The command, “Judge not!” is well known to both believers and unbelievers. This is central to Christianity. However, it is not all the Bible says about judging.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Matthew 7:1-2. Jesus spoke these powerful words in the context of the next verse: “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3. Here, He reveals our human tendency to criticize what others are doing or how they are, rather than to consider our own “plank” or need for salvation. It is this kind of judgment that He warns so powerfully against. Jesus Himself had this personal testimony: “I judge no one.” John 8:15.
The Bible also makes it clear how incapable we are as human beings to judge others righteously. “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in what you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.” Romans 2:1. It can be tempting for us to think that we are better than others, or to comfort ourselves with the thought that we don’t do the same bad things that someone else does. But, if we believe such things, we are only deceiving ourselves. Those same sinful tendencies lie in our human nature, and if we judge the others rather than working on our own salvation, those exact same sins will have power in our lives.
Paul explains how we can come free from this sinful human nature that has bound all of mankind since the fall of Adam. “For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.” 1 Corinthians 11:31-32. If we choose to stop judging others and start judging ourselves, a whole new life begins!
When we start to weigh our own thoughts, words, and actions before God’s face, then we will experience God’s chastening over our own lives. His Word and His Spirit shine light on the hidden thoughts and motives that are not pure in His sight. Then we will find that what we think, say, and do is far from perfect and that we need help to be thoroughly saved from our own sin!
When we receive this light, then we have something to work with! We can arm ourselves with God’s Word, which we can use as weapons to fight against the sin that dwells in our human nature. This is what it means to “walk in the light,” as John writes about in 1 John 1:7: “But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” In this way, we will also escape God’s judgment that will come over the world because of sin. Our sin can be judged and condemned now and we can be completely set free from it!
Able to help the others
When we are focused on judging ourselves and being set free from our own sin, then there is no room to judge the others. We can still be tempted to judging thoughts, but we know that we must immediately reject them. When we begin to see the depth of our own need and lack, then the words of James ring true in our heart: “Who are you to judge another?” James 4:12.
The truth is that we can’t help anyone by judging them or pointing the finger at their faults, but we can help them by judging ourselves and working on our own salvation. “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” 1 Timothy 4:16.
As we are freed from our own sin, we are also more able to love and care for the others in our surroundings. Then we can fulfill Jesus’ exhortation in Matthew 7:5: “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Having first judged and dealt with our own sin, we can help others with the same words of God that have been a help to us.