It is not uncommon to hear these days, “don’t judge me, only God can judge me!” The statement is both true but often misapplied in practice to promote an attitude of apathy. How should the words of Matthew 7:1-2 be understood in the general framework of Scripture? Many people have appealed to this passage without looking at the overall context of this chapter and the place of this subject in the rest of the Bible. Without a proper study to understand the passage, we are most likely to be advancing a culture in which every behaviour and idea would become acceptable. Failure to understand this passage in its context has even made many people to side with those who teach heresies and propagate error.
To have a proper understanding of this text we’ll have to do a critical study of the passage. Chapter 7 is part of the Sermon on the Mount and should therefore be understood as part of the giving of the law of the Kingdom which Christ came to proclaim. He is laying forth the instruction for those who would be part of this kingdom. If this is part of the instructions for the people of the kingdom, what exactly did the King mean by “judge not”? Was Jesus prohibiting any sort of judging or one sort of judging? If we are not sure of what kind of judging Jesus referred to, we will soon be left with a serious moral and doctrinal dilemma of not being able to provide a warning examination when things get out of hand.
If the passage prohibits any sort of judging then even the very person who says to another do not judge is judging. The problem is that this would leave every person to do as they please because no one has to give an opposing opinion of their actions. If any sort of judging is prohibited, no one can be called into account for their actions. For example, an unfaithful husband’s actions should simply be approved or looked upon in a neutral perspective. The other problem is that those who propagate heresies and error would be left to go unexamined. Both examples are opposed to the biblical view of things. If these things are apprehensive, we can’t avoid the corollary that we stand in a place of exercising judgment of some sort.
The reality is that we can’t escape the fact that we all make some sort of judging daily. Daily we judge product and service quality of companies and organizations, daily we judge the taste of food prepared by others for us and we disapprove of those who do not meet up to certain moral standards and social expectations. If we do exercise judging in various ways, how are we to interpret and apply Jesus’ words concerning judging?
None of us possesses the power to decide someone’s eternal destiny or to treat them as if we are perfect and can’t err. However, this does not exempt us from pointing out erroneous teachings and heresies and even warn the people of God against persons who advocate teachings that are contrary to the gospel.