Judge Not or Judge Righteously?

Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that ye be not judged” is one of the most quoted Bible verses, but is commonly misused and abused intentionally.

It is abused in the sense that those who publicly rebel and intentionally do the wrong acts against God use the verse as a shield to cover and continue their wicked ways or alleviate the guilt associated with it.

The false impression is that the Bible forbids us to render judgment at all. Many stop from sharing the truth because by doing so they are perceived to be violating the “judge not” in Matthew 7:1. This is also an example of taking the verse out of its context to favor self-interest. The result is a total reversal of God’s teaching on this matter.

The Jesus who said “judge not” is the same Jesus who also said, “judge righteously”. Interestingly, virtually no one is quoting the “judge righteously”.

What is Jesus telling us in Matthew 7:3-5?

It is important to consider the context of the verse so that we can grasp the exact message conveyed. We do not stop reading in verse 1. We should read the succeeding verses as well.

“Why, then, do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the log in your own eye?”

“How dare you say to your brother, ‘Please, let me take that speck out of your eye,’ when you have a log in your own eye?”

“You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5 ESV.

Based on the context, we see that it is the ‘hypocritical judgmental‘ attitude that Jesus is against of. A hypocrite is a person who capitalizes on the fault of others to lift himself up, but he himself is equally faulty or even worse. Making this a habit is the most unfortunate of all.

What Jesus is telling us in this passage is to stop from having a hypocritical self-righteous judgemental attitude.

Does the Bible teach us not to judge at all?

Take a look at the following verses:

“Don’t judge by appearances. Judge by what is right.” John 7:24 CEV

“For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” 1 Corinthians 5:12 NIV.

“Don’t you know that God’s people will judge the world?…” 1 Corinthians 6:2 ESV.

Clearly, God is not prohibiting us from judging. It is not wrong to lovingly point out the sin with the purpose of restoring a brother or sister into the truth and what is right.

Let’s analyze the following phrases from the texts. This is Jesus’ way on how to help others see their sins:

“first take the log out of your own eye” – this is acknowledging that we ourselves are filthy, and we need to ask God to cleanse us. This is humility in the presence of God, the opposite of being a hypocrite.

“and then you will be able to see clearly” – the being “able to see” here is actually a form of judging or discerning, but now in a righteous and humble manner for the very reason that one’s own fault was seen first and brought to God’s attention. After God has cleansed us, we become followers of His ways, and so we will be able to clearly see the sin as God sees it.

“We have the mind of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 2:16). This is where righteous judgment comes in. This is properly discerning things. We are now cleansed and so we can rightfully judge the sin, not the sinner.

“to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” – then we help our brother realize his sins and bring him as well to Jesus’ feet.

In other words, Jesus was saying this:

First, make sure you are clean by asking God’s cleansing power over any of your sin. Then you will be able to judge correctly, i.e. calling the sin by its right name without condemning the person. Finally, help your brother to experience the same freedom from sin that you now enjoy.  This is Jesus way of judging righteously, a redemptive act of genuine love to sinners.

So again, did Jesus teach us not to judge at all? No. But we need to make sure that we are following His steps as mentioned above.

God Has Already Pronounced The Judgment

The wage of all sinful acts is already set on the horizon, it is death. We can’t add to it. And so what we can do is to warn and remind ourselves of the dangers of continuing with those sins. We should not condemn the person, but the wrong acts. We should be firm in taking God’s side– calling sin by its name, even though the world sees it differently.

We should not use ‘judge me not’ as a shield to shove off those who wanted to help us realize our sins. The best reaction when someone is rebuking our questionable behavior is to humble ourselves to God and to praise God that He uses people to put us back into the right track. Remember that it is our pride that will destroy us.

The next time we feel obliged to point out sin as a result of genuine concern or love to others, think of these:

  1. Did you consider your own sins and asked forgiveness about it? How’s the experience, share that too.
  2. Does it appear that you are lifting yourself up? If so, then stop.
  3. Do you honestly care? If so, pray for the Holy Spirit to give you the right words and ways to deliver it.

If you echoed Jesus’ way of judging righteously and they continue to use “judge me not” then have peace. You have done your part. It is the Holy Spirit’s task anymore, not yours.