One of the most intriguing scripture suitcases to unpack in the New Testament is Jesus’ statement on the Sermon on the Mount telling his followers not to judge. In Matthew 7:1 we read, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” In Luke 6:37, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned.”
At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be any “wriggle room.” When the Son of God says “judge not,” we better not judge, or suffer the consequences. Right?
We live in a world in which absolutes and moral standards are being questioned. Instead, many of us look to our own moral compasses. If it feels good, it must be good. And no one has the right to judge me.
Some would suggest this approach seems very biblical given Jesus’ words as a quoted by Matthew and Luke.
We Judge People In Three Ways
We judge people by their actions.
We judge people by how we judge ourselves.
We judge people by who they are.
Many times, all these dynamics are in play. Given the full context of what Jesus said about judging others in Matthew and Luke, and the example set by Jesus throughout his ministry, there is a more nuanced way to look at his words about judging others.
Jesus’ teaching on judging others is as counter-intuitive as those on forgiveness and loving your enemy. It doesn’t make sense to keep on forgiving someone, does it? It doesn’t make sense to love your enemy, does it? And it doesn’t make sense to refrain from judging, does it? It’s just something we automatically do.
Jesus Warns Us About Judging
Jesus warns us to be cautious when we compare others to ourselves in judgement. We all have “specks” in our eyes, and in judging, we show ourselves to be “hypocrites.” Whatever judgment we make, it will be “measured” to us (Matthew 7:1-5).
Paul echoes this warning. “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgement on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgement do the same things” (Romans 2:1-2).
Regarding judging people for who they are, how righteous they are, God alone will judge us all. God the Son, Jesus Christ, will be the ultimate judge, for he alone, based on his pure righteousness, is qualified to judge. As John writes, “The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgement to the Son” (John 5:22).
There Is a Time to Judge Others
People do bad things. Society would crumble, and all we know and cherish would collapse, if people were not accountable for their actions. Jesus is not dismissing judgments rendered based on our actions. The very first punishment executed was based on an action, eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
The conclusion? Is it okay to judge others? It’s okay to judge actions, not who they are, and not how righteous they are in comparison to you? As Jesus told the Pharisees, “You judge by human standards; I pass judgement on no one” (John 8:15). We judge by human standards, not the standards by which the Lord will judge us.
Listen to God’s Words
Let them sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity. (Psalm 98:9)
Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! (James 5:9)
Also read: Matthew 7:3-5, Luke 6:37-38, John 8:1-8
In the Words of Others
“To judge someone is to say that I have the right to define who they are, verses understanding that God has handed me the priceless privilege of discovering who they are.” Craig D. Lounsbrough
“Judging others makes us blind, where as love is illuminating. By judging others, we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Think About It
Recall three times when you judged someone. On what basis did you judge them? Their actions? In comparison to you? By who they are or appeared to be? Elaborate.
When you discovered you just judged someone, did Jesus’s warning about judging others and the consequences ever come to mind? How did you feel about it at the time?
Have you ever found yourself judging another person for doing the very same thing you’ve done? Recall the details.