“Don’t judge me! Don’t you know that the Bible says, ‘Judge not lest ye be judged!’?” How often isn’t this the response you get when you tell someone that something they are doing is wrong? People try to point out that Jesus tells us not to judge, but is that really the case?
Did Jesus say “do not judge”? The answer is yes, and no! Yes, Jesus spoke those words in Matthew 7:1. But no, Jesus was not telling us not to judge. When you are reading, don’t just stop with verse 1, but read the entire context of those words. Jesus said, “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).
Jesus’ point here was not to tell us never to make a judgment about the way someone is living, but rather to tell us to first judge our own hearts and lives and then we can be ready to judge another.
How do we do that? What is the way that God wants us to judge? Listen to Jesus’ words in John 7:24, “Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather judge according to righteous judgment.” Our judgments are not to be made because of what we like or what we prefer; rather our judgments are to be made based on righteous judgment. What is the only way we can have righteous judgment? Our judgments need to be based on the Word of God.
In the biblical use of the word, to judge is to take someone’s words and/or actions, line them up with God’s Word, and reach a conclusion, a judgment: Has sin taken place or not?
Jesus’ encouragement here is to first line up your own words and actions with the Word of God, see where you have sinned, then (and only then) are you ready to line up the words and/or actions of another so that you can make a proper judgment.
Why should we do this? Why should we judge ourselves and others? In Luke 17:3-4, Jesus says, “Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
The purpose of judging each other is not to make one another feel bad. No, the purpose of judging should always be so that we can point out sins, lead each other to repentance, and then announce God’s forgiveness. For as the Apostle Paul reminds us, that is the reason that Jesus came to this world: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).
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