Did you know that Matthew 7:1 is quickly replacing John 3:16 as the most memorized and quoted verse in the Bible? For instance, I am going to make a few statements. Let’s see if you agree with me:
• Homosexuality is a sin. Homosexuals need to repent of this sin in order to be right with God.
• All pre-marital sex is wrong. Two people living together out of wedlock are living in adultery.
• Abortion is murder. Abortion is the killing of a human being, and doctors who perform abortions are (with rare exceptions) guilty of taking innocent human lives.
When these kinds of statements are made, people immediately trot out their favorite verse in the Bible: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Then they say something like this: “Who made you my judge?”
That brings up this question: Is it ever right to pass judgment on the actions of others? Be careful how you answer! Let’s look at what Jesus has to say about this vital matter.
I. THERE IS A CAUTION TO BE HEEDED (VERSES 1, 2)
A. The word judge means “to pronounce judgment; expression of strong disapproval or harsh criticism.” It refers to “acting the part of a judge; or to passing judgment on the words and deeds of another.”
B. Jesus says “Judge not.” Does this mean that all judgment is wrong? No! The Bible mentions some occasions where Christians are called on to exercise judgment over others.
• 1 Corinthians 5:3-5, 12-23—Here, Paul judges a man guilty of fornication with his father’s wife. He condemns the man and his actions and calls on the church to do the same.
• Matthew 7:6—We are told to judge some people as dogs and swine and as being unworthy of the precious treasures of the Word of God.
• Matthew 18:15-18—Sometimes the church must exercise discipline against a wayward member.
So, what is Jesus talking about in Matthew 7? The word judge means “to criticize, condemn, censor.” Jesus is talking about looking at people and attempting to judge their motives and their real spiritual condition based on what we see in their lives.
C. The person who sets himself up as the judge of others will himself face judgment someday. The critic forgets that he will also face God in judgment (Rom. 14:12; 2 Cor. 5:10). Next time you think about judging another person, consider these verses: James 3:1, 2; 2:13; Luke 6:37, 38. When you judge another person, you will eventually reap what you sow (Gal. 6:7).
D. Here is the bottom line: We have no right to judge and criticize the lives of those around us. I say this for several reasons:
1. Don’t criticize because you don’t know all the facts.
2. Don’t criticize because we all fail God and sin (1 John 1:8-10).
3. Don’t criticize because you do not know what’s in the other person’s heart
4. Don’t criticize because, when you do, you are attempting to assume the authority of God (Rom. 14:4; James 4:11, 12).
5. Don’t criticize because one day you will face God in judgment yourself (Rom. 14:12).
II. THERE IS A CHALLENGE TO BE HEARD (VERSES 3, 4)
A. Here, Jesus speaks to the real issue: When we judge another person, we always do so from a warped perspective. Jesus uses the humorous image of a man with a log sticking out of his eye trying to remove a little splinter from another person’s eye. The word mote refers to “a dry twig or a piece of chaff.” The word beam refers to “a load-bearing beam in a house” or a log. Imagine how impossible that would be!
B. The problem with judging others is that we are often guilty of the same (or worse) sin ourselves (Rom. 2:1). Jesus is saying that the sin of the critic is greater than the sin of the person being judged. When we judge others, we reveal a heart that lacks genuine love for our neighbor (Matt. 22:39). An old poem by G. W. Cooke puts it this way: “There is so much good in the worst of us / And so much bad in the best of us / That it hardly behooves any of us / To talk about the rest of us.”
III. THERE IS A COUNSEL TO BE HONORED (VERSE 5)
A. Jesus says that people who judge and criticize others are hypocrites! Then, He offers some valuable counsel to those who fall into this trap from time to time.
B. Jesus tells the would-be judge to first clean up his own life so that he will be in a better position to help his brother. When our own hearts are clean, we are told that we will be able to “see clearly.”
1. We will see our own hearts more clearly. We will understand that we ourselves are sinners who are prone to fail.
2. We will see God more clearly and better understand that we will stand in judgment before Him someday.
3. We will more clearly see people’s need for love, compassion, and help.
C. When our own hearts have been fixed and our own vision has been cleared up, we will be able to reach out in the right spirit to a fallen brother or a lost sinner. We will not approach them with a spirit of judgment, reproach, and condemnation; rather, we will come to them with a spirit of compassion and restoration. That is the way it should be done (Gal. 6:1-2).
D. It is not wrong to confront a person with his sin. In fact, it is wrong not to (Lev. 19:17; Prov. 27:5; Matt. 18:15; Luke 17:3). Refusing to confront a person about his or her sin is just as wrong as a doctor refusing to confront a patient about his or her sickness. If you want to understand what Jesus said in Matthew 7:1, you must also understand what He said in John 7:24: “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” That says it all! You cannot judge a tree by its leaves, but you can judge a tree by its fruit. You cannot judge a book by its cover, but you can judge a book by its contents. The key is not to judge by appearance.
Let’s follow Jesus’ advice: “Judge not, that you be not judged . . .” (Matt. 7:1).
General Conference Ministerial Association