“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why behold you the mote that is in your brother’s eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own eye? Or how will you say to your brother, Let me pull out the mote out of your eye; and, behold, a beam is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye; and then shall you see clearly to cast out the mote out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5
These words of Jesus do not forbid us to judge another’s doctrine; for Jesus says, just a few verses later in His Sermon on the Mount, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. You shall know them by their fruits…” (15-16a).
They do not forbid us to judge between right and wrong and to admonish our brother when he sins; for Jesus also tells us, “Moreover if your brother shall trespass against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone…” (Matt. 18:15ff.).
So, what does Jesus mean when He says, “Judge not…”? A reading of the verses which follow will provide the answer. Jesus is warning against our propensity to pick out and condemn the faults in others, no matter how small, and to overlook our own sins and shortcomings, even if they are large.
Thus He says, “And why behold you the mote that is in your brother’s eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own eye? Or how will you say to your brother, Let me pull out the mote out of your eye; and, behold, a beam is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye; and then shall you see clearly to cast out the mote out of your brother’s eye.”
It is hypocritical of us to condemn the faults of others while, at the same time, overlooking or excusing our own.
And Jesus warns, “For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
It often happens in life that we end up being treated in the same way that we have treated others. Thus, if we have been overly critical and judgmental, we are likely to learn what it is like at the hand of others.
But, of far more serious consequence, is God’s judgment. If we condemn the sins of others and are unwilling to forgive them, our Father in heaven will condemn us for our own sins and not forgive us, either! As Jesus says, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15).
Rather than being overly critical and judgmental of others, we should first look at ourselves in the light of God’s Word; for when we compare our thoughts, desires, words and actions to God’s commandments, we all come far short of God’s holy expectations.
Again, it is as the Scriptures say, “For there is not a just man on earth, that does good, and sins not” (Eccl. 7:20; cf. Rom. 3:23).
Rather than look at the sins and shortcomings of others, we ought to agree with God that we are sinners and acknowledge and confess our sins before God, trusting that He will forgive us and cleanse us for the sake of the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, in our stead (cf. 1 John 1:7 — 2:2).
“Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures … he was buried … he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3,4).
Rather than being judgmental and unforgiving toward our fellow sinners, God’s Word tells us to “be you therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:36); and “be you kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32).
O dear Jesus, forgive me for being quick to judge and condemn others when I myself am a sinner and full of faults deserving of Your just punishment. For the sake of Your holy life and innocent sufferings and death upon the cross for the sins of the world, forgive me and cleanse my heart and move me to love others and seek to bring them to You that they too may know Your love and forgiveness and walk with You unto life everlasting. Amen.
[Scripture quotations are from the American King James Version.]