Judge With Righteous Judgment

Richard Thetford

No doubt you have heard people say “Who am I to judge?” or “Do not judge.” And with these statements most mean that they will not condemn anyone of anything because they think that they don’t have the right to pass judgment on anyone. Most come to this understanding by the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:1 which says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” So, because Jesus said this, some think that they have no right whatsoever to judge another. But yet the same Jesus said in John 7:24, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” So, do we have a contradiction of what Jesus has said? In Matthew 7:1 He says “Judge not,” and in John 7:24 He says “judge with righteous judgment.”

This is where the understanding of context is very important in Bible study to make sure that we are “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). We learn from Matthew 7:1 that Jesus is not condemning all judgment, but warning against hypocritical judgment. Verse two of Matthew 7 shows us that judgment goes two ways in that it goes toward another person and then it comes back to us. The point that Jesus is making is that a person is expected to uphold and practice in his own life the same judgment that he would apply to another person’s life. In other words, if one is not willing to live up to the standards that they place on themselves, then do not use those same standards to judge another: “Judge not, that you be not judged.”

In Matthew 7:3-4 Jesus puts forth the application to His statement in verse one. He explains that it is hypocritical to point out the problems in someone else’s life, when we have not, or will not, remove those same problems from our life. Let’s remember, that Jesus is not condemning the concern about the “speck” in our brother’s eye, or even the judgment we may apply to determine that it is there (“...but judge with righteous judgement,” Jn 7;24), but rather Jesus is condemning the judgmental attitude that does not apply the same standard of judgment to our own life and therefore we overlook our own faults.

Jesus gives us a remedy for this problem in verse 5 when He says, “Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye?” There is nothing wrong with trying to remove a “speck” from our brother’s eye because we are to have concern for our brother and identify sin that our brother has committed (Galatians 6:1; James 5:19-20), but when we do that, let us ensure that we are not guilty with the same “specks” of sin that we are quick to point out that exist in the life of our brother. Remember, that the apostle Paul pointed this out in Romans 2:1-3, 21-24: “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?.....You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, "Do not commit adultery," do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you," as it is written.”

Christians are to live their lives in accordance with the will of God (Titus 2:11-12; Matt 7:21). When we are doing this, then we are able to “judge with righteous judgment,” that which we have been instructed to do in accordance with the word of God. A failure to do this makes us hypocrites, applying teaching and judgment to others but not to ourselves. If this is the case in our life, then we should “Judge not, that you be not judged.” May we all be determined to live a life of service to God, teaching others to do the same (Rom 12:1-2; Matt 28:18-20).