Little Tommy, a young boy, was causing trouble on the school playground picking on other children.. His method of choice was making ugly faces at the other kids. The watchful eye of Mrs. Smith, the teacher on duty, caught sight of Tommy’s behavior. She took him aside and said “You know, Tommy, when I was a little girl, I was told that if I made ugly faces, my face would freeze and always stay like that.” Tommy replied to Mrs. Smith, “Well, Mrs. Smith, you can’t say that you were never warned.”
Little Tommy’s comment does a good job setting up the topic of – ‘judgment.’ The biblical verse, “Judge not, that you be not judged” from Matthew 7:1–2, stands as one of Jesus’ most frequently cited yet often misunderstood instructions. This article seeks to clarify the authentic essence of this scripture, which has emerged as a pivotal point in both cultural and religious contexts.
I. Recognize Misinterpretations of Jesus’ Judgment
Jesus’ teaching “Judge not, that you be not judged” is from his famous Sermon on the Mount, which openly addresses the insincere behavior demonstrated by the Pharisees. Jesus introduces a contrasting viewpoint where he is emphasizing internal integrity over external appearances.
It is important to understand the context of the quote. It has been said, ‘If you take a text out of context then it becomes a pretext to a post text.’ Once you remove a quote out of the context of a conversation then you can misapply and use it to justify any action or thought. So, when Jesus states, ‘Judge not, that you be not judged ‘ He’s not talking about making judgment based on evidence, rather he’s talking to the Jews who looked down on Samaritans, gentiles, tax collectors, etc., and saying to them that the kingdom of heaven is for all people who accept Jesus’s invitation to be a part of God’s family.
We frequently encounter a misinterpreted version commonly expressed as, “Don’t judge me.” However, this interpretation distorts Jesus’s message. “Jesus is not telling others not to judge us; he’s telling us not to judge others”. This common misunderstanding often leads to the belief that Christians should abstain from all forms of judgment. When in reality, Jesus is not advocating not to make any judgement calls; he’s advocating for a thoughtful and introspective approach to making judgments.
II. Judge with Humility and Insight
Jesus doesn’t outright forbid judging others; rather, He cautions us to be exceedingly careful in how we judge. This becomes obvious when he says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3-5). There is not inherently anything wrong in addressing the minor faults of a Christian brother or sister; the problem is when we arrogantly point out their minor faults while ignoring our own major flaws! “…what Jesus was condemning was making judgments in a hypocritical fashion,” .
Therefore, yes, we can make judgment calls based on the evidence. We do it all the time. If someone has a history of hurting people, we put up our guard so as not to be hurt. I’m not saying that someone is not worthy to turn away from their sins and accept Jesus’ invitation, but I am saying that based on the evidence I’m paying attention so that I don’t get hurt. Jesus underscores the critical importance of introspection before critiquing others.
III. Apply Jesus’ Judgment in Rightly
“The grace we freely claim for ourselves we should also extend to others. The reality is, our knowledge of others’ circumstances is often incomplete. ‘How do we know the idiot driver didn’t just lose his spouse last week? How do we know the rude saleswoman didn’t just discover she has cancer? How do we know the Christian who cussed didn’t just accept Jesus and has no clue how to walk with God?” In instances where we lack full context, wouldn’t it be wiser to hold back our judgment? Before we scrutinize another’s spiritual maturity, it’s crucial we examine our own.
Jesus’ teaching, “Judge with right judgment,” calls us to assess situations devoid of arrogance and hypocrisy. We are approach judgments with humility and discernment, prioritizing grace and understanding and be cautious in declaring fault, especially in unclear circumstances, and to lean towards giving the benefit of the doubt. It is only then that we can confront the sin of another and to restore them.
IV. It’s about Restoring; Not Condemning
When it’s evident that a wrongdoing has occurred, our response should be guided by a. “aim for restoration.” We are to “Keep Quiet If Possible” and to practice love that “covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8), as well as the wisdom of not spreading rumors or gossip (Proverbs 17:9). We are to be deeply rooted in love, aiming for the redemptive restoration of the one caught up in sin.
But to do that, we are called to diligently practice kindness, compassion, and forgiveness towards one another, emulating the grace that God has shown us through Christ. This underscores the necessity for a tender-hearted and forgiving approach when dealing with transgressions within our community. At its core, Jesus’ teaching on judgment is a call to self-reflection, to exercise mercy, and to cultivate a heart that seeks restoration rather than seeking to condemn. We are called to look beyond mere justice and to represent the saving love and grace that identities our faith. If we don’t, we might just find ourselves in danger of having our ‘ugly faces’ of judgment freeze that way permanently.
- “Judge Not?” by Desiring God.
- “Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged” by Jeff Strite on SermonCentral.
- “Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged—What Jesus Meant” by Wayne Stiles.