“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1 ESV)
“Few texts are more misunderstood in our day than Matthew 7:1: “Judge not, that you be not judged.” It often comes up in conversations when one dares to make a moral assessment of another person that rubs the hearer the wrong way. “Who are you to judge?” comes the retort, writes Pastor Timothy Witmer.
What is the proper understanding of Matthew 7:1? Are believers in Christ never to make moral judgments? Are pastors and elders to keep silent when church members engage in open sin and rebellion against the Lord and His Word? After all, who are they to judge?
How does a proper understanding of today’s text affect parents and their children? Are parents never to discipline their children because in doing so they are making moral judgments upon their kids?
What about a nation’s judicial system? Does Matthew 7:1 prevent local, state and federal government courts from trying, convicting and sentencing individuals found guilty of criminal acts?
The word judge (κρίνω; krinō) is a present, active imperative command. It means to pass judgment upon something or someone. The second use of this word in the text means to have judgment passed upon because of their act of judging another.
“As the context reveals, this does not prohibit all types of judging (v. 16). There is a righteous kind of judgment we are supposed to exercise with careful discernment (John 7:24). Censorious, hypocritical, self-righteous, or other kinds of unfair judgments are forbidden; but in order to fulfill the commandments that follow, it is necessary to discern dogs and swine (Matt. 7:6) from one’s own brethren (vv. 3–5),” explains Dr. John MacArthur.
Therefore, believers in Christ can, and may, make moral judgments of others as long as they recognize that others may morally judge them for the same, or other, sin. Pastors and church elders are charged with keep watch over their flock (Acts 20:28-35; I Peter 5:1-5) and confronting sin (I Cor. 5:1-5). Parents are to train their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (6:1-4). Criminal courts are God established elements of godly government (Exodus 18; Rom. 13:1-7).
“This verse is probably the only verse that every pagan in America knows is in the Bible. They may miss the recitation of John 3:16 in bold letters at sporting events, but they know, “Judge not, lest you be judged.” Any time the church makes a comment about a practice the church deems sinful, the pagan is quick to quote the Scriptures by saying: “Don’t judge. You’re not supposed to judge us,” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.
“When He (Jesus) said, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged,” our Lord was addressing a personality trait that we sometimes find in people. Sometimes, sadly, we even find it in ourselves. We become judgmental in our spirit, censorious of others, or hypercritical of people around us. I think you understand what that is like. It has to do with how we pass judgment upon other people,” writes Dr. Sproul.
Believers in Christ must not judge other people, when they themselves are guilty of the same sin, or other sin, and behave self-righteously. This is hypocritical judgment. It is wrong, it is sin.
There is more to explore in this unfolding text from Matthew 7. Take time today to ask God to reveal to you when you hypocritically judge other people. Rather than point out the sins of others, ask God to point out to you your own sins. Resolve to repent of this behavior.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!