“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.Matthew 7:1-2 NIV
Judging is a topic that can generate a lot of heated debate among Bible believing Christians. We read this teaching of Jesus, which may initially seem clear to us. But when it comes to applying it, we find that it is not so clear after all. I will be the first to admit that my own understanding of this portion of the Sermon on the Mount is limited. But it is what I believe God has brought me to.
Do Not Judge
Jesus’ initial statement here seems clear enough. Don’t judge other people. But what does it mean to judge? The word itself is translated from the Greek word “krinō”. It means to “to decide, consider, as preferring one thing over another or determining the correctness of a matter; by extension: to judge, pass judgment on, condemn in a legal sense.” And it would seem to me that Jesus is using this in the last sense, “to pass judgement on or to condemn.”
I believe it is important to recognize that we will all face judgement. But that judgement is coming from our creator; from God. He is the one that we must all give an account to. The problem with me judging is that it puts me in God’s place. I am taking upon myself the role of judge. A role that I am totally unqualified to execute. Romans 14:4 makes clear that it is only to God that each of us must answer.
In the Same Way You Judge
But immediately after telling us not to judge, Jesus seems to reverse himself. He talks here about the way we judge others. So is it permissible to judge other people, or not?
It seems to me that the way I judge others can be one of two ways. I can give a pass / fail judgement on that person. Have they lived up to some standard of conduct that I find acceptable. Or do they fall short of it. The other way I can judge would be to show mercy. To recognize that, just like myself, they are fallible and not answerable to me. I can leave judgement to God, and demonstrate God’s love, mercy and grace to that person.
The warning that comes with this teaching is that I will be judged in the same way I judge. If I want to be judged mercifully, then I need to be demonstrating mercy towards others as well. If I fail to show mercy, can I really expect God to be merciful to me?
Sawdust and Planks
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.Matthew 7:3-5 NIV
Jesus paints an interesting picture here. Imagine someone with a log stuck in their eye. And that person is trying to help someone else remove a speck of dust from their own eye. It seems silly. And I think Jesus meant it to be. But he was not really talking about people with logs in their eyes trying to be helpful.
If we understand this passage in the context of judging, and I think we should, then John 8:2-11 would seem to be a good story to illustrate what Jesus is teaching here. In this account, the religious folks have condemned the woman caught in adultery and brought her to Jesus as a test. But Jesus turned the tables on them. We don’t know what he wrote in the dust. But it seemed to quiet the woman’s accusers and sent them away. Could it be that Jesus was identifying the planks they had in their own eyes? That, in the end, they were no better than this woman?
This really further illustrates our own unsuitability to judge others. We should be satisfied with working on our own lives without judging others lives.
Giving the Sacred to Dogs
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.Matthew 7:6 NIV
After making it clear that we should not judge, Jesus seems to turn around here and instruct us to do at least some judging. Dogs and pigs were unclean animals in Jesus’ culture. And they were derogatory terms used to describe Gentiles, people looked down on by many Jewish folks.
So at the very least Jesus was implying that it was appropriate to distinguish between Jew and Gentile, at least in his day. And, it would seem, between believer and unbeliever today. I don’t think this is really a matter of passing judgement on another person though. It would seem to be more a matter of recognizing who they are.
And the reason for this has to do with what I give to them. It is quite appropriate to share the gospel with unbelievers. We should do that. But the deep truths of our faith are only nonsense to them. And they will only argue with you about them or ridicule you for the things they do not understand.
To Judge, or Not To Judge
Later in this collection of teachings Jesus warns us about false teachers as well as false disciples. Again there is a certain level of judgement involved here. But that judgement is of the person’s actions, not their value or worth before God.
Acting as a judge over another person is not something I am qualified to do. Only God is qualified to do that. Yet I am not just to accept everyone and everything that comes to me. I need to be discerning, or judging, what it of God and what is not. Accepting what is of God and rejecting what is not.
Other Posts in the Sermon on the Mount
- An Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount
- Sermon on the Mount: The Beatitudes – Matthew 5:3-12
- Sermon on the Mount: Salt and Light – Matthew 5:13-16
- Sermon on the Mount: Understanding the Law – Matt. 5:17-20
- Sermon on the Mount: Resolving Conflict – Matthew 5:21-22
- Sermon on the Mount: Committing Adultery – Matthew 5:27-30
- Sermon on the Mount: Divorce – Matthew 5:31-32
- Sermon on the Mount: Taking Oaths – Matthew 5:33-37
- Sermon on the Mount: Turn the Other Cheek – Matt. 5:38-42
- Sermon on the Mount: Love Your Enemies – Matthew 5:43-48
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
If you have found value in this post, please consider subscribing to A Clay Jar so that you don’t miss any other posts.
Download this article as a PDF file.