What Did Jesus Mean When He Said Not to Judge?

It’s Friday night. It’s fall. It’s football season.

You load your family up in the minivan to support the local high-school football team. You scan the bleachers for a space large enough to contain your squirrely children. Up a few rows in the bleachers, you find a spot and unpack the house and set up camp with your kiddos.

No more than five minutes into the game, you begin regretting your choice of seats. Your children and their virgin ears are being treated to a litany of new words. “F” this and “F” that. And the poor ref has already been called things that even you have to look up on urban dictionary to understand.

You would think that sitting in front of one of your deacons would have been a safer bet.

After the game, you lovingly confront this deacon about his language. You admonish him with Ephesians 4:29 and remind him that the referee also has a family—and that calling him some of those names likely wasn’t “building him up.” You tell him that the only thing he “built up” on that night was, unfortunately, your child’s vocabulary.

Mr. Deacon, though, is not to be outdone. He knows his Bible too. And he quickly points you to Matthew 7:1. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

Bam!

Argument over. How dare you cast judgment on this guy and question his word choices?

What does Matthew 7:1 mean?

I’m convinced that Matthew 7:1 as the most quoted Bible verse. I could have shared any number of scenarios in which this verse is given as a response to rebuke and admonishments. In our culture, anytime someone states that a certain behavior is wrong or sinful, it is nearly inevitable that someone will pipe in with not judging.

But is it judging to point out the sin of another person? What does Jesus mean in Matthew 7:1 when he tells Christians to not judge?

First, we should note that there is a type of judging that Jesus forbids. If you keep reading in Matthew 7, you’ll see what type of judging Jesus is talking about in verse 1. Verse 2 helps us see that whenever we judge others with a different measuring stick than what we use to judge ourselves, we are being judgmental.

Also, if I believe that your sin is more odious than my own sin, then I’ve fallen into the type of judging that Jesus forbids in Matthew 7:1. Likewise, when I am so focused on your sin that I cannot see my own—and I become a terrible hypocrite—then I’m guilty of judging in the way that Jesus forbids.

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Mike Leake
Mike Leake serves as an associate pastor at the First Baptist Church of Jasper, Indiana, and is pursuing a Master of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Nikki, have two young children. Mike’s writing home is mikeleake.net. Mike is also the author of Torn to Heal:God's Good Purpose in Suffering.

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