DO NOT JUDGE
- MATTHEW 7 (NIV) "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 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."
Often when a Christian speaks out against sin, some variation of Matthew 7:1
might be quoted to them by someone who informs them that they're not supposed to
judge. You might say something like "Homosexuality is sinful" or "Buddhists are
lost" and have someone respond, "Judge not, or you will be judged". In the same
way that most drunks know nothing of the Bible other than that Jesus turned
water into wine, this verse is predominantly quoted by non-Christians or nominal
Christians who know little or no other Scripture. The implication is that they
believe Jesus was instructing us to universally accept or condone any lifestyle
Our society believes in tolerance above anything else. Any practice and any
teaching must be tolerated. We must tolerate anything except a person who we
deem to be intolerant! However to be tolerant of someone does not imply that you
accept or condone what they do or believe. It simply means you accept their
right to differ with you, or to even their right to be wrong.
- Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for
light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
The Christian is commanded to love unconditionally. This does not imply
unconditional approval. You can still love someone who does things that should
not be approved of.
People seem to think that it doesn't matter what you believe - as long as you
believe something sincerely. But the Nazis believed something sincerely and the
result was that six million Jews died. Atheists believe something sincerely and
almost 32 million Christians  have been martyred in the last 2
millennia as a result. Muslim terrorists believe something sincerely enough to
die for it. As a result they are prepared to fly jet-liners into skyscrapers or
blow up innocent bystanders along with themselves in suicide bombing attacks.
You can be sincerely wrong!
Jesus taught that truth matters ("the truth will set you free"). If you
believe a lie, there are consequences to face. Imagine telling the traffic
officer who stops you for speeding, "You mustn't judge". Do you think that would
alleviate you of any consequences for your actions? If not, how can we believe
that God's Law can be violated without consequence?
Many non-Christians even quote the words of Jesus, "the truth will set you free"
without realizing that it is from the Bible. But the quotation in context is:
- "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the
truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32)
So what Jesus is saying in context is that we have to hold to his teaching
before we can know the truth - and then the truth will set us free. Truth is not
relative, it is an absolute - despite the fact that our current soceity dislikes
any suggestion of absolutes when it comes to morality or truth.
TO JUDGE OR NOT?
Further on in the same chapter of Matthew 7:1 - or the same Sermon (on the
Mount) for that matter - Jesus tells us to do something that requires making
- Matthew 7:15-16 "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's
clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will
We are told to judge whether a person is a false prophet by their 'fruit' - in
other words some assessment of the way that they live is necessary.
So Matthew 7:1 has been misunderstood, misapplied and generally taken out of the
context of the overall teaching of Scripture. People have used it to their own
advantage in an attempt to remove all discrimination between good and evil.
Jesus' words don't mean that we should not - on the basis of God's word - call
sin 'sin'. On the contrary we are taught that at times we are required to judge
and at other times we must "judge not". But when are we Biblically allowed to
judge and when should we refrain frompassing judgment?
A) INSTRUCTION TO JUDGE
When Jesus says we must not judge, he is not prohibiting the civil judgment of
courts on criminals and lawbreakers, for this is condoned throughout the Word of
God. He is not prohibiting the judgment of the church leaders, or of parents in
the family and employers with employees, for this is likewise approved of in
Scripture. He is first and foremost instructing us not to judge where we have no
jurisdiction or authority.
An example is seen in the US federal system. The local police force have
authority within their own state but not in other states. In cases where a crime
has been committed across state borders or in multiple states, the police have
no jurisdiction and have to hand the case over to the FBI.
Jesus has been given jurisdiction and authority to judge by the Father:
- John 4:27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
- John 5:22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to
In certain cases we too have been given authority by God to judge.
The governing authorities have God-ordained authority to judge:
- 1 Pet 2:13-14 Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority
instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to
governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those
who do right.
- Rom 13:1-2 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there
is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that
exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the
authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will
bring judgment on themselves.
In the Bible, slavery is frowned upon. Paul instructs the Corinthians:
- 1 Cor 7:23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.
