The Word of the Week – Judge Not, That Ye Be Not Judged
“Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” Matthew 7:1 NASB
Isn’t it interesting to see people who normally have no concern for the things of God suddenly become Biblical scholars regarding the words of Jesus in Matthew chapter 7, verse 1. They are quick to point out that Jesus said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”
How should Christians respond to someone who uses this verse as a blanket veto for exercising judgment of any kind? After all, Jesus said, “Do not judge…” Are we missing something here? What did Jesus mean by these words? The answer might just surprise you.
First, we must be contextually aware that this verse finds itself firmly planted in the midst of a larger discourse of Jesus known as, The Sermon on the Mount, which spans chapters five, six, and seven of Matthew’s Gospel. The Holman Christian Illustrated Bible Dictionary accurately describes The Sermon on the Mount as, “An astute exposition of the law and how it meshes with the new covenant in Christ. The sermon also offers a stinging indictment of Pharisaic legalism and cold, formal self-righteousness. Jesus stresses His demands for disciples and issues a call to demonstrate true righteousness, a righteousness of heart that the law cannot produce.” The New Testament clearly demonstrates that the nation’s religious leaders had emptied the Mosaic Law of its God intended purpose by turning it into a self-righteous religious system (Matthew 23:1-4; Matthew 23:23). Therefore in His discourse Jesus illuminates the true intent of the Law while at the same time exposing the hypocrisy of the nation.
Secondly, we must examine the language of the verse itself. In the Greek text Jesus is actually issuing an imperative command to the crowd listening to Him (Matthew 5:1-2). In East Tennessee we might paraphrase Jesus’ words here in this way, “I am commanding y’all to quit your judging!” The language leads us to ask – Is Jesus condemning any and all judgment categorically here? Clearly the answer is, “No.” How so?
- The Entire Bible – Although many like to think that Jesus’ words here are the sum total of the Biblical teaching regarding judgment, the reality is that the Bible is filled with passages teaching that men must exercise right judgment. See Proverbs 18:13; Exodus 18:13; Matthew 18:15-17; 1 John 4:1; etc.
- Jesus’ Teaching – The “smoking gun” here is that Jesus elsewhere clearly teaches that men should exercise a right form of judgment, particularly in John chapter 7, verse 24, where He states, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)
- Jesus’ Illustration – Often overlooked in this discussion is the fact that Jesus clarifies in the illustration of verses 3-5 that He is forbidding a specific type of judgment in Matthew chapter 7, verse 1 – “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?” (Matthew 7:1) “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.” Matthew 7:3-5 NASB
- Specific Kind of Judgment – This illustration clarifies that He is condemning the one who refuses to subject himself to the same quality and quantity of judgment to which he subjects others.
- Specific Group – The illustration also makes it clear that Jesus’ command is primarily directed towards a specific group of people – namely the nation’s religious leaders. We know this because Jesus refers to the condemned as “hypocrite,” a term He uses in Matthew’s Gospel only for this group (Matthew 6:2, Matthew 6:5, & Matthew 6:16).
In conclusion, we have seen in this brief look at Matthew chapter 7, verse 1, that Jesus is condemning a specific group of people for using a specific type of judgment – not all judgment in general. We have also seen that elsewhere (John 7:24) Jesus clearly teaches that men are to judge with “righteous judgment.” Finally, we have seen that the Bible as a whole clearly teaches that men are to exercise “righteous judgment” in all areas of their life (Proverbs 18:13). I will close with the words of the infamous Paul Washer, “People tell me judge not lest ye judged. I always tell them, ‘Twist not Scripture lest ye be like Satan.’”
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.
Thomas Ken, 1637-1711
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I am Justin Breeden. My wife, Stacy, and I live in Dandrdige, TN. Currently the pastor of French Broad Church of the Brethren. Previously I served as Pastor of Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Knoxville, TN for two and a half years. I am studying the Two Wine Theory. Regarding my faith, I praise God that the Lord Jesus Christ was pleased to save me by His grace during the summer of 2006 at the age of 22.