Matthew 7:1:  Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

       Some Christians read this passage and immediately conclude that we humans are never to judge other humans.  We are never to draw conclusions about the behavior or the motives behind the behavior of our fellow man.  Is that what Jesus is teaching here.  Are we never to judge others and if we should happen to slip and judge someone, do we place ourselves in danger of being judged in a manner that we don’t want to experience?

       This matter of judging others is a critical issue within the Christian community.  Here in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is dealing with this issue.  As is true of many teachings found in the scriptures, we must be careful that we don’t rush to a conclusion before examining the greater context of an issue.  Sometimes that context is the particular passage in which a particular issue is presented and other times we may need to look at several passages or entire sections of scripture in order to arrive at a proper understanding of a particular teaching.  We may also have to do a little word study at times to determine how a particular word is used in various contexts and by different writers.

       When it comes to this matter of judging we will use all these methods to arrive at an understanding of what Jesus is teaching.  The Greek word translated “Judge” in this passage is krino.  It appears 114 times in the NT and is translated judge about 80% of the time in most English translations but is also translated into several other English words. The basic meaning of this word in the Greek is to separate, distinguish, make a decision, select or chose. Krino is used in a variety of ways in the NT scriptures.   

        In Romans 14:5 Paul talks about one man considers one day more sacred than another.  The Greek word translated “considers” is krino.  Here this word is used in the sense of making a distinction between days. In Acts 15 we see the word being used in the context of making a decision about what will be required of the Gentiles.

       Romans 14:5: One man considers (krino) one day more sacred than another; another man considers (krino) every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.

       Acts 15:19: It is my judgment (krino), therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.  

       Krino is also used in the NT in a more judicial sense. Paul uses this word in relation to having to appear before King Agrippa and defend himself against the accusations of the Jews 

       Acts 26:6: And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial (Greek krino) today.     

       In reviewing the many ways in which krino is used in the NT and other Greek writings, it is a word that has to do with making a choice, making a decision or drawing a conclusion about something or someone.     

       Is Jesus instructing us to never make a decision, or draw a conclusion about another person?   If to judge someone is to make a decision or draw a conclusion about someone, it is obvious from the Scriptures that Jesus was not instructing that we are never to judge anyone in any manner.  You will see by reading the very next statement Jesus made that He is not prohibiting judging others but He is explaining that there is a right way and a wrong way to judge others and that we will be judged according to how we judge others and not if we judge others. 

       Matthew 7:2: For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

        Here Jesus says we will be judged in the same way we judge others.  This statement presupposes that we will be judging others.  Jesus is not prohibiting the judgement of others.  He is not prohibiting the making of decisions and the drawing of conclusions as to the behavior of others.  What Jesus is saying is that if and when we do make judgements as to the behavior of others, we better be very careful as to how we make such judgements because how we judge others will determine how we are judged.  It is a virtual restatement of the Golden Rule which states that we are to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Jesus then goes on to show with one of His famous illustrations exactly what He is talking about.

       Matthew 7:3-6: 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.

        Jesus speaks of removing the speck in your brother’s eye.  In order to do this you must first determine that there is a speck in your brother’s eye.  How do you do this?  You observe your brothers behavior and come to certain conclusions in view of what you see.  You determine that you need to bring the matter to your brother’s attention.  You are saying to your brother, “brother, you have a problem and here is what you should do about it.” You are bringing to his attention something that you feel needs to be corrected in his behavior.  You are drawing certain conclusions about your brother’s behavior and have decided to confront your brother with the changes you feel he should make.  That is judging your brother.  This is not unacceptable behavior in Gods site.  What may be unacceptable is the manner in which we judge our brother.

       In this illustration, Jesus is clearly showing we can judge our brother.  He is also clearing showing how we are to judge our brother.  We are to first judge ourselves.  We are to first yank the plank out of our own eye so we can see clearly in removing the speck in someone else’s eye.   This is a beautiful illustration of how we must get our own lives in order before we go about trying to facilitate order in the lives of others. 

       It is a common human behavior to want to correct perceived problems in others while all the while we are experiencing those same or similar problems and doing very little or nothing to correct them in our own lives.  We know we have the problem, but instead of doing what is necessary to correct it we find someone else who has a problem and begin to critically look at their behavior even to the point of butting into their life about the problem while all the while failing to correct problems in our lives.  Jesus calls this being a hypocrite.  Paul calls it condemning oneself.

       Romans 2:1: You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment (Greek: krino) on someone else, for at whatever point you judge (Greek: krino) the other, you are condemning (Greek: katakrino) yourself, because you who pass judgment (Greek krino) do the same things. 

