Misapplied Texts: Matthew 7:1

Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

One of the basic keys to correctly understanding and interpreting Scripture is that no verse in the Bible can contradict any other verse. This is a basic rule of interpretation. God’s Word, as He originally gave it, contains no errors or contradictions. The Bible is “truth” and truth is not inherently contradictory. There are many clear scriptures that tell Christians to make judgments. We have to judge both people and doctrine in order to live godly and safe lives. Jesus Christ understood this, and told his disciples and the people to make good judgments. “Stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment” (John 7:24). Many other verses teach us that we have to judge. 1 Corinthians 2:15 says, “The spiritual man makes judgments about all things….”

A study of the verses on the subject of judgment shows that God expects us to judge both people and doctrine. We must judge doctrine so that we will do the right thing and not be led into error. We must judge people so we can properly relate to them. It is common that people are misjudged by others. No wonder Christ said to “make a right judgment.” Some clear verses that tell us that we are to make judgments about people include:

1 Corinthians 5:12
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?

1 Corinthians 14:24
But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all.

1 Corinthians 6:2
Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?

1 Corinthians 6:5
I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?

Christians are to make judgments about doctrine as well as people. If we do not, we will be led into error. The prophets of old were constantly reproving people for making wrong judgments about what was right and wrong in God’s sight, and the Church Epistles contain reproof to believers who did not make correct judgments about what was truth and what was error. Paul told Timothy to “correct, rebuke and encourage” the believers, which, of course, involves making judgments (2 Tim. 4:2). Verses on judging doctrine and ideas include:

Luke 12:57
Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?

1 Corinthians 10:15
I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.

Acts 15:19
It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.

If there are verses, even some spoken by Christ himself, that say people are to judge, then why are there verses that seem to say we should not judge? The answer to that lies in the contexts of the particular verses. In Matthew, the context is about those who judge while they have a beam in their eye that warps their judgment. They want to judge others, but their judgment is not right or just. There are other verses beside Matthew 7:1 that warn against unjust judgment. Christ summed up his statement on judging in Matthew by saying, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged” (Matt. 7:2).

It is impossible to live without making judgments. Every parent makes judgments about whether or not a certain baby sitter is capable, whether or not a teacher is being fair to a child or whether the price for something is too high. Every person in business makes judgments about people—whether they are telling the truth or selling a “bill of goods.” Most importantly, every person is to make judgments about his or her beliefs, because God will hold us responsible for what we believe and how we act.

There is no way to avoid making judgments, and we should not want to. God gave us the capacity to judge. Jesus told a parable about a man who gave money in the form of talents (a talent is worth more than a thousand dollars) to three of his servants. Two servants used the talents well, and were rewarded. The third did not use the talent the master gave him, but buried it in the ground. When the master returned, he was not pleased, and said, “You wicked, lazy servant!” (Matt. 25:26). These words should ring loudly in our ears. God gifted us with the ability to judge, and we are not doing Him any favors when we do not use the abilities He gave us. If we will not make the judgments needed to keep ourselves and our families safe, we are burying our abilities in the ground, and we will suffer for it.

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