Have you ever had someone challenge an area of your life? How did that go? Often, regardless of their tone or accuracy, we seek first to discredit their claim rather than quietly listen. And then there is the always popular, "Who made you a judge over me?" Followed quickly by the biblical foundation for our passionate defense, "You remember what the Bible says, 'Judge not, lest you be judged.' (Mt. 7:1)"
But is that what Jesus really meant when he said that? Did he intend for you to use this statement in that way when he delivered it in the Sermon on the Mount, of all places?
Since this verse is part of the Fighter Verse passage we are memorizing at Calvary Community Church this week, I thought I'd take just a little time to share what I believe Jesus meant when he said it. Here is the passage:
Matt. 7:1 Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.
But we can't stop at the part we are memorizing this week, we need the whole context for our little study:
Matt. 7:3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
So the first thing Jesus does is offer a clear command: "Judge not, that you be not judged." This command should get us asking some questions. The first should be, "What does Jesus mean? Is he saying we should never evaluate someone?" We know that is not the case. Jesus can't be excluding a moral evaluation of others. For the sermon he has been preaching to this point (Mt. 5-6), and other teaching he will deliver in his ministry, are filled with things to do and things to abstain from; all of which provide a basis for feedback on the actions of our spiritual brothers and sisters.
Therefore, what Jesus must be talking about is a kind of judging that is wrongly motivated. A kind of judging that seeks to place us self-righteously above someone else, to make us look better, rather than seeking their good. Let's continue on in his statement to see if that may be the case:
"For with the the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you."
Ah, maybe we are onto something, for now Jesus warns us. "Be careful. The kind of judgment that you pronounce on others is the benchmark God will use for judging you." It is a sneak peek at the Golden Rule.
Jesus then gives an example (Mt. 7:3-4). When you are looking at someone else's behavior, the way to do that is to be aware of your own shortcomings first. It will give you a proper perspective. It will create in you empathy and compassion. Sure, they are not perfect, but neither are you. It doesn't stop you from judging (discerning their behavior in light of the Sacred Writings) and then talking to them ("you will...take the speck out of your brother's eye", v. 5), but your motivation and attitude and the way you talk to them are all different. You are for them. You want them to be like Jesus.
In this way, you will be exactly the kind of judge you should be, for the glory of Christ, and the joy of those you live life with. Futhermore, it means you may find people actually seek you out to judge them in this way.