Scripture: “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? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” Matthew 7:1-6 ESV
Observation: Having commanded his disciples to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, Jesus now addresses wrongful versus rightful judgment. He begins with a blanket statement that shocks his audience: don’t judge, lest God will judge you with the same measure that you impose on others (vv.1-2). Having caught their attention, Jesus once again employs hyperbole with an illustration that places an exclamation mark on his admonition: remove the log out of your eye before you think about pointing out the speck in the other person’s eye—you hypocrite (vv.3-6).
Finally, Christ presents how his disciples should appropriately judge others:
- Address your sins before pointing out others’ shortcomings (v.5).
- Discern who has a teachable spirit; otherwise, you will encounter backlash (v.6).
Of note, the Greek word krinō, translated as “judge” above, has a wide semantic range from a rightful judicial process to wrongful condemnation. In the above context, Jesus refers to the latter: an arrogant, judgmental attitude that would provoke God’s judgment on us.
Takeaway: The key point of this passage is the sacredness of godly judgment. Jesus tells his audience that he follows his Father’s lead in judging others and that his judgment is just because he seeks the will of the Father in these matters: “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30 ESV). And as his disciples, we are commissioned to judge rightly according to God’s will. But our judgment is reserved for the body of believers—not the unbelieving world—as Paul contends: “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13).
So if we truly desire to discern God’s will, we must first exercise humility by reminding ourselves of our propensity to sin and our desperate need for our Lord’s grace and forgiveness. And when we do, we will speak with a spirit of gentleness with the intent to restore the one who has transgressed (Galatians 6:1). Still, we must keep in mind that we live in a fallen world where people are quick to judge and slow to receive the rightful and godly judgment of others. So as we discern God’s judgment regarding fellow believers, we also need to discern whether they are in the frame of mind to hear what we have to say. Timing is everything. But if the matter is urgent, we must follow the steps Jesus outlines regarding increasing witnesses (see 18:15-20), for it may get ugly.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son who judged rightly according to your will and will one day return and pass final judgment on Satan and his minions of evil. Would you please help us to follow your Holy Spirit’s lead in discerning if, when, and how to speak your righteous judgment among fellow believers and leave you to judge the godless? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling