How to Avoid Being Judgmental

Human nature encourages us to pay far more attention to the shortcomings of others than to our own faults. We tend to evaluate others on the basis of a lofty standard of righteousness that somehow is not applicable to our own performance.

The disciples of Jesus had been highly influenced by the leadership style of the Pharisees, who didn’t bring the best out in people. They were critical, picky, and thought the worst concerning people. Their ministry didn’t offer hope, but condemnation. Their criticism was spawned out of self-righteous pride. They were condescending and didn’t believe in what God could do or was doing in the lives of people.

The larger context of this passage is about proper relationships. The unChristian study revealed a lot of perception when it comes to Christianity.

  • Proper relationship with Christian brothers (Matthew 7:1-5).
  • Proper relationship with unreceptive unbelievers (Matthew 7:6) Proper relationship with God the Father (Matthew 7:7-11).
  • Proper relationship with all people (Matthew 7:12).

Our Focal Passage Today is Matthew 7:1-12 – Questions:

1. What would you say is the orientation of our church, doubting and criticizing people or believing and hoping the best for people?

2. Can you be a nonjudgmental person yet make moral and theological judgments? If yes explain why? (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, 1 Timothy 4:1-6, 6:3-5, 1 John 4:1-3, Jude 3, Revelation 2:2).

3. How does Jesus himself make a moral judgment? (Matthew 7:6)

4. What is the difference between dogs and hogs? (Matthew 7:6)

5. What causes us to be less condemning (or judgmental) and more merciful? (James 2:12-13)

6. What is the negative command that Jesus give his disciples and Matthew 7:1?

7. Why is it advantageous not to judge others? (Matthew 7:16)

8. What happens to a person that is constantly faultfinding and nitpicking? (Matthew 7:2, Luke 6:37, Proverbs 26:27)

9. What should our “standard of measure” be? (Matthew 7:2)

10. how can you know whether you possess a judgmental spirit? Write the six principles from the following passages. I possess a judgmental spirit when…

  • 1 Corinthians 4:5
  • Romans 14:3-5, 10, 12-13, Colossians 2:16
  • Luke 18:11-14
  • John 7:24, 8:15, 2 Corinthians 5:16-17
  • Romans 2:1
  • Matthew 7:5, 1 Corinthians 11:28, Galatians 6:3-5

11. What part of the human body does Jesus use to illustrate his point that we ought to first examine ourselves? (Matthew 7:35)

12. Why is it so outrageous for the person in Jesus illustration to claim to be an eye surgeon? (Matthew 7:45)

13. What does Jesus call people who find fault with others? (Matthew 7:5a)

14. What does the command in Matthew 7:5 demand of us?

15. What does self-examination involved? (Matthew 7:5b)

16. What does a self-examination prepare us to do? (Matthew 7:5c)

Six Steps to Avoid a Judgmental Spirit:

Step 1 – Do Not be Judgmental (Matthew 7:1a)

What it does NOT forbid…

  • Judging between what is legal in a court of law (Matthew 5:22).
  • Making moral distinctions (Matthew 5:21, 27, John 4:15-18, 8:1-11).
  • Passing judgment on false religious leaders (Matthew 7:15-20, 1 John 4:1–3, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, 1 Corinthians 14-29, Acts 17:11, Revelation 2:2).
  • Deciding where people are in their receptivity to God’s Word (Matthew 7:6, Matthew 10:14, Acts 13:31, 18:5-6).
  • Determining God’s will (Romans 2:18, Philippians 1:10).

In John 7:24, Jesus said, “do not judge according to appearance but judge with the righteous judgment.” This verse presupposes that some kind of judging are not only legitimate but mandated.

