Tomorrow morning I’m preaching Matthew 7:1-12 and have “creatively” titled the messaged “to judge or not to judge.” I say “creatively” because I don’t think the title is really all that creative? Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to preaching this text. This passage has probably one of the more quoted verses in all of the Bible; the verse I’m referring to is “judge not, that you not be judged” (Matthew 7:1 NKJV). Interestingly, the word “judge” in verse 1 is not speaking of individuals never judging someone, because if it was it would contradict other passages that speak clearly to the responsibility that believers are called to judge (Matthew 18:15-20; John 7:24; Galatians 6:1-2, etc.). Rather, the word actually refers to an undue eagerness on an individual’s part to judge someone. The judging of another individual is brought on by a sinful curiosity into the lives of others and it speaks of a judgmental person highlighting the most unimportant and insignificant sin in another person’s life while ignoring their own sin or beam, plank or log as Jesus humorously calls it. Jesus is simply warning His disciples to refrain from an eagerness to judge your fellow brother/sister. When we fail to evaluate our own lives and judge hastily Jesus says we’re acting like hypocrites – people who are part of the Kingdom but not acting like it.
In my preparation for preaching this text I believe there are four points we can glean from the text, one of which is an implication – an implication being a “point” that may not necessarily be the thrust of the passage but nevertheless is still something we can glean without undermining the biblical author’s intent. Here they are:
- Judging requires self-evaluation (verses 1-5)
- Judging presupposes a right standard (verses 1-6, but really the entirety of the Sermon on the Mount, specifically chapter 7)
- Judging requires discernment (verse 6)
- Judging requires a prayerful spirit (verses 7-12)
The word judgment or judging has gotten a bad-rap, particularly in our post-modern culture where everyone has their own understanding of morality, truth, life, purpose, religion, and the list could go on and one. But the implication of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 concerning judgment presuppose the Truth and fact that there is a right person to believe in (Jesus), which subsequently means that there is a right way to live out that belief. When we don’t (and we all don’t, which continually reminds us of the fact that we desperately need to cling to the Gospel of Christ everyday of our lives), we need to lovingly, humbly, compassionately and tactfully come alongside a fellow brother or sister in Christ and point them to the ethic Jesus calls us to live out; not as a means of meriting heaven but as a natural response to One who has graciously and mercifully saved us.
Judging one another is part of being in the Family of God. Sometimes judging can be painful; sometimes it can be encouraging, but our aim should always be to point to Christ and the fullness of the abundant life He promises to those who repent and believe in Him.