Paul Derengowski, ThM
It is probably one of the most misinterpreted, if not misunderstood, passages in all the Bible, and yet one of the most quoted for ulterior motives.
Jesus Christ toward the end of his famous “Sermon on the Mount,” told those who had gathered to listen to him preach about the Kingdom of God, and what it was going to be like, said the following:
Do not judge, that you be not judge (Matt. 7:1)
Left by itself and a person is left with the impression that Jesus is emphasizing the need to refrain from all judgment of any kind, which is what most of those who are under some kind of moral or spiritual conviction wish that he was emphasizing.
But, if the reader will simply continue on with the rest of Jesus’ statement, it is not that he commanded those listening to him to refrain from all judgment, because that would be impossible for anyone to accomplish.
What Jesus is saying is to refrain from casting hypocritical judgment upon others, when the person doing the judging is guilty of the same thing.
Please note the remainder of Jesus’ statement.
Do not judge, that you be not judged (v. 1).
For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you (v. 2)
And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (v. 3)
Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your eye? (v. 4)
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 (v. 5).
Two things are worth noting in Jesus’ teaching.
First, is the “standard of measure” and the later encouragement to remove the “specks” out of someone’s eye, but only after the “log” has been removed from one’s own eye.
Most people, who are ignorant of the overall context of Jesus’ teaching in this particular passage, use themselves of the standard for judging others.
Yes, they judge others, according to their own self-righteousness, while attempting to diffuse or deflect the judgments of others by hypocritically appealing to Scripture or Jesus’s words.
Unwittingly, every self-righteous “hypocrite” who does this is not even aware of the hypocrisy or contradiction he is exposing himself to, when he quotes Jesus’ saying.
For even saying, “Judge not,” is to make a prior judgment before even uttering the words.
If the person, who wanted others to quit judging them, was true to what he thinks Jesus is teaching, then he would follow his own prescription and not judge in the first place.
Yet, he never even stops to think about the “log” in his own eye, much less pause to realize that his understanding of Jesus is totally false.
As long as person is judging according to God’s standard of righteousness revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Bible, that person’s judgment is equally righteous.
In fact, elsewhere Jesus would tell his disciples, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (Jn. 7:24).
Secondly, judgment calls for righteous self-introspection.
We, as fallen humans beings in need of God’s redemption, will fail every time, if we direct attention to ourselves as, once again, the standard of righteousness.
Once repentance takes place, though, whereby the sinner-turned-saint begins to live the sanctified life, in Christ, as led by the Holy Spirit, then the saint is qualified to make moral judgments upon others, whereby they too turn from darkness unto the light and are saved.
Jesus told his disciples, “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him” (Lk. 17:3).
Obviously, in order to be on guard or to rebuke anyone is going require judgment; in this case, moral judgment to walk a life that does not cause others to stumble (Lk. 17:1-2), but also moral judgment to even know what is a sin.
In order for Jesus’ disciples to comply with Jesus’ command, they are going to have to be morally clean themselves, which, once again, is going to require serious, informed, convicted introspection and confession.
Such is the process of sanctification or becoming more like Jesus.
When that occurs, then the saint of God can approach others, particularly those claiming to be one of God’s own, and “rebuke” (Gr. ἐπιτίμησον) or “denounce” that person for his/her own sin.
So, Jesus never said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” and stop right there.
Jesus said, Do not judge, as a hypocrite would judge!
That is far cry from what the hypocrites often do, as they quote Jesus out of context for the express purpose of deflecting righteous judgment, so that the hypocrite can keep right on doing what his self-righteous “standard of measure” dictates.