One of probably the most common Scriptures to be taken out of context is Matthew 7:1. You’ve heard some variation of it. “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” You hear that? We aren’t supposed to judge. And if we don’t judge, we won’t be judged. No judgement.
A lot of people take the verse to mean that we can’t judge, but can you imagine a world in which nobody could ever make judgments about anything in regards to morality? We would have no justice systems, we could do whatever we wanted, and we couldn’t really make judgments about whether consequences of actions were fair because deciding whether or not they were fair would require one to make a judgement about a person’s actions. A world without judgement starts to sound like relativism, doesn’t it?
Then, we have to consider the source. I mean, Jesus said not to judge. In the Bible. But the Bible has things it says to do and not do. It has standards of what is right and wrong. And Jesus, well, he didn’t flip tables in the temple for nothing. The whole not judging thing doesn’t really go with Scripture. So why does it say that? What does it mean?
Let’s look at the next few verses.
“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and [a]by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 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? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 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.”
“[T]ake the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” So Scripture did tell us to judge. What’s that about?
Although many people seem to think Matthew 7:1 is a ban on judgement, it’s more of a guideline of how to judge. The following verses explain it. People are going to judge you in whatever way you judge people, so don’t be a hypocrite or you’re going to find yourself in hot water. If I have this crazy bad lying problem, and then I try to tell my friend that her lying is a problem and needs to stop, she probably won’t take it as seriously, first of all, but secondly, what’s she going to say? She’s probably going to say that I need to cut it out just as much. My way of judging is going to be thrown right back.
The point of the passage isn’t judging, but how we judge and our hypocrisy.
I get that we are all sinners, so I see how one could say that it’s hypocritical to judge other people for being sinners because we’re sinners. But that mindset creates an “anything-goes” way of handling things and it’s not Biblical. We are supposed to repent of our sins though, which means to turn from them. What this verse is really saying is we should try to fix our actions. We should turn from our sins and let our eyes be on God. We can’t perfect ourselves, sure, but it’s a Biblical idea to repent and turn from our sins and try to live like Christ. It makes sense that we should do those things before judging people and trying to help people turn from their sin, as well.