"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."
In our society of so called "tolerance," we are often struck with an opposition of people who cry that we have no right to judge them. In fact, I've even heard some go so far as to claim that "Jesus never judged people; He even taught that we are not to judge!" Strangely enough, they will quote Matthew 7:1 in attempts to convince others that Jesus has condemned all judging.
In the first two words of this passage, Jesus does tells us to "Judge not..." But these two words have been perverted and twisted to teach that when one calls the actions of another error and expresses that continuance in such ways will condemn the soul, that individual is judging, which is supposedly "condemned" in the Bible. But from the context of this passage, what judging is forbidden? Is it judging that makes a distinction between right and wrong? Is there never a time and place for seeing and reprimanding a fault?
If we take the view that judging is completely and totally forbidden, then that would make the doctrinal and moral purity of the church impossible to maintain. This would violate other teachings and divine examples that Christ has revealed in His word (see: Matthew 7:15; John 5:30; 7:24). It would commit us to neutrality and that is the very opposite of the stance Christ wants us to take.
What many fail to realize is that Jesus taught, (in the same context of instructing us to "judge not") that we are given the right and responsibility to make judgments in order to help our fellow man with their problem of sin, provided we have first "remove the plank from our own eye." Jesus expects you to be able to see clearly, so that you can "remove the speck from your brother's eye" (Matthew 7:5). So there are judgments to be made, within ourselves, and of others.
But then, what judging is the Lord telling us not to practice? In our text, Jesus is forbidding the judging that is for the purpose of putting down others to exalt one's self. It is the habit of finding fault in others when really there are more faults within yourself. How can you expect to help a person with a few transgressions when you are overwhelmed with sin? Jesus simply teaches that in order to pass righteous judgment on another, we ought to first examine ourselves. Let us remove the plank in our eye. Then, and only then, can we see clearly to remove the speck in our brother's eye.
The teaching of Jesus in this passage is concerned with the attitude of a man, not a complete absence of our judgment. Christ is not permitting us to avoid making hard decisions or taking difficult stands. He is warning us not to have a bitter, hypercritical, faultfinding spirit. That is a haughty attitude God will not tolerate.
However, as God's children, although we must be cautious in our judgments concerning ourselves and others, we cannot ignore our Lord's commands that instruct us to make judgments. In John 7:24, Jesus said "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (emphasis mine: JH) Here we are clearly commanded to judge with righteous judgment.
But what does it mean to judge with righteous judgment? Jesus revealed this earlier in John 5:30: Jesus spoke, saying, "I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me."
If we seek and follow the true will of God, which can only be found in His word, then when it comes time for us to help people discern between right and wrong, then we will not judge with our opinions or what we think is right, but just like the mind that Christ had, we will only seek to do the will of the Father. Following the limitations for judgment that are taught throughout the scriptures, all we are to do in order to judge righteous judgment is to hear God's word, and judge using His standard.
How can anyone honestly say that Jesus didn't judge? For that matter, when our Lord's true followers make righteous judgments, based on His word, in order to expose sin and help the lost to be saved, why would anyone ever think that Jesus would condemn them for that? Jesus has plainly revealed that those who abide in His ways will judge with righteous judgment.
By John Hagenbuch
From Expository Files 10.10; October, 2003