Judge Not, Lest You Be Judged

This may be one of those passages that prevents us from confronting a sinning brother, so let’s seek to understand it. Here is a question to get us started: “What is Jesus calling for in this passage?” no judgment? self-judgment? fair judgment? divine judgment?

The religious leaders were guilty of exercising a false judgment about themselves, other people, and even the Lord. Their false righteousness helped to encourage their false judgment. It may be why Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount with a discussion on judgment. There really are three judgments:

  1. Our judgment of ourselves (Matthew 7:1-5)
  2. Our judgment of others (Matthew 7:6-20)
  3. Our judgment by God (Matthew 7:21-29)

Our passage today brings us to the first section, judgment of ourselves. This is the first principle for a reason. Jesus did not forbid that we judge others, but we are to first judge ourselves. This involves careful discrimination and discernment. Christian love is not blind (Philippians 1:9-10). The person who believes all that he hears and accepts everyone who claims to be spiritual will experience confusion and suffer spiritual loss.

  1. We will be judged (Matthew 7:1) – the tense of the verb indicates a one-time final judgement. when we judge ourselves, we are preparing ourselves for that final judgment when we face God. The Pharisees played God as they condemned other people; and they never considered that God would one day judge them.
  2. We are being judged (Matthew 7:2) – this parallel passage in Luke 6:37-38 is helpful here. Not only will God judge us at the end, but people are being judged right now. We will receive from people exactly what we give. The kind of judgment and the measure  of judgment come right back to us. We reap that which we sow.
  3. We must see clearly to help others (Matthew 7:3-5) – the purpose of self-judgment is so that we are able to serve others. When we don’t judge ourselves, we hurt those to who we should minister. The Pharisees judged others to make themselves look good (Luke 18:9-14), but Christians should judge themselves so they can help others look good.

The eye is one of the most sensitive parts of the body, which Jesus used on a few occasions to make a point (like Matthew 6:22-23). We must exercise love and tenderness when we seek to help other people (Ephesians 4:15). There are two extremes to avoid in this spiritual self-examination:

  1. The deception of a shallow examination: we can be so sure of ourselves that we fail to examine our hearts honestly and thoroughly. The quick glance is not helpful (James 1:22-25).
  2. The debilitation of a perpetual autopsy: we can get unbalanced as we focus too much on ourselves, which leads to discouragement and defeat. Jesus forgives and restores, and Satan is the accuser (Revelation 12:10) and loves to condemn God’s people. Ask God to remove those things that blind us. When we KNOW of our sins and attempt to help others… that is called hypocrisy. That is the condemnation of Jesus.

We must exercise discernment because not everyone is a sheep, there are some wolves out there. We cannot let the wolves pull the wool over our eyes.

The reason we must judge (Matthew 7:6) – it is a privilege to handle the holy things of God, and he has entrusted his Word to us (2 Corinthians 4:7). No priest with throw meat from the altar to the street dog, or give pearls to a pig. So, while we are commanded to take the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15), we cannot cheapen the gospel by a ministry that lacks discernment.

  1. Even Jesus refused to talk with Herod (Luke 23:9)
  2. Even Paul refused to argue with people who resisted the Word (Acts 13:44-49)

The reason for judgment: it is not that we might condemn others, but that we might be able to minister to them. Jesus always dealt with people according to the needs; there was no memorized presentation he used for everyone.

  1. Nicodemus – he talked about new birth.
  2. The woman at the well – he talked about living water.
  3. When the religious leaders tried to trap him – he remained silent (Matthew 21:23-27).

This is one of the most debilitating verses in the Bible, because if we say anything about someone else, they throw this verse back in our face, “Judge not, lest you be judged” (Matthew 7:1-6). This is an issue that has confused many people.

  1. On one hand, we are commanded by the Lord Jesus, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1).
  2. On the other hand, the Bible also exhorts us to beware of evildoers and false prophets and to avoid those who practice all kinds of evil.
  3. How are we to discern who these people are if we do not make some kind of judgment about them?

Christians are often accused of “judging” whenever they speak out against a sinful activity. However, that is not the meaning of the Scripture verses that state, “Do not judge.”

  1. There is a righteous kind of judgment we are supposed to exercise—with careful discernment (John 7:24).
  2. When Jesus told us not to judge (Matthew 7:1), He was telling us not to judge hypocritically. Matthew 7:2-5 says, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 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.”
  3. What Jesus was condemning here was hypocritical, self-righteous judgments of others.

In Matthew 7:2-5, Jesus warns against judging someone else for his sin when you yourself are sinning even worse. That is the kind of judging Jesus commanded us not to do.

  1. If a believer sees another believer sinning, it is his Christian duty to lovingly and respectfully confront the person with his sin (Matthew 18:15-17).
  2. This is not judging, but rather pointing out the truth in hope—and with the ultimate goal—of bringing repentance in the other person (James 5:20) and restoration to the fellowship.
  3. We are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We are to proclaim what God’s Word says about sin. 2 Timothy 4:2 instructs us, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction.”
  4. We are to “judge” sin, but always with the goal of presenting the solution for sin and its consequences—the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
  5. According to Matthew 7:6, let’s also assess a person’s heart before we share the pearl of great price.

Developing Spiritual Discernment

The longer one is a follower of Jesus Christ, the greater one should have spiritual discernment, which is the ability to determine right from wrong, good from evil, this direction or that.