       Paul may have been reflecting on the illustration Christ provided in the Sermon on the Mount about the speck and the plank when he made this statement.  Both men are teaching that we have no right to judge others when we are doing the same thing for which we are judging someone else or have big problems in our own lives which are not being corrected.

       As I have pointed out throughout this series on the Sermon on the Mount, a major focus of Jesus’ teaching is to contrast the false righteousness of the religious leaders of His day with what is true righteousness.  True righteousness has to do with not being a hypocrite. Not pretending to be something you are not.  Jesus now carries this theme over to the matter of judging others.  He is teaching that before we dare to judge someone else, we better judge ourselves.  Remember, the Greek word translated into the English judge means to make a choice, make a decision or draw a conclusion about something or someone.  The scriptures show we are to turn that process on ourselves before we dare to direct it toward someone else.  

       In 1 Corinthians 11, Apostle Paul takes the Corinthian Christians to task for their inappropriate behavior while taking the Lord’s Supper.  He then makes a rather interesting statement.

        1 Corinthians 11:33-34: But if we judged (diakrino) ourselves, we would not come under judgment (krino). When we are judged (krino) by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned (katakrino) with the world.

       Diakrino is a variation of krino and basically means the same thing.  Paul is saying that if we judge ourselves, that is, if we look at ourselves, if we examine our own behavior and come to the appropriate conclusions and take the appropriate action to correct problems, we will not have to come under the judgement of the Lord.  We will not come under Christ’s examination.  We will not require that Christ make a decision about our behavior and determine what action should be taken.

       Two things should be noted here.  If we judge ourselves, Christ won’t have to judge us.  If we don’t judged ourselves, Christ may have to judge us and discipline us so we won’t be condemned. The Greek word translated condemn is katakrino.  It is another cognate or variation of the word krino.  But in this form it means condemnation or damnation.  This word, however, does not have some inherent meaning of eternal condemnation or damnation as is often concluded.  This word appears nineteen times in the NT and not once is it associated with eternal condemnation or so-called eternal damnation.  By context it is always used in a temporal sense. 

       The Scriptures show Christ as being katakrino by the Jews.  Obviously Christ wasn’t condemned to eternal condemnation.  He was condemned to temporal death. Jesus, of course, was judged unjustly.   In Romans 2:1 as already cited, Paul speaks of us condemning (katokrino) ourselves when we judge others and do the same thing we are judging others for.  Paul isn’t saying we condemn ourselves to eternal condemnation.  The word simply means we place ourselves in a position of being subjected to a severe form of punishment.  Paul is saying that by inappropriately judging others we make ourselves subject to serious consequences.  

       Neither Jesus nor Paul is prohibiting the judging of others.  They are prohibiting hypocritical judging.  As He does throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is contrasting the behavior of the religious leaders of His day with what behavior should be.  He is teaching that if we are going to judge another it better be righteous judgement.  At one point during His ministry, Jesus was being judged by the religious leaders for healing someone on the Sabbath.  What did Jesus tell them?

       John 7:24: Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment."

        He is not telling the Jews not to judge Him.  He is telling them to judge Him according to righteousness.  The KJV translates it, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”

        God does not want us to avoid making judgements but to make every effort to exercise righteous judgement when we do make a judgement.  Making judgements is a normal and necessary part of living.  When I need to hire an employee for my health food store, I obviously have to judge between various applicants for the job as to their qualifications. I have to make choices and draw conclusions based on what I see and hear in an interview and what I am able to determine from the references provided me by the applicant.  Ultimately I have to make a judgement as to who among the applicants is best suited for the job based on the standards and criteria I have established. 

       My responsibility is to insure that the standards and criteria I have established and my treatment and examination of the applicants is honest, objective and unprejudiced.  In other words I am obligated to take a righteous approach to hiring an employee. 

       If someone commits a crime, such person will be judged according to the facts determined by law enforcement and if convicted will be condemned which is to say will be given punishment appropriate to the crime.  This is righteous judgement.  If that same person is wrongly convicted because of dishonest prosecution where facts permanent to the case are left out, we have a case of unrighteous judgement.

       God requires us to judge the motives and behavior of others.  This can be seen in the very next instruction Christ gives after giving the illustration about the speck and the plank

       Matthew 7:6:  Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

       Jesus is not talking here about literal dogs and pigs. Jesus is talking about people and being very graphic in describing the type of person who your do not want to waste your time with relative to the things of God.   He is talking about people who are unwilling to objectively consider what you have to say or what you are doing and will even try to use what you say or do against you.  Jesus is instructing us to avoid such people.  Not to give them the time of day.   Now He may have been directing this instruction toward the religious leaders of His day because of their abstinent refusal to consider who He was and what He was teaching, but the principle is certainly applicable today.      

