Matthew 7: To Judge Or Not to Judge?
“Who are you to judge?” You have probably heard this statement before, especially if you were pointing out a questionable behavior in someone else. People generally appeal to Matthew 7 to excuse improper behavior or to denounce those who disprove of it. It is suggested that, in this passage, Jesus was condemning all judgment. The idea is that only God is the Judge, and since no one is in God’s position, then no one has the right to judge anyone. This fallacious propaganda about judgment is producing a society without shame, where all behavior is allowed (cf. Jeremiah 6:15).
Of course, it is to be recognized that God is the ultimate Judge of each soul (Hebrews 12:23) and that no one is in God’s position (Genesis 50:19), but it is not true that Jesus was condemning all judgment in Matthew 7. Whereas, He was condemning severe, impulsive, and pharisaical judgment. Not only did Jesus approve righteous judgment in other passages, but also required it (John 7:24; cf. 1 Corinthians 5:3). In fact, Matthew 7 is another example of this demand for justice and judgment. We are not to use Jesus’ declaration (“Judge not, that you be not judged”) as an umbrella statement for all judgment by ignoring the context.
The statement, “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (vs. 5), clarifies that Jesus wants His servants to correct their own faults first to be able to correct others. Jesus was not excusing the “speck” in the brother’s eye; that speck was to be removed. But He wanted for the one removing the speck to check his own life to detect any faults he was to remove first (cf. Romans 2:1,3)—in some cases, a greater fault (a plank) that will trap him in hypocritical judgment. However, issuing judgment does not require absolute perfection, but general innocence (cf. Galatians 6:1).
Instead of denouncing all judgment, this chapter denounces hypocritical judgment; and at the same time, demands the Christian to exercise righteous judgment concerning:
- His own faults (vss. 1-5). Are we too quick and impulsive to condemn little faults in others but excuse our own faults?
- Others (vs. 6). On the other hand, are we too naive in our treatment of others (cf. Matthew 10:16)?
- God’s goodness (vss. 7-12). Do we take the time to meditate on God’s goodness to develop spiritual strength and to extend goodness to others?
- Our way (vss. 13-14). Are we following the way to eternal live, or are we following the crowd in the broad way to destruction?
- The truth (vss. 15-20). Do we love the truth enough to analyze the teaching and works of those who instruct us?
- Our religion (vss. 21-23). Do we have a religion that is in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24), founded on obedience of what God says, the way that He says?
- Our disposition (vss. 24-27). Are we doers of God’s Word, or are we only passive hearers deceiving ourselves (cf. James 1:22)?
“[J]udge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24).