“Judge Not” is Not a Shield to Hide Behind

by Casey Lewis April 25, 2015

It is not uncommon to hear people say things like: “Aren’t we all sinners? What gives you the right to make moral judgments about someone else? Isn’t that God’s job?”

The Bible does say, after all, “Do not judge, or you to will be judged.”

Some people who make the above mentioned claims know where this verse is found, and others do not, but it's probably not an exaggeration to say that most people who employ this verse (Matthew 7:1) do so out of its context.

So why is this verse so commonly misused?

People desire to shield their sin. They want to keep others at bay because they desire “unrestrained moral freedom, autonomy, and independence” [1]. They don’t want anyone to question their behavior, thoughts, or ideals.

What Does Matthew 7:1 Really Mean?

Even though people use it as a shield to hide behind, that wasn’t Jesus’ purpose. Instead His purpose was to address hypocritical judgment. We know that because Jesus was confronting the Pharisees who judged others without first dealing with their own sin.

Starting in verse 3, Jesus says,

"Why do you see 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,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 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.” (Mt 7:3–5)

The key to these set of verses comes in verse 5 when Jesus tells the Pharisees to first remove the log in their eye before dealing with the speck in their brother’s eye.

Essentially, Jesus is giving two commandments:

(1) Stop judging others in a hypocritical fashion.

(2) Get the sin out of your own life first [2].

So Jesus isn’t giving us a shield to hide behind. He isn’t giving us a way to block people from ever speaking into our lives. Instead, He is telling us we have to deal with our own sin before dealing with the sins of others.

Can We Judge?

The answer is yes. In fact, it is our duty to judge others, in order to help them grow in their Christian life. We are to spur one another on to growth and godliness (Hebrews 10:24). One way we do that is by speaking into another person’s life regarding their sin (1 Cor. 5:12-13)

The Proper Way to Judge

When we judge others, we must do it in love, with wisdom, and the right heart. We must not come to them as if we are morally superior. Instead, we must come as a brother or sister in Christ who too recognizes we are sinners who need a Savior.

And we should come with God’s Word open, not simply wielding our own opinions. We must instead be a conduit of the Word of God, believing that as we point them to and speak His Word into their lives, the Holy Spirit will drive its truth home and convict them of their sins.

So Jesus isn’t giving us a shield to hide behind. Instead He is telling us the proper way to judge others.

[1] Eric Bargerhuff, The Most Misused Verses in the Bible, 26.

[2] Ibid., 27.