Discernment does not come by flipping a coin and saying “heads or tails,” and it doesn’t completely rely on common sense or the conscience. Spiritual discernment is a gift from God and comes to us through the Holy Spirit, who dwells in every authentic Christian. It is the supernatural ability to “know” something not because of personal knowledge or experience, but because of personal time spent with God in prayer and time spent in his Word.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord. (James 1:5–7)

The ability to know God and discern his will for your life comes through…

Salvation: Spiritual things can be discerned only by the indwelling Holy Spirit. When you trust Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you have met the prerequisite for knowing the mind of Christ. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:15–16).

Scripture: As you study Scripture, you learn how God works in the lives of His people. Understanding God’s principles gives you a basis for knowing how He is working in your life today.

  • The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise (Psalm 111:10).
  • These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come (1 Corinthians 10:11).

Situations: Are you focusing on God’s will for your future? Instead, focus on God’s purpose in your present situation, and trust Him with your future. God always has a personal will for you, and your responsibility is to adjust to what He is doing in your life right now. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:33–34).

Surrender: Are you surrendering to what God wants to do in your life today? Pray to be moldable clay in the Potter’s hand, allowing God to mold and shape you into the vessel of His choosing. O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does? declares the LORD. Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel (Jeremiah 18:6).

Servanthood: Have you given up ownership of your own life? When your heart is willing to be God’s servant no matter the cost, He will reveal His plan for you. No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? (Matthew 6:24–25).

Ways We Make Decisions

How do people come to make godly decisions that honor him? I recently read this from June Hunt that lists six methods of decision-making:

What Are Six Methods of Decision Making?

If you could, wouldn’t you want to know the future? If you could see the outcome, wouldn’t it make your decisions a lot more accurate? Today people seek guidance through a variety of occult practices. They search for answers in newspaper columns, carnival booths, and psychic hotlines. Astrologers, palm readers, and fortune-tellers toting tarot cards all claim to speak for God, but the God of the Bible says these dramatic ways are “detestable” (Deuteronomy 18:9). He warns us…

  • Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:31)
  • There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12)

Making decisions can be approached in various ways, but most will fall into one of the following six methods or a combination of some of them. Not all methods of decision-making will prove to be profitable.

Dramatic Method: Some people misuse Scripture by flipping open the Bible and pointing to some random Scripture for guidance without considering the context. Others expect God to come through with a spectacular, supernatural sign that will give proof of His will in a given situation. God says … The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you (John 14:26).

Defaulting Method: Scripture tells us there is an appropriate time to delegate duties and to seek counsel, but ultimately we are responsible for our own choices. We can even be so pressured by the opinions of others that it becomes easier just to let others make decisions for us … even when we think they are wrong. God says … He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right (Isaiah 7:15).

Delaying Method: Many people choose to procrastinate when a decision is due, hoping that “it will all come out well in the end.” They allow circumstances to determine the outcome. However, not to decide is actually a decision. Their delay tactics are filled with superfluous activities that do not include placing a high priority on knowing God’s will through prayer, biblical counsel, and intimacy with the Lord.  God says … That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways’ (Hebrews 3:10).

Deductive Method: The Christian life is to be a life of balance between human deduction and spiritual insight. If we become solely analytical in thinking through a situation and choose to rely completely on logic, we will miss God’s way. God says … My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways (Isaiah 55:8).

Desirous Method: Too many people allow their emotions to have “soul control.” This means allowing feelings to determine their behavior. God gave us emotions, but He never intended emotions to be our “decision makers.” Many of us don’t even realize that we often have an “if it feels good, it must be good” mentality. God says … He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe (Proverbs 28:26).

Discerning Method (the best method): To be discerning is to grasp what may not be evident, that is, “to have insight and understanding by going beyond what seems obvious.” Spiritual discernment, therefore, is wisdom to determine what is true, appropriate, and superior in the eyes of God, regardless of how things may seem. God says … The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14).

A Desire to Be Wise

I believe that growing up in spiritual things involves growth in wisdom. It’s not just about being smart, but how your life experiences have taught lessons as well. It might help to define wisdom. The Holman Bible Dictionary tells us this:

Real Wisdom Is the Fear of God: Three basic definitions of wisdom summarize the status of the field of study very well. Note that the first two of these definitions are quite secular in nature while the third is religious.

  1. First, wisdom is considered by many to be simply the art of learning how to succeed in life. Apparently, ancient persons learned very early that there was an orderliness to the world in which they lived. They also learned that success and happiness came from living in accordance with that orderliness (Proverbs 22:17–24:22).
  2. Second, wisdom is considered by some to be a philosophical study of the essence of life. Certainly, much of the Books of Job and Ecclesiastes seem to deal with just such existential issues of life (see particularly Job 30:29-31).
  3. Third, though the other definitions might include this, it seems that the real essence of wisdom is spiritual, for life is more than just living by a set of rules and being rewarded in some physical manner. Undoubtedly, in this sense wisdom comes from God (Proverbs 2:6). Thus, though it will involve observation and instruction, it really begins with God and one’s faith in Him as Lord and Savior (Proverbs 1:7; Job 28:28).

When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. (1 Corinthians 2:13)

Everyone wants to be wise, yet here Paul taught the Corinthians that true wisdom or discernment requires the believer to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Because Satan’s greatest impact on us occurs when he deceives us, we need the Holy Spirit’s help. Spiritual discernment enables us to

  1. Draw conclusions based on God’s perspective
  2. Make wise decisions in difficult circumstances
  3. Recognize the activities of God’s Spirit
  4. Distinguish the correct and incorrect use of Scripture
  5. Identify and expose false teachers

Ask God to give you his discernment and wisdom as you serve him. Let that discernment guide you in your daily walk with Christ.

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