Mat 7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.Mat 7:2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.Mat 7:3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?Mat 7:4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
The subject of judging can be difficult for us to understand. People claim to be using good judgment when criticizing or condemning someone else. Others defend themselves when their behavior is criticized by saying, “you shouldn’t judge me”. A good working definition for the word judge is “to come to a conclusion”. There are many times when we must come to conclusions about some matter. Courts must come to conclusions in trials or other legal situations. We must come to conclusions when making decisions that affect our lives. We can see sinful behavior and conclude that it’s destructive. Discerning between good and evil requires good judgment. Despite all of this we are told by our Lord not to judge one another. What could He have been saying here?
I think that he was talking about coming to conclusions about things we could not know concerning another person. You can judge a person’s actions to be good or bad but you can’t know their thoughts or motives. You can’t always know the circumstances that brought them to behave in a sinful way. There’s only two that know a persons thoughts and motives and that is the Lord and that person. It is also foolish to conclude that a person is worthless or beyond changing. To judge a person’s worth is to usurp authority that only God should have. It has been my observation during many years of ministry that when a person comes to harsh conclusions about others they become the target of retaliation. Those they have judged are quick to point out the “beam” that is the eye of their critic. The scriptures said this would happen. The end result is that no one is helped or restored. Divisions are created that can last a lifetime. Bitterness rules the day instead of forgiveness and peace. The accuser and offender both suffer.
Another way to understand the judgment Jesus was talking about is to consider our reaction to the judgment decisions those around us make. Others do not always make decisions or set priorities in their lives according to our liking. We tend to compare the decisions others are making to our own experience and preferences. We can be very harsh toward those who have judged a matter different than we have. The type of judgment Jesus was warning us about has a result of “writing someone off” and coming to conclusions about them that God may not share with you. Jesus knew that to judge in this manner would destroy potential friendships and working relationships. It is particularly damaging in the church.
Avoiding this type of judgment is a matter of drawing a line between judging one’s actions and judging one’s motives and worth as a person. The only people God said should deal with Christians who have been overtaken in a fault are the meek. This is because the meek understand that discipline is not proper unless it includes a path to restoration. The meek realize that they too can be tempted and they take into consideration the things that only God could know about the offender. They limit their role in judging another person to being used as a tool in God’s hands to help the offender come to repentance and restoration. The meek know that they are not the standard by which another person should be measured but that God’s truths are the standard.
We can discern between good and evil behavior. We can have a standard based upon Biblical principles. We can conclude sinful behavior to be destructive. We should not cross the line of concluding that a person has evil intentions, motives and that they are worthless. May we crucify our own pride and expectations when judging matters that involve others. When we are in a position that requires us to deal out discipline, may we always offer the offender a path of repentance and as much restoration as possible. They will know we genuinely care for them and they will not retaliate by accusing us of the “beam” in our eye. Practicing judgment in this fashion will provide the opportunity to teach others the Biblical truths that we should want them to practice.