The Expository Files

"Judging": Do I Have This Problem?

Matthew 7:1-6

When most people read this passage or quote part of it, they have one thing in mind: You cannot judge! This assertion is often made before the context is studied, and without regard to everything else the Bible says that bears upon the matter of judging. There can be little doubt, the desire that produces this assertion is the yearning for complete tolerance - a religious and social climate where nobody says that anybody is doing anything wrong. Is this what Jesus intended? Are we to believe that nobody is allowed to say anybody is wrong about anything?

First, if this is what the passage means - those who argue for this complete tolerance violate the passage when they judge us in this matter, as the least showing their inconsistency. If you argue that all arguing is wrong - either you disobey your own principle in so doing and demonstrate inconsistency. Or, you imply that arguing and judging is wrong for everybody, except those who argue against arguing and judging! It should be clear, Jesus is not advocating this kind of confusion.

Second, when you study the context of Matthew seven, great light is shed on what the Lord meant. The kind of judging He is forbidding is described in verse 3. When you search out the speck in your brother's eye, but you "do not consider" the plank in your own eye; then when you proceed to do "eye surgery" on your brother to remove his speck, Jesus says you are a hypocrite, thus guilty of what He condemns!

Some of the typical Pharisees in the time of Christ displayed an obvious capacity and obsession for judging and condemning other people for their weaknesses, while they were guilty of deliberate rebellion against the law of God. These men would condemn their countrymen for neglecting to pay the exact tithe according to their interpretation - yet these harsh accusers would be guilty of neglecting the weightier matters of the law - justice, mercy and faith. These religious policemen would enforce every minute detail of their religious tradition, but they would devour the homes of widows! Jesus said, in Matthew 23, they would "strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!"

This is the kind of hypocritical judging Jesus forbids. Not all judging, but the kind of judging He describes.

If we are anxious to dispense judgment, but not anxious to be examined ourselves, we are guilty of the hypocrisy Jesus is exposing here! If I have the ambition to watch others carefully, call them into account and offer condemnation, but I do not have equal diligence about examining myself and correcting my own behavior, I'm guilty of what Jesus is talking about. If I want to judge, but I refuse to be judged; if I want to dish out medicine, but I'm not even willing to examine my own health; if I refuse to be judged "with the same measure" I judge - I have a problem, and it is the problem Jesus is addressing here!

By Warren E. Berkley
 From Expository Files 7.12; December 2000