“You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things. Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things? Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” – Roman 2:1-4.
We are all familiar with Jesus’ words, “do not judge.” We stand all the ready, with best of intentions, to judge the mistakes and wrongdoing of others. Something is satisfying about somebody paying for their misdeeds. We judge through opinions, jokes, rumors, name calling, and characterizations, to name a few. Some of these methods can seem like mere words, but we can’t fool ourselves, in many cases we are judging others. And when we are being judgmental we are not using good judgment or truly understanding what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 7.
Yes, we are to discern good from evil, but not when judgment turns to condemnation. Being judgmental is one of the biggest reasons people leave the church or refuse to attend church in the first place. Being judgmental creates a divide. Everybody makes mistakes and sometimes it can seem like Christians can’t overlook those mistakes. Judging people creates the sense that you are not welcome in church. Yet, this phrase “do not judge” is telling us to do the exact opposite. It is telling us to stop looking outward and look inward. We have no right to feel superior and righteous. We are all in need of reconciliation. And as such we are called to be ministers of reconciliation. That calls for good judgment, not being judgmental.
The actual message in the phrase do not judge, deals with one’s own sins before looking at anyone else’s, since good judgment requires a pure heart. Likewise, it is critical to understand that Jesus emphasizes repentance and right action and assumes that once these things are in place, good judgment can be made and is in fact necessary.
In summary, in this passage, Jesus warns of the human tendency to judge based on our own faults and flaws. This warning should be considered before trying to judge another’s actions or intentions. Instead, the passage tells us that we should always examine ourselves first to see if the log we see is actually affixed to our own eye—and only if our eye is clean can we trust our judgment enough to begin the process of helping remove the offense from anyone else. This is an incredibly important point, both emphasizing the importance of good judgment and the steps necessary to acquire it.
- What in your mind is the difference between good judgment and being judgmental?
- Why do you think it’s so hard to let go of judgments we make about others?
- What can we do this week to replace judging others with good judgment?