By Marc W. Gibson
You have probably heard someone say, “The Bible says, `Do not judge! ‘ when their ungodly words and/or practice is questioned. Their reference is to Matthew 7:1, but their use of this scripture is actually a misuse due to their misunderstanding of the context. Context is important in studying any passage of scripture. Consider some thoughts on this passage.
I do not believe Jesus is condemning all judgment in this passage, but rather warning against hypocritical judgment. He warns all of us in verse 2 that judgment goes two ways, toward another
person and back to us, “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” This is a basic principle of life: A person is expected to uphold in his own life the judgment that he applies to others’ lives. If you are not willing to live up to your own standards, then do not use them to judge another:
“Judge not, that you be not judged.”
It is hypocritical to attempt to diagnose someone else’s problems when you have not, or will not, diagnose your own. As Jesus stated, “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 out of your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?” (vv. 3-4) Jesus is not condemning the concern about the speck in your brother’s eye, or even the judgment you apply to determine it is there (“… but judge with righteous judgment,” Jn. 7:24). Jesus is condemning the judgmental attitude that does not apply the same standards to itself, and thus overlooks its own faults.
The remedy for this problem is stated by Jesus in verse 5, “Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.” There is nothing wrong with trying to remove a speck from our brother’s eye (see Gal. 6:1; Jas. 5:19-20), but let us first be sure we are not burdened with the same “specks and planks” of sin. Paul reminded the Jews of these same truths when he wrote, “You, therefore, who teach an-other, do you not teach yourself You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, `Do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For `the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,’ as it is written” (Rom. 2:21-24).
Hypocrites apply teaching and judgment to others but not to themselves. If this be the case with you, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 15, p. 15
August 4, 1994