Concerning the proper application of Matthew 7:1

Ken Mansfield

I have been concerned for some while that a few misunderstand Jesus' comment on judging. A few feel that Jesus' words mean that we should be very tolerant of the behaviour of others, even if their lifestyle is plainly a sinful one according to biblical standards!
There follows a brief article by Ken Mansfield which shows that the words of Jesus do not mean that we should condone sin!
I am grateful to Ken for making it available to us.

It is not very often we hear this verse quoted accurately. More often than not when a Christian speaks of sin, a form of this verse is quoted as, "You're not supposed to judge," or, "We're not supposed to judge."

Let's re-examine Matthew 7:1,2 -

"Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."

A poor paraphrase of Matthew 7:1 is often quoted without considering Matthew 7:2. Notice again what verse 2 says: "For with what (judgment ye judge), ye shall be judged: and (with what measure ye mete), it shall be measured to you again."

Some people have been so misled into believing that love equals tolerance they have with all-out enthusiasm adopted the position that Christians can't identify sin, because that would be judging. Yet Matthew 7:2 says, "For with what judgment ye judge." This Scripture acknowledges that everyone judges.

What we need to be sure of is that our judgment is not based on our own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 is a key text to understanding what Matthew 7:1 is teaching about judging. It reads: "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding."

The word "understanding" is a synonymous term for "judging." These two words (understanding and judgment) both refer to one's ability to discern between right and wrong. Judgment needs to be righteous judgment; that is, based on the Word of God. John 7:24 reads: "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."

Jesus' words recorded in John 5:30, 31 refer to the same thought as Matthew 7:1:

"I can of Mine own Self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and My judgment is just; because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father Which hath sent me. If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true."

Jesus is saying His judgment is not His judgment, but, rather, the will of the Father. Jesus was in total agreement with the Father. In fact, Jesus and the Father were one (John 10:30).

Christians should pattern themselves after Jesus, obviously. Our judgment should not be our own judgment, but, rather, our judgment should be righteous judgment (John 7:24). Righteous judgment is not our own judgment. It is the judgment of God that we are in agreement with.

John 8:15,16 records Jesus' words as follows:

"Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. And yet if I judge, My judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father That sent me."

Jesus said He did not judge any man. Then he says, "And yet if I judge." Is this a paradox? No. Jesus only did the things which were His Father's will (John 7:16-18). The objection might then be raised, even though Jesus said He judged no man, that if one were to identify sin, that such a person is judging, and that isn't proper. Usually this thought is followed by the statement that only Jesus was perfect, and, therefore, He is the only one qualified to identify sin.

A reading from 1 Corinthians 2:15,16 should clear this up: "But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the LORD, that he may instruct Him? (But we have the mind of Christ.)" Yes, the body of Christ, the church, must be connected to the head (mind), Jesus Christ.

Romans chapters 1 and 2 warn us of what happens when people judge for themselves, apart from the Word of God. Romans 1:32 reads:

"Who (knowing the judgment of God), that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them."

The first two verses of Romans 2 really build upon this, too:

"Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things."

Notice, these verses are not speaking about judging according to what God has outlined in His Word; but, rather, these verses make the point that these know the judgment of God (Romans 1:32), but willingly decide to go against the judgment of God (Romans 2:1).

When Matthew 7:1 makes the statement to "judge not," it means one does not have the right to decide what things are right and what things are wrong. If one makes decisions based on one's feelings, this is judging. If one makes decisions based on what is permissible or popular, one could very well be judging. If one makes decisions based on what might be most beneficial under the circumstances, one is judging.

If one makes decisions based on the Word of God, God remains the Judge, and we are merely in agreement with what God has said. This is "righteous judgment." See John 8:15,16 again.

If one agrees with all that God has said, one has an obligation to identify sin or faults -- not with the intent to condemn, but, rather, with the motive to restore. Galatians 6:1 reads: "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself lest thou also be tempted." This Scripture is clear that we are to attempt to restore those who are overtaken in a fault.

One must first recognize what constitutes a fault (sin) before one can identify it. Man's judgment, apart from God's revealed Word, is not adequate for this task. Identifying sin is not judging. Judging is the determination of what is right and wrong. Allowing sin to go unchecked in the name of tolerance is judging indeed because one has, directly or by acquiescence, given a nod of approval to the sinful course in defiance to God (Romans 1:32; 2:1).

Usually when one approaches this topic, Matthew 7:3-6 is brought into the discussion. When one examines these passages, however, one finds they are referring to the ability to see clearly. These verses more aptly fit with verses 22 and 23 of Matthew 7. Also verse 3 begins with the word "And." A similar usage occurs in Matthew 6:28 when Jesus changes His thought from one's stature to one's raiment.


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