Last week we learned why God commands us not to worry. We looked at the causes of worry and the effects of worry. We know that according to the Word of God, we don’t have to worry! Did you overcome worry in your life last week? I hope you had victory as Christ empowered you by the Holy Spirit.

This week we are going to take a look at another portion of the Sermon on the Mount. We are going to learn what Jesus meant when He told us, “Judge not that you be not judged.” How often do you hear someone say, “Judge not!”? Often throughout the course of every week it makes its way into our conversations. The phrase has become part of the way we talk. If someone is critical you will hear, “Judge not!” If someone makes a statement about right or wrong, there it is again, “Judge not!” We are told that to think of anything or anyone as wrong or sinful is to judge. And they always add, “Jesus said, ‘Judge not!’”

So what did Jesus mean when He commanded that we “Judge Not”? This week we are going to learn the truth about tolerance, judging, and discernment. We are going to learn why we must judge ourselves and strive to become “fruit inspectors” as we fellowship with those around us. What did He mean? What does it mean to judge? Let’s find out!

Judge Not
“Judge not, that you be not judged.” – Matthew 7:1

Although this is a short verse it is packed with meaning, and I believe that as often as we hear it quoted people really don’t understand what Jesus is saying here.

All the time we hear “Judge not” – we usually hear it when a Christian takes a stand for what is right and declares that something or someone is wrong. “OH – DON’T JUDGE!!” we hear people reply. So what exactly does Jesus mean when He tells us not to judge? We cannot answer that question by appealing to modern circumstances and standards. In today’s world the catch phrase of the day is “tolerance.” We are all to tolerate others. We are to let everyone do their own thing – don’t get in the way, don’t set a standard. After all, right is now thought to be wrong and wrong is excused as weakness, disease, mistakes, or choice. It’s not wrong if you think it’s right! Whatever is true to you is true the world teaches.

Have you ever noticed that those who cry the loudest for tolerance refuse to tolerate Christians or the Bible or any hint of God? They tolerate everything and everyone except those who stand for the Truth of God’s Word. Indeed, when Jesus says not to judge He is not telling us not to discern, rebuke, confront, examine, or qualify. He is not saying that we can’t make “moral judgments” about the character or integrity or spiritual status of others or ourselves. Jesus is once again contrasting proper living with the lives of the Pharisees who had become so condescending toward everyone that did not exhibit their brand of godliness and spirituality not realizing how hypocritical they had also become (see Luke 18:9-14).

Jesus will go on in the verses to follow and command us to beware of false teachers. How can we know a false teacher if He means here that we can’t make a “judgment call” about the doctrine one espouses?

The word for judgment here alludes to the judgment of motives. Who on earth can see and understand the motives of others? Only God sees the heart. Only God can determine if our motives are pure and holy and merciful and just. The Pharisees liked playing God. They were of their father the devil, and his original sin was the pride he possessed in thinking that he could be just like God.

Jesus is forbidding “self righteous, hasty, unmerciful, prejudiced, and unwarranted condemnation based on human standards and human understanding,” John MacArthur explains. We as humans are not ever the final court. Even if sanctioned by government by a call to jury duty, we are never the final court or the last say about a matter. All will be judged by Christ one day. That is a position and function reserved for Him alone. We may do the work of society and pass a legal judgment, but God in the end will pass an eternal, spiritual judgment – and His decision will either be eternal death or eternal life based on His eternal decree according to His own will and good pleasure. From our perspective, the judgment we will receive is based upon what we have believed about and done with Jesus.

We are commanded in the Scriptures to be discerning, to make decisions about others based on their doctrine, practice, lifestyle, and the presence or absence of spiritual fruit in their lives. We are not to maliciously condemn others when we don’t have any way of understanding their motives. A friend of mine once said that we are not judge and jury when it comes to the attitudes and actions of others – but we are told that we can be fruit inspectors. We are expected to look for fruit, to look for truth, to examine ourselves (a primary purpose of the Lord’s Supper – 1 Cor. 11:27-29), and to examine others to see if we and they are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5).

In these days where everyone overreacts to those who would stand up for the truth and make moral decisions about the right and wrong being committed by our fellow men and our society, we must realize that the only thing God won’t tolerate is sin. Should we be any different? If we are walking in the Spirit, motivated by love, then we won’t judge. To judge is to assume we can read other people’s minds and see their hearts and motives. We aren’t God – We can’t rule about someone’s heart and then condemn them – but we can and are expected to make decisions about right and wrong.

We are told not to judge or we will be judged. The judgment that happens to the “judger” is simply explained – if we seek to condemn and hatefully judge others, then that proves that our heart is evil and that we ourselves are in danger of judgment for sin. If we continually make condemning statements about others and if we constantly seek to pass sentence on others based on our own standards and personal “holiness”, then we really do need to examine ourselves (Galatians 6:4) to see if we are in the faith because those walking in the Spirit and obedient to our Lord will not think that way. So, the next time you are tempted to really judge someone else – don’t – that is not what Christ would have you do. And if you ever hear someone use this verse to condemn a stand for truth, you might consider sharing that for them to say “don’t judge” is in fact them judging. You see, they don’t know motives or read minds so if they assume that someone is judging, actually, they have made a decision to judge based on their own standards of right and wrong. Just as those who say Christians are intolerant are actually being intolerant of Christians.

Above all today, learn to listen to the Word of God, as the Holy Spirit uses it to search your heart and your motives. God alone is judge because He alone is holy and just. And don’t make condemning judgments about others, you haven’t seen their heart!

Suggested Scripture Reading:

Rebuking or Judging between Right and Wrong – Prov. 15:32; 17:10; Isaiah 1:17; 54:17

Judging like the Pharisees – Psalm 94:21; Prov. 12:2

See also – Psalm 9:8; Prov. 31:9; Isaiah 33:22