Don’t Judge – The Danger of Judgmentalism - Matthew 7:1-6, Part 1

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Matthew 7:1 may be the most often quoted verse in the Bible. It may also be the most misunderstood. In a society that calls for tolerance and acceptance and inclusion of all, Matthew 7:1 has become the quick reply to anyone who would suggest moral boundaries. We are told, judge not that you be not judged.

Of course, close companions to Matthew 7:1 are John 8:7, let him who is without sin cast the first stone; and the second greatest commandment, you shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39). Each of these are wielded to silence anyone who would violate society's standards of tolerance on Biblical grounds.

That said, as we come to Matthew 7:1, it’s important that we see how it’s been misused and abused – but that’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is that we hear what Jesus is saying, understand it rightly and commit ourselves to obeying His command. 

Context – The Sermon on the Mount

It’s important to remember that this well-known passage lives within a context. Jesus has been telling His people what it means to live as citizens of the Kingdom of God. While there were many who claimed to be the people of God, religious hypocrisy was rampant.

After instructing us on how to avoid hypocrisy and live with true hearts before God, this command and warning seem fitting and timely. Jesus is helping us know how to interact with others in a way that pleases God.

The Command: Don’t Judge (7:1) 

  • What Jesus cannot be saying – In order to understand what Jesus is saying, it’s helpful to be clear about what He is not saying. We know that this teaching of Jesus must be consistent with the rest of His teaching and Jesus has a lot to say about discernment and assessing the words and actions of those around us.
  • Selected passages that call for discernment and involvement in the lives of others: Matthew 7:5; Matthew 7:6; Matthew 7:15-20; Matthew 18:15-17; John 7:24; 1 Corinthians 5:3-5, et al.
  • What Jesus is saying – When Jesus says ‘judge not’ He is speaking against an attitude of the heart that is quick to accuse and condemn without humility or gentleness. He’s commanding against critiques that are made without a desire to lovingly correct or restore. It’s a command against proud and condemning hearts that are quick to punish and that revel in self-righteousness.
  • Application: How do you respond when you see a brother or sister in sin or when you hear about a moral failure? Are you prayerful and hopeful for restoration or are you a gossip and a critic? Do the failings of others conjure up grief and concern or mocking and ridicule? 
  • Other warnings about sinful judgment – This command from Jesus is one of several places in Scripture that warn us against the sin of judgmentalism. See also James 4:11-12; 5:8-9; Rom. 14:10-13; et al. 
  • Ken Sande[1]This is not to say that it is inherently wrong to evaluate or even judge others within certain limits . . . We cross the line, however, when we begin to sinfully judge others, which is characterized by a feeling of superiority, indignation, condemnation, bitterness, or resentment. Sinful judging often involves speculating on other’s motives. Most of all, it reveals the absence of a genuine love and concern toward them. When these attitudes are present, our judging has crossed the line and we are playing God.

The Warning: The Results of Sinful Judgment (7:1b-2) 

  • Who is the judge who returns judgment? While it is true that those who judge other people are often judged by people in return, the judge that Jesus is referring to here is God Himself (Romans 14:10; Jms. 5:9).
  • The judgment of God on believers? Those who are in Christ are free from eternal judgment – But this passage should serve as a call to examine our hearts. If we can live in unrepentant judgment of others, we should sincerely evaluate our faith (Romans 2:1-5).
  • The judgment of God on believers? Those who are in Christ will experience the loving discipline of God – Jesus says that those who judge will be judged; for the believer this may often look like the loving disciple of God in order to bring us to repentance (Heb. 12:5-6).
  • The judgment of God on believers? Each person will stand before God to give an account – While true believers will not face eternal judgement, we will all stand before God. This reality should cause us to recognize our submission to the true Judge and convict us when we are tempted to sinfully judge other people (Rom. 14:10-12; 2 Cor. 5:9-10).


[1] Ken Sande, Peacemaking for Families, A Biblical Guide to Managing Conflict in Your Home, Tyndale, 2002. Pg. 21