There are few verses quoted more frequently than the opening ones of Matthew 7. These same verses are also less understood by those who are so ready to attack others whom they believe are not practicing them correctly.
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. Matthew 7:1-2
Jesus was familiar with the teachings of the day and knew clarification was needed. While Torah scripture was sound doctrine, it got twisted by some who were teaching it.
Torah teaches that we are to discriminate between two equally important issues and determine God’s will, opposed to our own or another’s will. Still, we are not allowed to pronounce guilt or innocence over the personal life of another. This is God’s job.
We are not to judge others by what they wear or what they eat. Only God knows the motivation of our hearts and only He can give proper judgment.
We do discriminate outward behavior but are not to pronounce judgment based on our observations. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that we see through a glass darkly—not only God but ourselves and others also.
Pharisees were often the ones applying God’s word with their accusing voices. They had very high regard for themselves and the utter contempt in which they held all who did not belong to their sect. The Pharisees took it upon themselves to judge others, while they were blind to their glaring faults. The disciple of Christ is to conduct himself in a manner exactly the reverse: judging himself and refusing to take God’s responsibility where others are concerned.
The New Testament tells us to judge:
2 Thessalonians 3:6 But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.
Romans 16:17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.
We are called to judge but not to presume:
Romans 14:4 Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.
We are called to judge but not as a hypocrite:
The one who is quick to detect the minor faults of others while blind to or unconcerned about his sins is dishonest. He is pretending to be righteous while giving free rein to his lusts.
Romans 2:1 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.
We are called to judge but not in haste or without thought:
Before thinking the worst about a person, we must first make a full investigation and obtain clear proof that our suspicions are well-grounded or the report we heard is true. With the media of today, finding the truth is close to impossible. Still, even God went down to investigate before bringing judgment:
Sodom and Gomorrah– Genesis 18:21 I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.
John 7:24 Do not judge according to appearance but judge with righteous judgment.
Proverbs 18:13 He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him.
Paul wrote an interesting passage in I Corinthians 4:1-5. Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.
As Christ’s disciples, the only thing we need to be concerned about is how God perceives us. The following scriptures need to be in our prayers daily.
Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:12-14
Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24
Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:9
Going on in Matthew 7, Jesus expands His counsel:
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. Matthew 7:3-5
Stop and consider for a moment the things that stir our criticism the most about other people. Can it be possible that we have similar weaknesses in our lives and therefore are more sensitive to them when we see them in others? The things we don’t like about ourselves we often accuse others of being.
None of us are qualified to judge another when we still have sin in our lives. There are degrees of sin and Jesus used this difference with the mote and beam comparison. On what grounds do we set ourselves up to critique and judge one of our brothers or sisters? Jesus was speaking to believers in this command, yet it is often our own family or friends that we feel we have the right to judge.
Jesus is offering a real warning for us against being too ready to denounce a brother or sister’s inward condition because of some outward act. Jesus speaks of the offender being on the lookout for error in another = Sin consciousness. Do we do that as parents? As spouses? Are we on the lookout to catch our children or spouse doing something wrong, so we can correct them? To look for the slightest downfall in another when we disregard our sad state is nothing but hypocrisy.
Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
God doesn’t usually allow us to correct another until we have faced similar issues in our lives and overcame them with His help. There is a temptation to see ourselves as morally superior once we have overcome something. We can feel qualified to correct another. This is hypocrisy. All correction must come from a humble heart. A heart motivated by love to restore the other to a healthy part of the community.
We will close this discussion with one final scripture. Galatians 6:1-5 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.
When we are pointing our fingers at others, they are four more pointing back at us. Let’s ask God to search our hearts before we attempt to correct someone else.