And Paul groups slave traders with adulterers, peverts and the like as being
"contrary to sound doctrine".
- 1 Tim 1:10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and
perjurers - and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine
Yet despite this, slaves are instructed to obey their masters:
- Eph 6:5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with
sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.
- Col 3:22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only
when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and
reverence for the Lord.
Likewise an employer has authority to judge in the area
where he has jurisdiction i.e. the running of his business.
Parents have authority over their children and will need to exercise judgment
within the confines of the family.
- Col 3:20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
- Eph 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor
your father and mother" - which is the first commandment with a promise - "that
it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth."
Husbands have authority over their wives:
- Col 3:18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
- Eph 5:22-24 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is
the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he
is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit
to their husbands in everything.
5) THE CHURCH
Elders (overseers) have spiritual authority over their congregation. They are
instructed to 'govern', 'direct', 'keep watch' and 'oversee' which necessitates
- Acts 20:28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit
has made you overseers.
- 1 Tim 5:17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of
double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.
- 1 Pet 5:1-2 To the elders among you... Be shepherds of God's flock that is under
your care, serving as overseers...
- Rom 12:6-8 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us... if it is
leadership, let him govern diligently...
Paul rebukes the Corinthian church for not putting out of fellowship a
brother who is in sexual sin. They are instructed to "judge those inside" their
- What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to
judge those inside? ... " Expel the wicked man from among you." (1 Cor 5:12-13).
Paul also rebukes the Corinthian Christians for taking other Christians to
court. He instructs them to appoint judges within the church for these matters:
- 1 Cor 6:1-6 If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the
ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? ... Therefore, if you have
disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the
church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you
wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes
to law against another - and this in front of unbelievers!
6) JUDGING MINISTRY
We saw in Matthew 7:15 that Jesus cautioned us to "Watch out for false
prophets." We are also told to judge the spiritual gifts exercised in the
- LetLet two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. (1 Cor 14:29
John also wrote:
- "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether
they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1
And Jesus said:
- For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs
and miracles to deceive even the elect - if that were possible. (Matt 24:24)
In 2 Cor 11:26 and in Gal 2:4 Paul refers to "false brothers". In 2 Cor 11:13
Paul speaks of men who are "false apostles" and John commends the Ephesian
church for 'testing' (i.e. making a judgment) the claims of these men:
- Rev 2:2 ... I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested
those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.
One of the areas where an overseer must 'judge' is the area of doctrine:
- Titus 1:9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught,
so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose
In Ephesus, Timothy is instructed by Paul to "command certain men not to
teach false doctrines any longer" (1 Tim 1:3). Determining what is false
doctrine or not requires judgment. And Peter cautions us against both false
prophets and false teachers. We need to make judgments in these areas.
- 2 Pet 2:1-3 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there
will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive
heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them - bringing swift
destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring
the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you
with stories they have made up...
DO I HAVE JURISDICTION?
Before passing judgment,
ask yourself, "Do I have authority or jurisdiction to judge in this situation?"
- Rom 14:4 Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he
stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
- James 4:11-12 Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against
his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge
the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only
one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you - who
are you to judge your neighbor?
A government can govern it's own affairs but it's courts have no jurisdiction in
another country. A parent has the right to judge their own children - but not
the children of others. Likewise a husband has authority over his own wife, but
not over women in general. Overseers (elders) can judge their own affairs in the
local church but have no authority over other churches.
Christians can judge matters within the church but not outside the church - that
is God's jurisdiction:
- 1 Cor 5:9-13 I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually
immoral people - not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or
the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave
this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who
calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a
slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What
business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge
those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among
When it comes to judging yourself, you have jurisdiction. We are told to judge
ourselves (not others) before partaking of communion:
- 1 Cor 11:28-29 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and
drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body
of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.
