Judge not, that you be not judged.
This familiar verse is perhaps one of the most mis-rendered and abused Scriptures in the Bible. The enemies of our faith love to throw this passage up to us as evidence of Christian hypocrisy. They use it to malign and vilify our faith walk and to prove that our moral standards and beliefs are just a pretense; a false display of moral superiority. Sadly, their accusations are oftentimes true.
But today I want to show how the Enemy has used this verse to lie to Unbelievers and hide the true meaning of Jesus's words. Satan has convinced the unfaithful that this verse means Jesus was commanding a universal acceptance of any lifestyle or teaching; that no one is to judge another. As with all of Scripture, there is much more depth to the Word than our human minds are willing to explore.
In Matthew, Chapter 7, verses 1-20, Jesus expands on this subject of judgment and gives His followers [throughout the Ages] advice on how to live a life that is pleasing to God. A few verses later (Matthew 7:15-16), He is admonishing us to be on the lookout for false prophets; people who will mislead us by appearing to be someone they are not. In other words, He commands us to know people by the fruit of their life, and some sort of assessment (judgment) is necessary for that.
Here is the Truth ... The Christian is called to unconditionally love. But the Christian is not called to unconditional agreement or endorsement. It is absolutely possible to love people who do things that should not be approved of. So, here is the underlying principle of Matthew 7:1 ... Jesus is speaking against being judgmental in terms of judging the motives of the inner (or spiritual) man, which only God can know. However, we can judge the fruit of a man's spirit, because the fruit, or lack thereof, is visible for all to see. It is certainly reasonable to make a judgment if someone is exhibiting love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control. But if they are not, we can rarely judge the motives of their spirit with any accuracy. Do you see the difference?
Of course, we cannot ignore Jesus's admonition that our judgment be completely fair, and that we only judge others by a standard with which we would like to be judged. Don't miss this point: Jesus does not prohibit judgment of others -- only that it be fair and equivalent. In the very next verse, Jesus says, With the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. According to the teaching of some rabbis in Jesus’ time, God had two measures that He used to judge people. One was a measure of justice and the other was a measure of mercy. Which measure do you want God to use with you? Then you should use that same measure with others.
Of course we are all familiar with the verses about removing the plank from our own eye before pointing out the speck in our brother's eye. Satan has taught the enemies of our faith to focus on the hypocritical plank in the eye of Christians. But note that Jesus doesn’t say that it is wrong for us to help our brother with the speck in his eye. He is just saying that it is a good thing to help your brother with his speck -- but not before dealing with the plank in your own eye. Not only will you be able to see clearer, but after suffering the pain of your own sin, you will deal with your brother with a measure of mercy.
And I just love how our Lord wraps up this whole discussion on judgment: Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces. Dogs and swine, in this context, are those who are hostile to the gospel and our faith. And it is imperative that we view The Word as holy, sacred, and revered. As much as we are to have mercy in our judgment of others, and evaluate them only by the fruit of their actions, our love for others must not blind us to their hardened rejection of the gospel, if that be the case... Nor cast your pearls before swine: Our pearls are the precious hope and knowledge of the gospel. Jesus is telling us to be mindful that the Gospel Message may only confuse unbelievers, who are blinded to the truth by the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4). But it is our responsibility to be careful about exposing the gospel to the ridicule of such haters.
So, while our culture and the world doesn't like the concept of judgment and judging others, it will ultimately be the purview and scope of Jesus when He returns. We will all stand before the Judgment Seat as Jesus brings to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of each of our hearts. It is time that we ALL get ready for the Judgment that is to come... so it's time to quit worrying about your neighbor judging you, and be aware that the Son of God is coming to judge the living and the dead. How will HE judge you?