Forthright Magazine

To judge or not to judge…

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1 NIV)

How many times do we hear this verse quoted to us? Usually this happens when we have pointed out what someone is doing that doesn’t align with God’s word.

I was recently told this by someone who was living an immoral life. Christians aren’t to judge, I was told, they are to love. By that the person meant that we should accept how they were now living their life. But is this really what Jesus meant by this statement? As usual, it helps it we continue reading.

“For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 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 take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:2-5)

The way we judge others is the judgement that we will also receive. I have found that to be true in this life and it should be obvious that this is what will happen when God judges us. When we are harsh with others, they tend to be harsh back to us. When we show compassion we tend to receive compassion. How we treat others is the way so often we will be treated.

Jesus said this a little later in what he was teaching. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). We should treat others the way we would want them to treat us. This is what has always been taught in God’s word.

But how do people view others? Too often we see the flaws in others, no matter how minute they are, while we have far greater flaws. This is what Jesus was saying about the speck of sawdust and the plank of wood. We get fixated on what someone else is doing to the extent that we overlook what we are doing which is far worse.

So what was Jesus saying in not judging others? Was he saying that we cannot tell if someone is doing right from wrong? Was he saying that if someone is living sinfully that we should not say anything? I think we realise this was not his intent, because this would go against what he revealed to the apostles.

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)

“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)

Jesus himself later said: “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly” (John 7:24). If nothing else this should tell us that at times there is proper judgement to be made.

When someone is caught in a sin we need to try to bring them back to Jesus, to living for him. But notice that this is to be done ‘gently’. We aren’t condemning them. We are trying to restore them and turn them from being lost eternally. But we should always look first to ourselves. Are we condemning someone while we are involved in the same or worse?

We need to watch ourselves and always judge correctly, not based on our opinion but based on God’s word. And remember to be gentle.

Image by johnhain from

Readings for next week: Matthew 5-9


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