MATTHEW 7 (NIV)
“Do not judge,
or you too will be judged.
For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
MATTHEW 7 (NIV)
How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?
You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Often when a Christian speaks out against sin, some variation of Matthew 7:1 might be quoted to them by someone who informs them that they’re not supposed to judge.
You might say something like “Homosexuality is sinful” or “Buddhists are lost” and have someone respond, “Judge not, or you will be judged”.
In the same way that most drunks know nothing of the Bible other than that Jesus turned water into wine, this verse is predominantly quoted by non-Christians or nominal Christians who know little or no other Scripture.
The implication is that they believe Jesus was instructing us to universally accept or condone any lifestyle or teaching.
DO NOT JUDGE
Our society believes in tolerance above anything else. Any practice and any teaching must be tolerated. We must tolerate anything except a person who we deem to be intolerant!
However to be tolerant of someone does not imply that you accept or condone what they do or believe. It simply means you accept their right to differ with you, or to even their right to be wrong.
Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
The Christian is commanded to love unconditionally. This does not imply unconditional approval. You can still love someone who does things that should not be approved of.
People seem to think that it doesn’t matter what you believe – as long as you believe something sincerely.
But the Nazis believed something sincerely and the result was that six million Jews died.
Atheists believe something sincerely and almost 32 million Christians 1 have been martyred in the last 2 millennia as a result.
Muslim terrorists believe something sincerely enough to die for it. As a result they are prepared to fly jet-liners into skyscrapers or blow up innocent bystanders along with themselves in suicide bombing attacks.
1 SOURCE: David Barrett & Todd Johnson 2001 World Christian Trends
You can be sincerely wrong!
Jesus taught that truth matters (“the truth will set you free”). If you believe a lie, there are consequences to face.
Imagine telling the traffic officer who stops you for speeding, “You mustn’t judge”. Do you think that would alleviate you of any consequences for your actions? If not, how can we believe that God’s Law can be violated without consequence?
Many non-Christians even quote the words of Jesus, “the truth will set you free” without realizing that it is from the Bible. But the quotation in context is:
“If you hold to
you are really
Then you will
know the truth,
and the truth
will set you
Further on in the same chapter of Matthew 7:1 - or the same Sermon (on the Mount) for that matter - Jesus tells us to do something that requires making judgment:
Matthew 7:15-16 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s
clothing, but inwardly
they are ferocious
wolves. By their fruit
you will recognize them.”
We are told to judge
whether a person is a false
prophet by their ‘fruit’ –
in other words some
assessment of the way
that they live is necessary.
TO JUDGE OR NOT?
So Matthew 7:1 has been misunderstood, misapplied and generally taken out of the context of the overall teaching of Scripture. People have used it to their own advantage in an attempt to remove all discrimination between good and evil. Jesus’ words don’t mean that we should not - on the basis of God’s word - call sin ‘sin’.
On the contrary we are taught that at
times we are required to judge and at
other times we must “judge not”.
But when are we Biblically
allowed to judge and when
should we refrain from
TO JUDGE OR NOT?
When Jesus says we must not judge, he is not prohibiting the civil judgment of courts on criminals and lawbreakers, for this is condoned throughout the Word of God.
He is not prohibiting the judgment of the church leaders, or of parents in the family and employers with employees, for this is likewise approved of in Scripture.
He is first and foremost instructing us not to judge where we have no jurisdiction or authority.
An example is seen in the US federal system. The local police force have authority within their own state but not in other states. In cases where a crime has been committed across state borders or in multiple states, the police have no jurisdiction and have to hand the case over to the FBI.
Jesus has been given jurisdiction and authority to judge by the Father:
John 4:27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
John 5:22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son...
In certain cases we too have been given authority by God to judge.
The governing authorities have God-ordained authority to judge:
1 Pet 2:13-14 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.
Rom 13:1-2 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
In the Bible, slaves are instructed to obey their masters even though slavery is frowned upon: 1
Eph 6:5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.
Col 3:22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.
Likewise an employer has authority to judge in the area where he has jurisdiction i.e. the running of his business.
1 1 Cor 7:23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.
1 Tim 1:10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers - and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine
Parents have authority over their children and will need to exercise judgment within the confines of the family.
Col 3:20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
Eph 6:1-3 Children, obey
your parents in the Lord,
for this is right. “Honor
your father and mother” –
which is the first
commandment with a
promise - “that it may
go well with you and that
you may enjoy long life
on the earth.”
Husbands have authority over their wives:
Col 3:18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Eph 5:22-24 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Elders (overseers) have spiritual authority over their congregation. They are instructed to ‘govern’, ‘direct’, ‘keep watch’ and ‘oversee’ which necessitates making judgments:
Acts 20:28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.
1 Tim 5:17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.
1 Pet 5:1-2 To the elders among you... Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers...
Rom 12:6-8 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us... if it is leadership, let him govern diligently...