What it DOES forbid…

  • Deciding what a person’s motive is without asking (1 Corinthians 4:5).
  • Measuring everyone else by your self-made standards or personal convictions (Romans 14:3–5, 10, 12, 13, Colossians 2:16). “Other may but I cannot,” dealing with gray areas and amoral issues.
  • Justifying yourself by condemning other people (Luke 18:11–14). When I have to elevate myself by lowering others I’m in trouble.
  • Making a first impression based solely upon external appearances (John 7:24, 8:15, 2 Corinthians 5:16–17, 1 Samuel 16:17). Coming down hard on others when you so miserably fail in the same area (Romans 2:1).
  • Quickly judging others before examining oneself (Matthew 7:5, 1 Corinthians 11:28, Galatians 6:3–5, also 1 Corinthians 11:31, 2 Corinthians 13:5).

Step 2 – Be Prepared for the Boomerang Effect Response (Matthew 7:1b-2)

The command “do not judge” is present imperative. This verse ends with the purpose clause, “so that you will not be judged.” Jesus wanted his disciples to understand that critical and picky preachers breed critical and picky congregations. This is not a reference to God’s judgment because he is just and will judge all of us by the eternal standard of his word.

If you want others to judge and condemn you, you start it. If you want them to be understanding, loving, believing, then begin by being that way yourself. A positive attitude is as contagious as the flu. Unfortunately, so are frowns, sighs, cutting sarcasm, and harsh words (Proverbs 26:27)

Jesus says a judgmental spirit has a boomerang effect and it will come back upon the one who was initially judgmental (Matthew 7:2)

Charles Swindoll calls, the Law of a Echoes,” telling the story of a young boy who lived with his grandfather on the top of a mountain in the Swiss Alps. He would often love to hear the sound of his own voice echoing back to him, he would go outside and shout “hello” and the sound would come back “hello, hello, hello.” One Day the boy misbehaved and needed some discipline. The boy resented receiving it so much that he shouted to his grandfather, “I hate you,” and the rocks and boulders across the mountains responded in kind.

Step 3 – Answer the Why and How Questions (Matthew 7:3–4)

Jesus chose the eye to illustrate his teaching because this is one of the most sensitive areas of the human body. Jesus is using colorful hyperbole here. He is exaggerating to make his point vivid. There is no way a log can get stuck, unnoticed, in someone’s eye. Jesus may have even dramatized this point, which would have made this teaching quite humorous.

The word “speck” refers to a little splinter, a small twig, a bit of dried stalk or stick; perhaps like a speck of sawdust. The word “log” refers to a beam that supports the roof of the building. It signifies a large 6×8 beam, a timber cut out of the trunk of a tree. Jesus is describing a timber that is more like a telephone pole than a plank.

Although a speck is small in comparison to a log, it is not an insignificant object to have in the eye. Jesus’ comparison is not between very small sin or fault and one that is large, but between one that is large and one that is gigantic.

The word for “look” is the present tense and stresses the “continuous gaze or focus upon” that speck. Jesus wants them to recognize that they are so quickly to notice, pay attention, or call attention to that speck because it is a little piece of our own log. This suggest that we become most critical of that in others, which is a major problem in ourselves.

The word “notice” means “to perceive clearly, to consider closely, carefully, and thoroughly, to understand fully.” The term conveys the idea of serious, continuous meditation or thought. Jesus is saying in effect, “Why don’t you stop and think about your own sin? Until you have done that how can you confront another about their shortcomings?”

When Jesus asked the question, “How can you say to your brother…” It is like a blind surgeon trying to remove a splinter from someone else’s eye.

Step 4 – Stop Play Acting (Matthew 7:5a)

Jesus accused the person he described in Matthew 7:4 with these words, “you hypocrite.” The word “hypocrite” refers to the Greek and Roman play actors who spoke into large masks with mechanical devices for augmenting the force of their voice. Hypocrites referred to people who are pretending to be somebody or something that they aren’t.

In this context the word hypocrite could refer to the condemning the brother who is guilty of the same sin but has done nothing about it (Romans 2:1, Romans 2:3, Romans 2:17–24, James 4:11–12).

