Judge not, that you be not judged. Matthew 7:1 NKJV
This is one of the most misunderstood verses in Scripture. People use it without knowing its true meaning. There are two ways we can judge someone: discernment and criticism. There is a thin line between them. We must be careful to know the difference.
Jesus said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Christians must discern or make righteous judgments. A few verses down from our verse, Jesus said that we should not give anything holy to dogs, nor should we cast pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6). That requires discernment.
Further down Jesus, speaking of false prophets, said, “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit“ (Matthew 7:16-17). We are fruit inspectors and we should lovingly rebuke a sinning brother as directed in Matthew chapter 18.
The judgment that we must abstain from is self-righteous criticism. In verses 3 and 4, Jesus gives the example of trying to remove a speck out of a brother’s eye while having a plank in our own eye. Although the plank can be any sin, it is likely that it is referring to self-righteousness. “…remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). Clean up your own life and then you can make righteous judgments. As David said, “Create in me a clean heart, O God… then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You” (Ps. 51:10a, 13).
Prayerfully consider whether your judgment is one of loving discernment or criticism. Never judge hastily and always have all the information before making a judgment. Never play God nor allow yourself to become a gossiper. Always show mercy, just as God has been merciful to us.
Read Matthew 7:1-6, 15-20 and Matthew 18:15-20. Examine yourself. Have you neglected making righteous judgments because you were fearful of judging? Have you been critical of someone? Has it turned into gossip? Seek God’s wisdom in these areas.
Heavenly Father, thank You for mercy. Help me to be merciful to others and help me distinguish the differences between discernment and criticism. Cleanse me of all self-righteousness. For I know this is Your will for me. Amen.
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