“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” – Matthew 7:1-3
A Popularly Misused Verse
Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged” is one of the most abused verses in Scripture. It’s equivalent to the “God is love” phrase that is used to advocate tolerance of someone else’s sinful lifestyle. Essentially, it’s a “mic drop.”
We’ve posted the other two verses in today’s passage to demonstrate that there is so much more to this idea of not judging someone else. The interpretation that Matthew 7:1 means that the judgment of other Christians is prohibited has no foundation in Scripture. Let’s take a deeper dive into what Jesus was trying to convey.
The Meaning of the Text
What does the text not mean: a person has no right or obligation to assess the behavior or actions of someone else. Unfortunately, this is the meaning that many ascribe to this passage—that since we are incapable of knowing the intentions of someone’s behavior, we have no right to even confront them about it.
However, if we continue reading, we’ll find that Jesus is talking about a certain way in which we judge, not judgment in general. Jesus wants us to understand that the way in which we point out the sin in others’ lives is the same way we will be judged. It’s a warning that we must pay attention to.
This passage can also be seen as guidance in how we approach fellow Christians and the sin that they may be taking part in. Confronting someone about their sin should always have repentance as the goal. The type of judgment that Jesus encourages is what we call accountability—holding others responsible for what they’ve submitted to.
How to Apply the Text
Only God can rightfully judge. When we judge others it’s often laced with hypocrisy or haughtiness. This is why we must pursue humility in our interactions with fellow Christians who have fallen into sin. The goal is restoration, not condemnation.
Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” And Proverbs 27:5 says, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love.”
Understand that although the word “judgment” has negative connotations, it isn’t a negative word. It’s just that we as sinful humans do not have the capacity to judge properly apart from the Holy Spirit, and even then, we need to rely upon him.
“Judge not, that you be not judged” is more of a reminder put forth to instruct Christians how to properly and humbly correct other brothers and sisters in Christ rather than a command not to judge at all. If you want to be approached graciously when your behavior is unlike Christ, treat others with the same level of grace.