If we judged ourselves we'd be less inclined to judge others:
- Right now I'm having so much trouble with D. L. Moody, that I don't have time to
criticize my friends. (D.L. Moody)
B) INSTRUCTION TO NOT JUDGE
A) DISPUTABLE MATTERS
Do not pass judgment on disputable matters e.g. judging a man by the day he
- Rom 14:1-13 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on
disputable matters. One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another
man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must
not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must
not condemn the man who does... One man considers one day more sacred than
another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully
convinced in his own mind... You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do
you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment
seat... Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.
We have only partial knowledge on disputable matters so reserve your judgment:
- 1 Cor 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord
B) BY APPEARANCES
We judge by outward appearances. There is a saying, "Don't judge a book by its
cover." When God sent Samuel to anoint the new king of Israel, we have the
- Samuel ... consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed
stands here before the LORD." But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his
appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the
things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at
the heart." (1 Sam 16:5-7)
Another example of judging by appearances is given by James of people who gave
preference to a man "wearing a gold ring and fine clothes" over "a poor man in
shabby clothes" coming to the same meeting. also comes in. James writes, "have
you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?"
(James 2:4) Yet we judge someone by their clothes or even the colour of their
skin. We don't know a man's thoughts, his motives, his circumstances. Jesus said
that this is an unrighteous judgment:
- "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." (John
Before criticizing a man, walk a mile in his shoes.
- Pray don't find fault with the man who limps
Or stumbles along the road
Unless you have worn the shoes that hurt
Or struggled beneath his load
There may be tacks in his shoes that hurt,
Though hidden away from view
Or the burden he bears, placed on your back,
Might cause you to stumble, too.
Don't sneer at the man who's down today
Unless you have felt the blow
That caused his fall, or felt the same
That only the fallen know.
You may be strong, but still the blows
That were his, if dealt to you
In the self same way at the self same time,
Might cause you to stagger, too.
Don't be too harsh with the man who sins
Or pelt him with words or stones,
Unless you are sure, yea, doubly sure,
That you have no sins of your own.
For you know perhaps, if the tempters voice
Should whisper as soft to you
As it did to him when he went astray,
'Twould cause you to falter, too.
C) ACTIONS & MOTIVES
WE CAN JUDGE AN ACTION BUT NOT A MOTIVE:
- 1 Cor 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord
comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the
motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
John MacArthur says, "What Jesus forbids is self-righteous, officious, hasty,
unmerciful, prejudiced, and unwarranted condemnation based on human standards
and human reasoning... [He condemns] the judgment of motives, which no mere
human being can know of another, and to judgment of external forms."
- Our souls may lose their peace and even disturb other people's, if we are always
criticizing trivial actions - which often are not real defects at all, but we
construe them wrongly through our ignorance of their motives. (Teresa of Avila)
GOD HAS ALL THE FACTS SO HE ALONE IS A RIGHTEOUS JUDGE.
- Heb 4:13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is
uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account..
- 1 Pet 1:17 Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially,
live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.
JUDGMENT & MERCY
The words of Jesus in John 8:7 are often used to tell people that you must never
- "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at
In this passage the teachers of the law and the Pharisees had caught a woman in
the act of adultery and reminded Jesus while he was teaching in the temple that
the Law of Moses said that she should be stoned to death.
- John 8:6-9 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for
accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his
finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them,
"If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at
her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard
began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left,
with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her,
"Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" "No one, sir," she said."
Even though he alone was without sin and thus in a position to "cast the first stone" what Jesus did do is forgive
- "Then neither do I condemn you" (John 8:10)
Jesus did not condone the woman's action but called it 'sin'. He also commanded
her to discontinue this lifestyle of sin:
- "Go now and leave your life of sin." (John 8:11)
In other words Jesus passed judgment on her sin and instructed her to "sin no
more", but at the same time showed mercy and forgiveness.
In Luke's record of Jesus' sermon on the level place (not the same as the Sermon
on the Mount) Jesus gives a similar teaching to that of Matthew 7:1, but the
context used here indicates that we must show mercy.
- Luke 6:35-38 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without
expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be
sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be
merciful, just as your Father is merciful. "Do not judge, and you will not be
judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be
forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down,
shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the
measure you use, it will be measured to you."
