Do not judge! It’s a phrase that gets tossed around frequently these days—mainly by those who are engaged in some illicit behavior that they don’t want to be condemned for. Those who don’t know any other passage in the Bible are quick to pull “do not judge” from their holster. But isn’t telling someone not to judge a judgment? We make judgments constantly. Every day is filled with thousands of judgments. So “do not judge” would mean that I am not to discern anything. It would mean that I am to stop making decisions altogether. Is this what Jesus meant when He said, “Do not judge?”
No sooner had Jesus said the words, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged (Mt. 7:1),” He says, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces (Mt. 7:6).” Is Jesus promoting what He blatantly just spoke out against? Is it not an exercise of judgment to call one a dog or to determine not to cast my pearls before swine? How am I supposed to know what kind of person is a dog and what kind of person is a pig? Same chapter, this time in verse 15 it reads, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” How am I supposed to accept this in light of what my Lord just stated in verse 1? The same Jesus who just spoke out against judging others is now making a very overt judgment of His own. To call someone a false prophet is not very nice. That’s not politically correct. It’s certainly not very tolerant. Christ even says, “You will know them by their fruits (v. 16).” But how can I test their fruits if I am forbidden to exercise any discernment or make an assessment.
Here are some other statements from Jesus that are very judgmental, completely intolerant, and scream of political incorrectness.
“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt. 10:28).
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (Jn. 14:6).
“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned” (Jn. 15:6).
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Mt. 7:21-23).
“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Mt. 7:19).
Add to all of this the fact that Jesus states these words in John 7:24: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” It’s not that we are forbidden to judge. It’s that we must judge rightly. Jesus’ words were aimed primarily at the Pharisees. They were judging by the wrong standard. Notice verse 2 of Matthew Chapter 7: “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” Can you take what you give? That is the question Jesus is asking. The standard you use will be used against you. Is your standard bitterness and revenge, or is it love and mercy? Are you overly critical, or are you deeply compassionate? Are you hateful or are you kind? In essence, Christ is saying, “You had better evaluate the standard you use.” Are you prepared to live up to the standard you require everyone else to live up to?
We cannot judge people by our own standard because we don’t even measure up ourselves. So many times we condemn faults in others that are just as glaringly obvious in our own lives. We want to hold people to a better standard than we are currently meeting. To be overly critical of others when we are failing to meet our own self-imposed standard is the height of hypocrisy, which is precisely what Jesus is condemning in Matthew 7:1-6. Take note of His words in verses 3 through 5:
“Why do you look at 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,’ and behold, the log is 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.”
Jesus never intended for Christians not to judge. Rather, He intended for us to judge rightly. He expects us to judge with righteous judgment (Jn. 7:24). There is a standard of judgment, but it’s not our own. We must be able to discern truth and error. We must be able to recognize false prophets who come to us in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves (Mt. 7:15). The Apostle Paul speaks plainly to the Corinthians about the fact that judging must take place in order to effectively carry out church discipline (1 Cor. 5). We must be able to recognize sin when we see it, or else how would we steer clear of it, and how would we know who needed to hear the Gospel? These are all judgments; however, the standard is not our own. The standard by which we judge such things is the word of God.
Righteous judgment means that we judge according to the proper standard. The Bible is our standard of righteousness. Within its pages are the specifications for how we are to live. It is the truth we are to adhere to. Therefore, when we point out that a certain immoral behavior is wrong, we are not speaking on our own accord. We are not being intolerant. We are not judging based on our own standard. We are simply sharing what God has stated in His inspired word. There is a standard of righteousness that one must live by in order to be pleasing to God. Pointing that out to one who is lost is not being judgmental. They’re already condemned. They don’t need us to do that. They’ve condemned themselves. Our job, as Christians, is to lovingly go to them and make them aware of their need for a Savior.
Those who quote Matthew 7:1 exclusively need to read further. God is judgmental. He is intolerant. He does not care one iota about political correctness. Wrong is wrong. Right is right. And the pages of scripture detail for all mankind what it means to live a life that is pleasing to God. We, as His children, must be diligent to live up to His standard. And we, as His children, must be diligent to teach others about living up to His standard as well.