Chances are we’ve all had conversations with someone and have been called judgmental or were told about another believer that was judgmental. In our culture, the absolute worst thing you can be is a judgmental Christian. Judgmental Christians are blamed for everything from church splits to the decline of the church in America to global warming. Well maybe not global warming but you get the idea. Since no one wants to be one of “those” Christians that cause church splits and the decline of the church in America, we do whatever we can to keep from being seen as being judgmental. We do this to the point of accepting any lifestyle as acceptable and any teaching as Christian. The problem with this, is that is not at all what Jesus meant when He said not to judge.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5 (NKJV)
If we were to take verse 1, totally remove it from its context and put it in an isolation chamber apart from the rest of Scripture, we might get from this that we are never judge whether something is right or wrong. However, given the context, is that really what Jesus meant here? No, it’s not. In fact, when you look at this passage in the context it is given, you see that interpretation is not even remotely plausible.
The reason this interpretation is not plausible is that we interpret Scripture in light of Scripture. When we do this, we see that this interpretation doesn’t hold water. When we were to look down at verse 6 we see that we have to make a judgment call about different types of people. Then after making judgments about different type’s people, we are to make judgments what we are to do for those people. When we look at verses 13-14, we see that Jesus tells us we are to judge between different paths of life and the different destinations those paths lead us to. When we look at verse 15, we see that Jesus tells us to judge between true teachers and false teachers. Then in verses 17-20, we are told to judge different kinds of fruits in people’s lives. This doesn’t even take into consideration the many other places in the Bible where we are told to make judgment calls about whether something is right or wrong.
Since Scripture does not contradict itself, then the common interpretation of this passage cannot be correct. So what does it mean? A basic idea is that we are not to be hypocritical, self-righteous or tear others down to build ourselves up with our judgment calls. That is much easier said than done. So how can we be sure we are not being hypocritical, self-righteous or tearing others down to build ourselves up with our judgment calls? We can do this by asking ourselves three questions before we make the judgments.
Would I want to be judged by the same standards I am judging others by (verse 2)?
Many times we hold others to a different standard than we hold ourselves to. This is fine as long as the standard for ourselves is higher than the standard for others. Unfortunately, this is not often the case. Our children are tired but their children are brats. We’ve had a bad day and don’t feel like talking but they are just rude. We were just telling the truth but they are gossiping. You get the idea.
Before I can make a judgment call about someone else I must honestly answer the question, would I want to be judged by the same standard I am about to judge them by. If the answer is no, I need to either withhold my judgment or admit that I am the judgmental hypocrite Jesus is talking about in this passage.
Am I being honest about the issues I have in my own life (verse 3)?
It is so easy to see the faults and flaws in others while ignoring my own faults and flaws. We don’t have to be perfect before we can make judgment calls about things, but we do have to be honest about what is going on in our own lives. A part of what it means to be honest about what’s going on in our own lives is to admit that we have faults and flaws and our faults and flaws are every bit as serious as theirs are.
Before I can make a judgment call about someone else I must honestly answer the question, am I being honest about the issues I have in my own life. If the answer is no, I need to either withhold my judgment or admit that I am the judgmental hypocrite Jesus is talking about in this passage.
Am I actively trying to correct the issues I have in my own life (verses 4-5)?
It’s one thing to know you have issues. It’s something quite different to actively work to correct them. If we are not careful, we become expert excusers. “That’s just how I am.” “Well everyone in my family is like that.” “It’s not as bad as it could be.” Whatever our excuses are they are just that, excuses. And excuses are nothing more than lame attempts to justify our unwillingness to correct the inappropriate and/or sinful issues we have in our lives.
Before I can make a judgment call about someone else I must honestly answer the question, am I actively trying to correct the issues I have in my own life. If the answer is no, I need to either withhold my judgment or admit that I am the judgmental hypocrite Jesus is talking about in this passage.
It is important for believers to understand that there is nothing wrong or judgmental about standing on the authority of Scripture. It is not judgmental to tell say that an action, attitude or belief is contrary to Scripture. This doesn’t mean we won’t be called judgmental for standing on the authority of Scripture, but it does mean we aren’t being judgmental. We should never let fear of being called judgmental keep us from standing where Scripture stands and saying what Scripture says.