Step 5 – Make it Your First Priority to do Self-examination (Matthew 7:5b)

The Pharisees judged and criticized others to make themselves look good (Luke 18:9–14). In contrast, Christ commands his disciples to judge themselves so that they can help others look good. There is a huge difference. Since the Pharisees didn’t have an adequate definition for sin, they had a very inadequate appreciation of their own faults. If they knew how worthy of blame they themselves were, they would have been less ready to blame others.

Jesus commands us to “first take the log out of our own eye.” The aorist tense denotes urgency, the imperative mood demands immediate action and obedience.

There were two extremes that must be avoided in this matter of self-examination:

Shallow Examination – sometimes we are so sure of ourselves that we fail to examine our hearts honestly and thoroughly. A quick glance into the “mirror of the word” will never reveal our true situation. It’s only when one “looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty” (James 1:25) that he sees what kind of person he really is.

Perpetual Autopsy – sometimes we get so wrapped up in self-examination and introspection we become discouraged, guilt ridden, and defeated. Satan longs to accuse us (Revelation 12:10) and put us on a permanent guilt trip that immobilizes us from active service in the kingdom. We need to acknowledge our sin, own it, morning over it, confessed it, and fully experience God’s forgiveness. (1 John 1:9)

Step 6 – Help Your Brother (Matthew 7:5c)

When you’re able to see clearly, then you’re able to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. When we judge ourselves rightly and deal with the log in our own eye, only then are we able to see clearly enough to help our brother. God wants us to be good listeners but eye surgery involves more than just listening to the patient. Eventually the eye surgeon must do the delicate and tender work of operating on the patients eye. So, the Christian eventually needs to speak into the other lives of other people.

Jesus doesn’t call us to be parakeets but Paracletes who “come beside” our brother to help him. Jesus doesn’t want to us to parakeet our brothers words and say nonjudgmental statements back to a brother caught in a trespass (Galatians 6:1). Jesus instructs us here to discern what is constricting our brother’s vision and to intentionally attempt to remove it.

Discernment versus Judgment:

1. Regarding Personal Sins:

  • A discerning person – One who discerns by thoroughly examining himself before evaluating the actions of others (Galatians 6:4, 1 Corinthians 11:28, 31, 2 Corinthians 13:5).
  • A judgmental person – One who judges by condemning others for their visible problems but fails to realize that their attitude stem from root problems which he himself has not yet overcome. (Romans 2:1, 14:10).

2. Regarding Facts or Evidence:

  • A discerning person – One who discerns by checking the accuracy of all the facts and related factors before reaching a conclusion. (1 Corinthians 2:15, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, 1 John 4:1).
  • A judgmental person – One who judges by forming opinions on first impressions or hearsay, then looks for evidence to confirm his opinions even though the evidence may be out of context. (John 7:24, 51, James 4:11).

3. Regarding Exposure:

  • A discerning person – One who discerns by dealing as privately as possible with the problems he sees. (1 Corinthians 6:5).
    A judgmental person – One who judges by publicly exposing those he condemns. This may cause others to condemn him for having the same route problem such as pride, lack of love, or a critical spirit. (Luke 6:37)

Definitions of Words:

The Root Meaning of Judgment: The Greek verb is used in Scripture to describe the scope and action of judgment. KRINO no means to pass judgment on, to sentence, to mentally or judicial condemn, to conclude, to decide, to determine.

The Root Meaning of Discernment: there are several Greek words to describe the scope and action of discernment.

  1. DOKIMAZO means to test, to examine, to interpret, to discover, to approve, to prove, to demonstrate.
  2. ANAKRINO means to ask questions, to examine, to evaluate, to scrutinize, to investigate, to search out.
  3. DIAKRINO means to make a distinction (between persons), to weigh thoroughly each part.

