“Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1)
It’s possible that you’ve heard this statement quoted in various situations. It usually goes something like this:
Follower of Christ: This type of behavior is contrary to the Word of God.
Person engaging in said behavior: The Bible also says, “Judge not, that ye be not judged!”
Is this what Jesus intended when He made this statement in the Sermon on the Mount? That it would be used to refute application of the Word of God? Not at all. In fact, Moroni writes, “My brethren, it is given unto you to judge” (Moroni 7:15), so it sounds like judging is something we should be doing. So, what is Jesus referring to then?
In the next few verses, Jesus talks about trying to remove a mote (a splinter) from someone else’s eye while ignoring the beam (much larger than a splinter) in your own eye. Someone who would do this is the type of person who looks for things to correct in other people — not necessarily to be helpful but rather to give themselves a feeling of superiority. This is known as being judgmental and this is what Jesus is warning us against.
When it comes to ourselves, we’re typically willing to consider mitigating circumstances, to allow for possible misunderstandings, to recognize that we’re not perfect but that we still love the Lord. Can we do the same for others? Or do we judgmentally hold them to a higher standard? If so, we should be prepared to be held to that same higher standard. Jesus puts it this way in the next verse:
“For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:2)
OK, so being judgmental is not a good thing. But, if judging is something we should be doing, then how is THAT different than being judgmental?
Perhaps the easiest way to understand the difference is to look at what professional judges do. During trials in court, these judges use their expert knowledge of the law to form opinions (judgments) as to whether or not specific behaviors are consistent with the law. If they do their job properly, their judgments shouldn’t be taken personally. They’re not issuing decisions as to whether or not someone is a good person. They’re simply judging behaviors — either the behaviors are consistent with the law or they’re not.
As servants of God, that’s the type of judging we should be capable of. We shouldn’t take it upon ourselves to judge whether or not someone is a good person. We definitely shouldn’t take it upon ourselves to judge where any individual’s soul will go after death (that judgment is completely up to the Lord). However, we should be able to judge whether specific behaviors are consistent with the Word of God.
Are we expert enough in the scriptures to make such judgments? If we don’t feel that we are, Moroni gives us a simple way to judge:
“I show unto you the way to judge; for everything which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil.” (Moroni 7:16-17)
It’s that simple. Behaviors that draw people closer to Christ are of God. Behaviors that push people away from Christ are of the devil.
Why is it important that we be able to judge behaviors in this way?
- To make sure that our own behaviors are consistent with the Word of God.
- To be able to teach others such that their behaviors will be consistent with the Word of God.
- And, if the opportunity presents itself, to be prepared to lovingly correct someone whose behaviors are not consistent with the Word of God. This is not easy, especially today when people are so easily offended. But if we approach it with the true love of God in our hearts, being led by the Spirit of God within us, we can hopefully accomplish this without coming off as judgmental, and thereby make a real difference in someone’s life.
So, don’t be scared off by the concept of judging. It’s not a bad thing — it’s simply applying your knowledge of the scriptures to a specific situation to know the right thing to do.
As long as you don’t allow yourself to become judgmental, being a good judge relative to the Word of God can be a great blessing to yourself and others.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.