Twisted Scripture - Matthew 7:1 "Judge Not"

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged." – Matthew 7:1


“Don’t judge me!” It is the cry of our culture today. We hear it when teenagers are trying to figure out who they are and how to express themselves. We hear it when the stressed and overwhelmed mom pours herself a glass of wine. We hear it when an unpopular opinion is about to expressed. Don’t judge me is our way of saying that we know we don’t fit it, we aren’t living up to the expectations placed upon us (by ourselves and others), and we know our opinion won’t paint us in the most flattering light.


And, to be fair, none of us likes the feeling of being judged. Feeling like someone is looking down their nose at you, disapproving of some part of your personality or some cause you are passionate about, is not a pleasant feeling. Those moments where a look or an “Allll-righty then” type comment make us feel about two inches tall don’t make for fond memories. Being reminded of decisions which we know were not in line with what and who we strive or claim to be is not something most of seek out. So we cry out, “Don’t judge me!”


Often Matthew 7:1 is thrown out there in an attempt to add the authority of the Bible to our cry. Especially when that cry is made in an attempt to get others to turn a blind eye to our sin. “You shouldn’t be judging me! Only God can judge me!” Rather than facing our sin and doing the often hard work of humble repentance, we throw up our defensive walls and tell others to mind their own business and let us be.


So is that what Matthew 7:1 is really getting at? That we need to make fewer assumptions and judgements based on our first impressions? That we need to let people make their own decisions and either say something nice and supportive or keep our mouths shut? While there is a time and place for both of those scenarios, that isn’t what Matthew 7:1 is getting at. Let’s take a closer look at the context of this verse.


Matthew 7 as a whole is one of three chapters which contain Jesus’ teaching known as the Sermon on the Mount. Specifically in the Gospel of Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount starts in chapter five and continues all the way through chapter 7. This body of teaching covers multiple topics including prayer, care for the needy, loving our enemies, finances, and hypocrisy. When you consider the first five verses of Matthew 7 together as a whole, a much more complete picture regarding judging others begins to come into focus.


1“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.


3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.


Jesus here isn’t saying that there is no place to judge another person, but he is saying that we need to use the same standard with which we judge others to judge ourselves. He is saying that, before we demand that others deal with issues of sin in their lives, we need to deal with our own issues first. And when we judge others, when we approach someone to correct them, it needs to be done with a spirit of grace, forgiveness, and humility which acknowledges that we are not perfect and we also fail at times.


One of the greatest challenges Jesus faced in his teaching was often the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders of his day. The Pharisees were notorious for condemning the short comings of the average, every day, Jew while they themselves were falling short in the same areas. Over the centuries leading up to Jesus’ earthly ministry, they are created a man-made, impossible standard to live up in the Jewish faith.


And least we think we have learned our lesson as the Christian church and believe hypocritical judgement of others to be a thing of the past, we need to listen to the voices of our young adults. For over a decade now, our teens and twenty-somethings have been telling us why they are leaving the Christian faith they grew up with in record numbers. Those reasons commonly include some degree of their experience of church members and leadership not matching up with what they see when they read about Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels. They are experiencing a church which wants everything to be safe and predictable while reading about Jesus and the disciples relying only on God to provide for their every need. They are watching parents and grandparents fall into despair when their candidate doesn’t win the election and hearing the call Jesus puts out to put our faith in a kingdom not of this world. They are seeing their church demonize and exclude people who are deemed “too sinful” while preaching stories which celebrate how Jesus hung out with the sinners and tax collectors. They are watching the generations before them have one set of standards for those they disagree with or dislike while giving a pass on the same behavior when they might be able to benefit in some way from that person’s position of power. In short, faith has been modeled as an obligation for them to accept instead of a relationship with God for them to cultivate.


Being judged by others is nothing new and something which, in some form, will always happen. It is a way of life. And we will, to some degree, always judge others. Matthew 7 is giving up some important reminders we need to keep in mind when we find ourselves forming judgements. We are being reminded first and foremost that the standards by which we are judging others will be the same standards by which we are judged. If you are unwilling to live up to the expectations you have of others, then you have no reason demanding others live up to those expectations. Lead by example.

Additionally, we are being reminded that we need to deal with our own stuff before we can expect others to deal with their stuff. No one is perfect. We all have sin we struggle with and times when we fail to live the life God has called us to live. The reality that we all need God’s grace and forgiveness, mercy and compassion on a daily basis should humble us all. This is the truth we need to keep front and center when we confront someone about the sin in their life.


Brennan Manning once said, “The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyles. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” It is this hypocritical approach to faith Jesus is speaking to in Matthew 7. So before you speak out in judgement of another again, take a moment and look closely at yourself and your actions first. Ask yourself if you are willing to hold yourself to the same standard. Consider the planks you are ignoring in your own eyes. And then approach the situation with the same grace and mercy you hope God is showing you when it comes to your struggles with sin.


Follow Up

- What sins are you most likely to harshly judge others for committing?

- What sins in your life are you ignoring?

- If someone were to confront you about a sin issue in your life, what are some things they could do to help you hear that message? What are some things they might do which would cause you to throw up your emotional walls? How can you use this knowledge when you feel called to speak truth into the life of a fellow human?


Helpful Resources Used

- "What Does Matthew 7:1 Mean?" as posted on BibleRef.com

- "Judging Others; A Closer Look at Matthew 7:1" by Eric J. Bargerhuff as posted on CrossWalk.com

- "What does it mean to Judge Not Lest You Be Judged?" as posted on GotQuestions.org

- "Six Reasons Young Christians Leave the Church" as posted on Barna.com

- "Eight Reasons Why Young Adults Leave Your Church" by Aaron Earls as posted on Research.Lifeway.com


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