Paul rebukes the Corinthian church for not putting out of fellowship a brother who is in sexual sin. They are instructed to “judge those inside” their church.
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? ... “Expel the wicked man from among you.” (1 Cor 5:12-13).
Paul also rebukes the Corinthian Christians for taking other Christians to court. He instructs them to appoint judges within the church for these matters:
1 Cor 6:1-6 If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? ... Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another - and this in front of unbelievers!
We saw in Matthew 7:15 that Jesus cautioned us to “Watch out for false prophets.” We are also told to judge the spiritual gifts exercised in the church:
Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. (1 Cor 14:29 - NASB).
John also wrote, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)
Matt 24:24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect - if that were possible.
In 2 Cor 11:26 and in Gal 2:4 Paul refers to “false brothers”. In 2 Cor 11:13 Paul speaks of men who are “false apostles” and John commends the Ephesian church for ‘testing’ (i.e. making a judgment) the claims of these men:
Rev 2:2 ... I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.
One of the areas where an overseer must ‘judge’ is the area of doctrine:
Titus 1:9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
In Ephesus, Timothy is instructed by Paul to “command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer” (1 Tim 1:3). Determining what is false doctrine or not requires judgment.
And Peter cautions us against both false prophets and false teachers. We need to make judgments in these areas.
2 Pet 2:1-3 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them - bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up...
Before passing judgment, ask yourself, “Do I have authority or jurisdiction to judge in this situation?”
Rom 14:4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
James 4:11-12 Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you - who are you to judge your neighbor?
A government can govern it’s own affairs but it’s courts have no jurisdiction in another country.
A parent has the right to judge their own children – but not the children of others.
Likewise a husband has authority over his own wife, but not over women in general.
Overseers (elders) can judge their own affairs in the local church but have no authority over other churches.
Christians can judge matters within the church but not outside the church – that is God’s jurisdiction:
1 Cor 5:9-13 I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people - not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”
When it comes to judging yourself, you have jurisdiction. We are told to judge ourselves (not others) before partaking of communion:
1 Cor 11:28-29 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.
If we judged ourselves we’d be less inclined to judge others:
Right now I’m having so much trouble with D. L. Moody, that I don't have time to criticize my friends. (D.L. Moody)
Do not pass judgment on disputable matters e.g. judging a man by the day he worships on:
Rom 14:1-13 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does... One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind... You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat... Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.
We have only partial knowledge on disputable matters so reserve your judgment:
1 Cor 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes...
We judge by outward appearances. There is a saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
When God sent Samuel to anoint the new king of Israel, we have the following account:
Samuel ... consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.”
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:5-7)
Another example of judging by appearances is given by James of people who gave preference to a man “wearing a gold ring and fine clothes” over “a poor man in shabby clothes” coming to the same meeting. also comes in. James writes, “have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:4)
Yet we judge someone by their clothes or even the colour of their skin. We don’t know a man’s thoughts, his motives, his circumstances. Jesus said that this is an unrighteous judgment:
“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)
Before criticizing a man, walk a mile in his shoes.
Pray don’t find fault with the man who limps
Or stumbles along the road
Unless you have worn the shoes that hurt
Or struggled beneath his load
There may be tacks in his shoes that hurt,
Though hidden away from view
Or the burden he bears, placed on your back,
Might cause you to stumble, too.
Don’t sneer at the man who’s down today
Unless you have felt the blow
That caused his fall, or felt the same
That only the fallen know.
You may be strong, but still the blows
That were his, if dealt to you
In the self same way at the self same time,
Might cause you to stagger, too.
Don’t be too harsh with the man who sins
Or pelt him with words or stones,
Unless you are sure, yea, doubly sure,
That you have no sins of your own.
For you know perhaps, if the tempters voice
Should whisper as soft to you
As it did to him when he went astray,
‘Twould cause you to falter, too.
WE CAN JUDGE AN ACTION BUT NOT A MOTIVE
1 Cor 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
What Jesus forbids is self-righteous, officious, hasty, unmerciful, prejudiced, and unwarranted condemnation based on human standards and human reasoning... [He condemns] the judgment of motives, which no mere human being can know of another, and to judgment of external forms. (John MacArthur)
ACTIONS & MOTIVES
Our souls may lose their peace and even disturb other people’s, if we are always criticizing trivial actions - which often are not real defects at all, but we construe them wrongly through our ignorance of their motives. (Teresa of Avila)
GOD HAS ALL THE FACTS SO HE ALONE IS A RIGHTEOUS JUDGE.
Heb 4:13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
1 Pet 1:17 Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.
ACTIONS & MOTIVES
The words of Jesus in John 8:7 are often used to tell people that you must never pass judgment:
“If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
In this passage the teachers of the law and the Pharisees
had caught a woman in
the act of adultery
and reminded Jesus
while he was teaching
in the temple that
the Law of Moses
said that she be
stoned to death.
JUDGMENT & MERCY
John 8:6-9 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is
without sin, let him be the first to
throw a stone at her.”
Again he stooped down and wrote on
the ground. At this, those who heard
began to go away one at a time, the
older ones first, until only Jesus was
left, with the woman still standing
there. Jesus straightened up and
asked her, “Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.“
JUDGMENT & MERCY
Even though he alone was without sin and thus in a position to “cast the first stone” what Jesus did do is forgive her
“Then neither do I condemn you” (John 8:10)
Jesus did not condone the woman’s action but called it ‘sin’. He also commanded her to discontinue this lifestyle of sin:
“Go now and leave your
life of sin.” (John 8:11)
In other words Jesus
passed judgment on her
sin and instructed her to
“sin no more”, but at the
same time showed mercy
JUDGMENT & MERCY
In Luke’s record of Jesus’ sermon on the level place (not the same as the Sermon on the Mount) Jesus gives a similar teaching to that of Matthew 7:1, but the context used here indicates that we must show mercy.
Luke 6:35-38 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
JUDGMENT & MERCY
Most harsh judgment arises from those who are self-righteous, as we see with the Pharisees of Jesus’ day:
None are more unjust in their judgments of others than those who have a high opinion of themselves. (Charles Spurgeon)
Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
The above passage is usually misquoted to apply to giving money. However the context is judging others and showing mercy.
JUDGMENT & MERCY
In both the teaching of Matthew 7 and Luke 6, Jesus said “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (v 16)
So Jesus does not prohibit the judgment of others but requires that we judge others by the same standard that we ourselves would like to be judged by.
JUDGMENT & MERCY
When we judge others by one standard, and ourselves by another standard – we are normally far more generous to ourselves than others.
“We judge others by their behavior. We judge ourselves by our intentions.” - Ian Percy
Jesus said, “With the measure you use, it
will be measured back to you:” So there is
the option for JUSTICE or MERCY.
Which measure would
you like God to use
Then use that same
measure with others.
JUDGMENT & MERCY
This type of double-standards was demonstrated in David’s reaction to Nathan’s story which was actually a parable about his own actions. David quickly condemned the man’s sin, even though he had been oblivious at that point to his own even greater sin (2 Samuel 12).
JUDGMENT & MERCY
It has been said:
Unless you have never been tempted, don't pass judgment on someone who has yielded.
If we must judge, let us first use the mirror on our own wall for practice.
Whenever we assign people to
condemnation without mercy
because they do not do
something the way we think
it ought to be done or
because we believe their
motives are wrong, we pass
judgment that only God is
qualified to make. (John MacArthur)
JUDGMENT & MERCY
This year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practise ourselves the kind of behaviour we expect from other people. - C. S. Lewis in “The Case for Christianity”
Rom 2:1-4 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?
JUDGMENT & MERCY
Jesus was merciful to the adulterous woman and sought to restore her:
James 2:13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul (Psa 19:7). Most laws condemn the soul and pronounce sentence. The result of the law of my God is perfect. It condemns but forgives. It restores - more than abundantly - what it takes away. (Jim Elliot)
The purpose of our judgment should not be punitive, but restorative:
The nature and end of judgment or sentence must be corrective, not vindictive; for healing, not destruction. - John Owen (Source: A Puritan Golden Treasury)
The Biblical instruction is gentle restoration for the repentant sinner.
Gal 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
The practical side is that while employers have authority to judge their employees, a Christian employer is instructed:
Col 4:1 Masters,
provide your slaves
with what is right and fair, because you now that you also have a Master in heaven.
JUDGMENT & MERCY
And while husbands are given authority to judge their wives, Christian husbands
do not be
JUDGMENT & MERCY
While parents are given
authority to judge their
children, Christian fathers
Col 3:21 Fathers, do not
embitter your children,
or they will become
JUDGMENT & MERCY
While overseers in the church have authority to judge their local congregation, they are instructed:
1 Pet 5:1-3 To the elders among you... Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers... not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
Titus 1:7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless - not overbearing, not quick-tempered...
JUDGMENT & MERCY
The habit of judging is so nearly incurable, and its cure is such an almost interminable process, that we must concentrate ourselves for a long while on keeping it in check, and this check is to be found in kind interpretations. We must come to esteem very lightly our sharp eye for evil, on which perhaps we once prided ourselves as cleverness. We must look at our talent for analysis of character as a dreadful possibility of huge uncharitableness. We are sure to continue to say clever things, so long as we continue to indulge in this analysis; and clever things are equally sure to be sharp and acid. We must grow to something higher, and something truer, than a quickness in detecting evil. (Frederick W. Faber)
QUICK TO JUDGE
You need to bear in mind that you will ultimately be judged:
By the word of God
John 12:48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn
him at the last day.
By your judgment of others
Matt 7:2 For in the same
way you judge others, you
will be judged, and with the
measure you use, it will be
measured to you.
By your own words
“I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant!” (Luke 19:22)
Luke 12:36-37 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
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