Matthew 7:1-5 “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. 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.”
Parents and caregivers of children- have you ever told a child they cannot have a cookie before dinner as you wipe the cookie crumbs off of your face? Please don’t tell me I am the only one! I mean, why else did someone invent the phrase, “do as I say and not as I do”? Some kid was holding an adult to the same standard the adult was expecting of that kid!
It is a common misconception that Christians should not ‘judge’ one another or at the very least, that we must be without sin in order to enlighten another Christian about their sin. I often hear fellow Christians quoting Matthew 7:1 saying “do not judge others, and you will not be judged.” If we contemplate this verse in isolation, some can interpret it to say that if we refrain from judging others, our Heavenly Father will not judge us. But when we look at it in context with the rest of the passage and with other Scripture, it tells us something totally different.
Let’s consider the context by looking at Matthew 7: 1-5:
7 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others.The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.
3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your friend,’Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.
I’d like to call out a few common misconceptions of this passage:
Jesus is not talking about judgment in the sense of determining whether or not you go to Heaven. Thankfully, that is the work of God alone and we cannot and should not judge someone’s salvation. He is talking about bringing to light another person’s sins.
The ‘others’ judging the subject in verse 1 isn’t God or Jesus. They are the people around the subject, like friends and family. God is not interested in condemning us here on Earth as believers. In John 3:17, Jesus says “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
Jesus is not telling us that we shouldn’t ever bring to light someone else’s sin unless we are sin free. Romans 3:10 reminds us that “There is none righteous. No, not one.” Let’s face it, brothers and sisters, if we wait until that day, we would all go radio silent until the Lord takes us home.
Jesus is warning that we will be judged by the standard with which we judge others. He isn’t saying don’t ever judge people BUT we need to work on our own sin before we can bring attention other people’s sin. In Romans 2:1, Paul calls a man who judges “inexcusable,” adding that “…for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself.” He doesn’t mean that what the person does is not acceptable, but this person is now without excuse for he knows better yet doesn’t adhere to the standard. For example, you get upset at a friend for being late to an engagement, and then you were late the next time, yet you continue to complain about her lateness.
Not only do we need to consider our own sin before we address another’s sin, but we need to understand our intentions. In Matthew 7:1-5, it is says that the subject is ‘helping to remove the speck out of someone else’s eye.’ Jesus says the subject ‘worried’ about the other person’s sin. It is implied that the person’s heart was in the right place- but his behaviors were not. Is our intention in the right place to love and guide someone out of their sin? Sometimes, our intention can be self-righteous and we want to expose someone else’s sin rather than help them rid of it. Can you think of an example of this in your own life? I know I can!
It is not a sin to judge others’ actions. It is actually part of what we are called to do. God knows our flawed nature so well. He knows our hearts. He is using this passage to guide us, to caution us to speak the truth in love only after we ourselves have had the experience of being delivered from that transgression. It is not to condemn you or me, but to convict us. Then He grants us the privilege of coming alongside others to encourage them and guide them away from sin and toward a closer relationship with our Savior.