1 “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. 2 For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use. 3 Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a beam of wood in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye. 6 Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.
Judge not, lest ye be judged. (Pretty sure we all quote that in King James Version, right?) This is probably one of the most misapplied verses in the Bible, and I am chief among sinners in its misuse. I point to these verses because I find it more comfortable to love someone to Jesus than to judge them. My own misunderstanding of Jesus’ words here is no doubt one of the many reasons He has brought me back to the Sermon on the Mount multiple times in the last year.
If you are an offender like me, you might be asking how this verse is being misused. Isn’t Jesus literally telling us that the measure by which we judge others is the measure by which we are judged? This interpretation feels supported by His words in Matthew 6:14-15 when He commands us to forgive others or our heavenly Father will not forgive us.
What Jesus is actually saying is we should be careful to deal with our own sins before we begin to correct others’ actions. Then when we are called to help someone with their sin, it will not be done from a posture of judgment, but rather with the goal of bringing them back into fellowship with God. Paul echoes this goal in Galatians 6:1-2, and the guidelines Jesus gives us for Christian discipline in Matthew 18:15-20 also provide a path to restoring the person who is sinning.
God is teaching me that it is more about how I represent His truth than about it is about judging someone else. Before looking at the flaw in someone else, I need to allow the Spirit to work in my own life. Then when I’m called to disciple someone else (and I will be), I will be able to speak truth to them clearly and humbly.
These verses are not an excuse to ignore hard conversations. When the Spirit guides us to speak to either believers or non-believers, we are called to do so with a humility that recognizes our own shortfalls, with a love that reflects who Jesus is, and with truth that is supported by His Word.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- In what situations do you lean toward judgment when you should be dealing with your own sinful nature?
- Are there any situations in your life where the Spirit is leading you to help bring someone back onto the right path, but you are tempted to misapply these verses to avoid it?