       What are you doing in determining that someone is a dog or a pig?  You are making a judgement about such person.  You are making a rather critical judgement.  What is more critical, however, is that such judgement is justified.  Such judgement must be based on honest, knowledgeable, objective analysis of another person’s behavior and motives.  It can’t be based on outward appearances as Christ made clear in John 7:24. 

       Apostle Paul referred to the persecuting Jews as dogs.  He told the Philippian Christians “Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh."  Paul was obviously judging the attitude and character of those Jews who were persecution himself and the Church.  He wasn’t judging them simply on outward appearances.  He knew by their track record what they were thinking. In verse 15 and 16 of Matthew seven we have another statement by Christ that totally dismantles the idea that we are never to judge anyone.

       Matthew 7:15-16:  "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.  By their fruit you will recognize them.

       By their fruit you will recognize them.  In other words, you are to judge them by their fruit. You can’t recognize a false prophet unless you analyze what he is saying and/or doing and draw conclusions based on your analysis.  That is what judgement is all about.  Over the years I have heard people complain about the behavior of someone but quickly add, “but I ain’t judging so and so.”  That’s a contradiction.  You are judging that person and you don’t have to feel guilty about it provided you are exercising righteous judgement.

       Paul told Titus “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:10).

       If you have come to the conclusion that a person is divisive, warped and sinful, you have obviously judged such a person.  Furthermore, you have acted on such judgement and chosen to have nothing to do with the person.  There apparently is nothing wrong with coming to such a decision about someone provided it is done according to righteousness.

       Apostle John taught first century Christians that there were many false prophets and teachers going around teaching doctrine contrary to what had come down through the apostles teaching.  He told them emphatically “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work” (2 John 1:10-11).

       The only way you can arrive at the conclusion that someone is teaching a false doctrine is to examine and compare the truth with what someone claims to be the truth.  John does not hesitate to label someone a false teacher who does not teach the truth.  This is obviously the making of a judgement.  Remember, to judge (Greek krino) is to examine, make a choice, make a decision or draw a conclusion about something or someone. One final example of exercising judgement is the teaching of Christ as found in Matthew 18.

       Matthew 18:15-17:  If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.  But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that `every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

       Obviously this protocol that Jesus set down for dealing with a sinning brother involves judging your brother. First of all judgement is made as to your brother sinning against you.  Then judgement is made by those who become involved as witnesses.  You can’t implement this protocol without exercising judgement.  The key is to exercise righteous judgement.

       Now, it’s not easy to exercise righteous judgement.  It is not always easy to identify truth from error.  Some things are obvious.  If someone is beating his wife and children it isn’t rocket science to judge such a person to be in the wrong.  When it comes to religious doctrine, philosophical perspectives or political viewpoints it may be difficult to make a proper judgement. We all have prejudices.  We all have paradigms we live by. We all carry pre-conceived ideas as to what things mean, how things should be and how people should behave. We all compare others with ideals we have established in our heads and conclude that if someone isn’t meeting those ideals that person is somehow less of a person. We often make snap decisions about people base upon outward appearances, hearsay or so called gut feelings. 

       We should judge no one on the basis of such dynamics. We must always strive to judge others within the context of love.  The golden rule should always prevail in our judgement of others.  The scriptural example is that we avoid outwardly judging others as to peripheral doctrinal matters.  In Romans 14, Paul instructed the Roman Christians not to judge each other over matters of food and drink and the keeping of certain days as opposed to other days.  In Colossians 2, Paul warns against being judged over the keeping of Sabbaths and holydays. 

       While we may hold to personal convictions regarding some matters and while we may even be objectively right in such convictions and therefore rightly judge others to be wrong, it may not be prudent to make an overt issue out of the matter.  It often is simply not expedient to be right on an issue and try to force such rightness down the throat of someone else who has a different perspective on such issue.  We must always be careful to measure the receptiveness of another person to a discussion of our point of view before we engage in such discussion.

       So what is Jesus teaching relative to judging others.  In Matthew 7:1 He says, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged." In verse two He says, "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."  He then goes on to provide the illustration of the speck and plank and further goes on to cite additional examples of we judging others.  Is there a contradiction here?  Not at all.

       The overall context of this passage is telling us that we are not to judge in a manner that will bring judgement upon ourselves.  When we consider the overall teaching of Christ and the apostles relative to this matter of judging, it should be clear that the Scriptures are not instructing us not to judge others but to be very careful, circumspect and righteous in the judgements we make.  If we judge righteously we will not be judged and we will not bring condemnation upon ourselves.   This is the teaching in the Sermon on the Mount and throughout the Scriptures.