In Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus says,
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 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? 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? 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.” (ESV)
This passage is often used to support the view that we should never find fault with another person’s opinion. We should never think of ourselves as right or another person as wrong. We are not to judge. We should simply accept others as they are.
But is this the correct understanding of this passage? Is this understanding even possible?
We make “judgements” every day. When our children explain to us why they are fighting and each has a different story, we have to decide which, if any, story we are going to believe. We have to decide which child we are going to believe, which often is determined by which child we feel has been more truthful in the past.
When we buy a new car, we often go to multiple dealers and weigh the different options we have presented to us. Each dealer will tell us that he or she has the best deal, but we must decide who really does. This can be based upon our specific needs, but it could also just be based on which dealer is being the most truthful about how good their “deal” really is.
When we elect a political leader, or church leader, we are asked to judge between candidates. Who is going to be best for the position? Who has the better character and are they truly qualified to serve.
So, from a practical standpoint, it seems we must make judgements every day. Did Jesus demand things of us that are impossible to fulfill? I do not think so.
Even Scripture tells us that we must make judgements regarding people at times. A few verses later in Matthew 7, Jesus tells us that we must beware of false prophets and that we will be able to “recognize them by their fruits” (v.15). Here Jesus tells us that we must judge whether or not someone is a false prophet. In 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, Paul instructs the church in Corinth to remove a man who is involved in an immoral relationship from the fellowship of the church. Paul states that he (Paul) has already “pronounced judgement” (v. 3) on this person and that the church is to do the same by dismissing him from their midst until he should repent of his immorality.
It seems that Matthew 7:1-5 is not a command to never make judgements regarding people, but instead is a warning regarding certain types of judgements. Often times, when we make judgements, we ignore our own faults and make judgements of others. Instead, we need to always be aware of our own faults (“the log” in our own eye) when we judge others. We must do it with a sense of humility, knowing that we too are imperfect. These verses are not a prohibition against evaluating other’s words and actions to discriminate between truth and error.
This passage is a command not to judge the other person as though we are God. We must refrain from judging the quality of another person or from deciding the person’s ultimate standing before God. We can judge the person’s actions and/or words based upon how they align with the word of God, but it is only God who decides the quality of a person. We can explain to others what God’s word tells us in regards to salvation, but it is up to God to determine who is saved.
We must often make judgements concerning people, but we must do it in humility and only concerning truth and error, not the quality or standing of a person.