Take a look at this word study document (by Rick Leineweber) to see the categories of uses of these words in Scripture. [ Go ]

Understanding The Bible Commentary:

Jesus says, Do not judge. The Greek construction (mē plus the present imperative) carries with it the idea of “ceasing what you are now doing.” Judging, in this context, implies a harsh and censorious spirit. If you insist on condemning others, you exclude yourself from God’s forgiveness. Although it is psychologically true that a critical spirit receives from others a harsh response, Jesus is here speaking of final judgment. The NIV correctly translates, “or you too will be judged.”

The admonition not to judge is often taken incorrectly to imply that believers are not to make moral judgments about anyone or anything. That this is not what was intended is clear from Matthew 7:15–20, which warn of false prophets who can be known by the fruit they bear. Jesus does not ask us to lay aside our critical faculties but rather to resist the urge to speak harshly of others. The issue is serious in that God will judge us by the same standard we apply to others. This rather frightening truth should change the way in which we tend to view other people’s failings.

Matthew 7:3–5 present the ludicrous picture of someone with a long beam or rafter protruding from his eye trying to extract a tiny chip of dried wood (or perhaps a speck of dust) from the eye of another. Obviously we are dealing with Eastern hyperbole (like Matthew 19:24, with its scene of a camel going through the eye of a needle!). How hypocritical to be concerned with the minor fault of another in view of one’s own personal failure. Taken in an unqualified sense, this would put a complete stop to helping others with their moral difficulties. Undoubtedly it is intended to restrict hypocritical correction of others rather than to prohibit all helpful correction.

Matthew 7:6 is proverbial and difficult to interpret in its present context. Dogs and hogs are derogatory terms applied to the Gentiles. Some think that in the present context they refer to all who are not disciples of Jesus. Probably the words should be understood in a more general way as counsel against sharing spiritual truth with those who are unable and unwilling to accept it. Practically, it would be unthinkable to take sacred food and give it to dogs or valuable pearls and feed them to pigs. The point is, use discretion as you share the truth of God with others.

Matthew 7:7–11 – Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:5–15) Matthew brought together a portion of Jesus’ teaching on the subject of prayer. Now he expands it by stressing how important it is for believers to be persistent in prayer. The present imperatives, “keep on asking,” “keep on seeking,” and “keep on knocking” indicate that prayer is not a semi-passive ritual in which we occasionally share our concerns with God. In Luke, the narrative is immediately preceded by the story of the man awakened from sleep at midnight by an importunate neighbor who needs bread to feed a guest (Luke 11:5–8). Prayer requires stamina and persistence. Divine delays do not indicate reluctance on God’s part. In the time of waiting we learn patience, and the intensity of our desire is put to the test. God, through Jeremiah, told the exiles in Babylon, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). It is those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness” that are satisfied (Matthew 5:6).

Jesus now reasons that since earthly fathers who are less than perfect will not mock a child who asks for food, does it not follow that God will give good things to those who ask? Jesus is not making a theological statement about absolute human goodness but is drawing a comparison between parents’ natural acts of kindness toward their children and the perfection of God’s generosity toward those who seek his favor.

Matthew 7:12 – This verse is commonly called the Golden Rule. In its negative form it is found in many ancient cultures. Confucius said, “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” In the fourth century B.C., the Athenian orator Isocrates said, “Whatever angers you when you suffer it at the hands of others, do not do it to others.” Apparently it never was stated in the positive form (Do to others what you would have them do to you) by anyone before Jesus. Some writers hold that the shift from negative to positive is without any particular significance. However, in its negative form the Golden Rule could be satisfied by doing nothing. The positive form moves us to action on behalf of others; it calls us to do for others all those things that we would appreciate being done for us. Now we have moved from justice to active benevolence. This kind of outgoing and dynamic concern for others sums up the Law and the Prophets (cf. Weymouth). It is “the essence of all true religion” (Phillips). The Golden Rule brings into focus the ethical intent that lay behind all the Old Testament legislation on matters of interpersonal relationships. The law of love is the ultimate expression of the ethical teaching of both law and prophetic injunction (Matthew 5:17).

This last section is from, Mounce, R. H. (2011). Matthew.
Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (64–67). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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