What “Judge Not” Really Means
“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 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. 6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. (ESV)
Our culture seems to have adopted Matthew 7:1 as the most often quoted verse, especially when it comes to moral issues. It is used as an attempt to shut down any discussion or disagreement on morally sensitive issues. “Judge Not” is used to accuse Christians of intolerance. This is the one verse even anti-Bible, anti-God, anti-Jesus, anti-morality, anti-absolute-truth people will readily quote. People who never read the Bible become Bible experts (so they think) when they whip out this verse and use it. Unfortunately, many Christians seem to respond with an attitude that expresses, “Okay, sorry, I can’t say anything else. You got me!” But let’s discover what that verse really means. We must always look at culture through the lens of Scripture, and not look at Scripture through the lens of culture.
“Judge” means to criticize or judge someone’s motives. It’s being self-righteous and unmercifully condemning. This involves pre-judging (prejudice) and harshly judging before you have all the facts. It is jumping to a negative conclusion, fault finding, expressing an opinion without knowing the back story. Jesus told us that this is sinful, and followers of Him must stop doing it immediately. This is not constructive, godly advice. Instead, it is denigrating someone. If you play God, you will get judged. If you are critical, you will get criticized back. If you judge people this way, you will get judged that way. Most importantly, God will judge you. Only God knows a person’s true motives. Only He knows the whole story and has the complete picture.
In the verses that follow (2-6), we discover that the judgment we give to others, God will take that same judgment or standard and judge you. Jesus humorously illustrates the hypocrisy of someone who has a log in his eye (an obvious fault) trying to find a speck (a minor fault) in someone else’s eye so he can correct him. Does that mean we should never confront someone who is obviously living in sin? Absolutely not. It does, however, tell us that when our hearts are right with God, He gives us the discernment, wisdom, and attitude to know how to help the person. That is part of our Christian responsibility. Jesus further tells us that we must be discerning as to what is holy and what is not, what is moral and what is immoral. Not everything is okay. Not everything is truth. Not everything is right. Not everything is acceptable. We must have the discernment that comes from being controlled by the Holy Spirit to help us know the truth and then speak that truth with grace.
What lessons do we learn from this Scripture?
- Truth: God’s Truth is the Standard
17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.
Whatever God says is true, is truth, regardless of other’s feelings, opinions, or thoughts. God’s truth is absolute, unchanging for all time, for all generations, and in all circumstances.
- Teaching: What Judge Not Doesn’t Mean
- Judge Not doesn’t mean to accept everything everyone says as truth.
- Judge Not doesn’t mean to accept everything everyone does as okay.
- Judge Not doesn’t mean that we are to accept every spiritual teaching as truth.
- Judge Not doesn’t mean that you accept a lifestyle that is clearly forbidden in Scripture.
- Judge Not doesn’t mean you never confront someone about their sin.
- Judge Not doesn’t mean that you never discern what truth is and what is not; what is right and what is wrong; what is moral and what is immoral; what is reality and what is error.
- Tolerance: Understand Biblical Tolerance
Tolerance, according to our culture, is accepting anything anyone says about anything or anything anyone does.
Judges 17:6 defines the description of the culture of tolerance…
6 In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.
True tolerance is a biblical teaching. It means respecting people’s beliefs even though you may not agree; or more importantly, God may not agree. You give them the freedom to believe what they choose to believe. You agree to disagree on the things you don’t believe that they believe. But you always stick with Scripture, regardless.
- Tone: The Tone and Attitude in Which We Share God’s Truth Is Vital
15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into
Him who is the head, even Christ,
Don’t let your attitude be the reason someone is turned off by Christianity. You share the truth in love, sensitivity, grace, understanding, and kindness; ultimately understanding that each person has a choice to receive the truth or reject it. You have to determine if you will accept God’s truth or reject it. Your choice determines the outcome. Only truth is given this promise:
32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.