"Do Not Judge": Reducing Jesus to a Soundbite

Do not judge…for with the measure you judge, it will be judged to you. (Matthew 7:1-2)

There was a time when people cared about justice.

It was at 8pm last Sunday night. What happened was my girls realised that the boys, who are younger than them, were still up and awake past them. So their pleas rose up before me, and the question of justice was debated back and forth for the next ten minutes or so.

Give me five minutes. Give me five minutes to think about justice and judgment. In particular, how when Jesus said ‘Do not judge’, he did not mean what you think he meant. I want to suggest that people have made of this a Jesus-reduction: a bit of pulpy sweet stuff to put on the side of the life's dessert. If Jesus says 'do not judge', we can all get on eating, doing, thinking whatever we want. 

But I want to suggest he really meant ‘Don’t judge in the way you presently do. Instead, listen to me and I will tell you how to do it better.’

Jesus on Judging

It just can’t be that Jesus rejects all judging. Three reasons.

1. He does it. Look and see:

Matthew 21:12-13

Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

2. He asks us to do it too.

Luke 12:57 “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. 59 I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

2. He asks us to do it too...and in the very next verse!

Matthew 7:5 Do not give to dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.

Jesus wasn’t talking about animals and ornaments here. He was talking about people and his words. He was saying judge whether it is worth spending His words and time on people or not. So clearly he thinks we need to see that there are moments where discretion is required. And discretion demands judgment. 

 What I want to suggest to you form the outset is that this passage is not about never judging at all, than it is about seeing clearly before judging. And the reason is because justice is only ever served if truth is served. It is truth which is the basis of justice, and truth can only be served if the facts are seen clearly.

How does this effect the application of the phrase ‘do not judge’? Simply, it can’t simply mean ‘do not judge’.

‘Do not Judge’ Seen More Clearly

You just can’t cut-and-paste Jesus’ words. He says more.

Matthew 7:1-5  Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in a brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plan in your own eye….You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.’ 

All justice stands on good sight. Hypocritical hearts never see things clearly, and don’t want to see anything but good in themselves. Clear sight, however, is a servant of truth, and truth the only basis for justice.

So…we can’t take Jesus’ command simply. But we must take it more seriously

Judgment Starts with Me

Jesus is judging us here. He is finding us short on truth and mercy and He is asking us to be more truthful and much more merciful. And I just don’t think we have it in us to judge clearly and truthfully unless we remember that Jesus points out our rotten hearts to us, and we begin to judge remembering that we are morally blind.

From there, we have a much better chance of seeing clearly. Judgment that is true and merciful might just begin.

Stay tuned…next blog…why Christians are so hung up on judging (and should be). After that, we will finish by learning how Christians can judge better.