more like Him.

So then, Jesus’ command is not to be used to shield ourselves from moral scrutiny. To think and act in that way is to think and act in a secular way. It is to allow the world to influence us, and our interpretation of the Bible.

Instead of looking at the Bible through the world’s lens, we have to look at the Bible through its own lens. We have to allow it to interpret itself.

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 Jesus is addressing judgmentalism and hypocrisy. He was after those who were critical of others and those who operated under a double standard. As well as He was after those who judged others without first dealing with their own sin.

Essentially, Jesus is giving two commandments:

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

So then, Jesus is not telling us we cannot speak about the sin in others lives. Rather, He is telling us that we are not to be hypocritical. We are not to operate under a double standard. We are not to be critical of others.

Can We Judge?

The answer is yes. In fact, it is our duty to judge others, so that they will grow in the Christian life. We are to spur one another on to growth and godliness, and we are to keep each other accountability. 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.

It is important that we are dealing with our own sin because those who are working on their own sin will approach others in a vastly different way than those who are not.

Those who don’t think they have any sin to work on will approach others in a judgmental way. Those who do work on their sin first will approach others with love, mercy, grace, and patience.

The reason for that is because they realize that God has had mercy on them; He has come to them in love; He has patience with them; He has shown them grace. Those who have experienced these things, will be in a better place to point out others sins than those who haven’t.

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 making moral judgments. Nor did He give us this verse so we can shield our own sin from review. Rather, He is attacking those who are hypocrites; those who operate under a double standard; those who are critical.

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.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?

Resource

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

Image

Judge Not – What does it really mean? (Sermon I preached on this topic)

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22 thoughts on “Judge Not – What does it really mean?

  1. This is certainly a challenging piece of scripture. I have heard some say we cannot judge another and others say that we judge actions, not people.

    I do believe we are called to help others walk in the light of God and they are called to help me do the same thing. As you said well, we must approach people we see in sin with humility and ready to accept their own judgment of something we may be struggling with. The beauty of this passage comes when we are all open to helping and receiving help from each other. God gave us relationship and community to strengthen each other.

    Keep up the good writing and tough thoughts.

    1. Thanks for the response and encouragement. I do think you are right when you say, “The beauty of this passage comes when we are all open to helping and receiving help from each other.” I agree relationships and Christian community are a necessity if we are going to grow in our sanctification. Without it, who will point out the sin we are blind to? Who will point out the plank in our own eye? I am thankful for the community I have and pray it will grow deeper every week.

      Blessings,

      Casey Lewis

  2. I have tried explaining this verse, but was never quite satisfied with my own explanation. And, I have read a few interpretations of these verses, but could never quite put my finger on what was missing. Yours is the best explanation I’ve found. Very clear and easily understood. Thanks.

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  5. Hey Pastor Casey – Good Word – I found a link to this article from someone who linked us both. In any case i find it very interesting you posted this on 4/8 – I started posting on this verse on the same day – a series of short posts.

    I love what you have said here – i love the link to a need to be in fellowship – gathering together and stirring one another up. that so rings true.

    Nice to find another on the same page.

    Ben

    1. Ben,
      That is pretty cool. God works in amazing ways. I will check out your posts on this subject as you write them.

      I do believe the need for us to stir one another up is crucial. We can’t live the Christian life on our own. We need one another. So often we think we have it under control, but those around us see the massive plank in our eye. It is helpful when they point that out in love, so we can remove it.

      Blessings,
      Casey

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  8. Hannah Roberts

    I have also read on this subject quite a bit and your explanation was articulated in the best way so far! I always hear myself and others exclaiming that we shouldn’t judge even when someone else’s behavior is obviously egregious. Then I remember that we are supposed to admonish the sinner. However, if we are discussing the matter over with someone else, we have to ask ourselves in what spirit are we discussing the matter? Are we trying to make sense out of it and be helpful or are we delighting in discussing others’ weaknesses? I think it’s wonderful when you said that if we do need to confront someone about their sin, we should do it with a loving approach. We all know deep down when we are approaching people in a loving way and when we are attacking others (full of pride). I think so many people are confused by this so thank you!!!!!

    1. Hannah,

      Thanks for your comment. I believe it is good you see it is important to approach people in a loving way. We need to talk with people but we must do it in a way that doesn’t puff ourselves up. We must do it in a way that helps them to grow and know we care about them.

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