Most harsh judgment arises from those who are self-righteous, as we see with the
Pharisees of Jesus' day. Charles Spurgeon said, "None are more unjust in their
judgments of others than those who have a high opinion of themselves."
- Luke 6:38 "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down,
shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the
measure you use, it will be measured to you."
The above passage is usually misquoted to apply to giving money. However the
context is judging others and showing mercy.
In both the teaching of Matthew 7 and Luke 6, Jesus said "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" (v 16) So Jesus does not prohibit the judgment of
others but requires that we judge others by the same standard that we ourselves
would like to be judged by.
When we judge others by one standard, and ourselves by another standard - we are
normally far more generous to ourselves than others.
- "We judge others by their behavior. We judge ourselves by our intentions." - Ian
Jesus said, "With the measure you use, it will be measured back to you:" So
there is the option for JUSTICE or MERCY. Which measure would you like God to
use with you? Then use that same measure with others.
This type of double-standards was demonstrated in David's reaction to Nathan's
story which was actually a parable about his own actions. David quickly
condemned the man's sin, even though he had been oblivious at that point to his
own even greater sin (2 Samuel 12).
- Oh, how horrible our sins look when they are committed by someone else! (Chuck
It has been said:
- Unless you have never been tempted, don't pass judgment on someone who has
- If we must judge, let us first use the mirror on our own wall for practice.
John MacArthur says, "Whenever we assign people to condemnation without mercy
because they do not do something the way we think it ought to be done or because
we believe their motives are wrong, we pass judgment that only God is qualified
C. S. Lewis wrote in "The Case for Christianity, "This year, or this
month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practise ourselves the
kind of behaviour we expect from other people.
- Rom 2:1-4 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else,
for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because
you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment
against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man,
pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape
God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness,
tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward
Jesus was merciful to the adulterous woman and sought to restore her:
- James 2:13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not
been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
Jim Elliot said, "The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul (Psa 19:7).
Most laws condemn the soul and pronounce sentence. The result of the law of my
God is perfect. It condemns but forgives. It restores - more than abundantly -
what it takes away."
The purpose of our judgment should not be punitive, but restorative:
- The nature and end of judgment or sentence must be corrective, not vindictive;
for healing, not destruction. - John Owen (Source: A Puritan Golden Treasury)
The Biblical instruction is gentle restoration for the repentant sinner.
- Gal 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should
restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
The practical side is that while employers have authority to judge their
employees, a Christian employer is instructed:
- Col 4:1 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you
now that you also have a Master in heaven.
while husbands are given authority to judge their wives, Christian husbands are
- Col 3:19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
While parents are given authority to judge their children, Christian fathers are
- Col 3:21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become
While overseers in the church have authority to judge their local congregation,
they are instructed:
- 1 Pet 5:1-3 To the elders among you... Be shepherds of God's flock that is under
your care, serving as overseers... not lording it over those entrusted to you,
but being examples to the flock.
- Titus 1:7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless -
not overbearing, not quick-tempered...
DON'T BE QUICK TO JUDGE
The habit of judging is so nearly incurable, and its cure is such an almost
interminable process, that we must concentrate ourselves for a long while on
keeping it in check, and this check is to be found in kind interpretations. We
must come to esteem very lightly our sharp eye for evil, on which perhaps we
once prided ourselves as cleverness. We must look at our talent for analysis of
character as a dreadful possibility of huge uncharitableness. We are sure to
continue to say clever things, so long as we continue to indulge in this
analysis; and clever things are equally sure to be sharp and acid. We must grow
to something higher, and something truer, than a quickness in detecting evil.
(Frederick W. Faber)
You need to bear in mind that you will ultimately be judged:
a) By the word of God:
- John 12:48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my
words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.
b) By your judgment of others:
- Matt 7:2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the
measure you use, it will be measured to you.
c) By your own words:
- "I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant!" (Luke 19:22)
- Luke 12:36-37 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of
judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be
acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."
 SOURCE: David Barrett & Todd Johnson 2001 World