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Biblical, battle-tested, real-life help for "living by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). — Steve Fuller

What Did Jesus Mean When He Said “Do Not Judge”?

Do not judge

Let’s say a man at your church leaves his loving wife and children and moves in with a girlfriend.

How should you respond?

Jesus says — do not judge him (Matt 7:1).

What does that mean?

You could think it means you should not make a moral judgment about whether his action was right or wrong.

But that can’t be what Jesus meant — because four verses later Jesus wants us to notice the speck of sin in his eye and remove it —

First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matt 7:5)

So Jesus doesn’t want us to say — “hey, if having a speck in your eye works for you, who am I to judge?”

No.  He wants us to make the moral judgment — based on Scripture — that this is a dangerous speck of sin in his eye.

So what DOES “do not judge” mean?

The Greek word “judge” can mean to make moral judgments — where we say that something is right or wrong.

But it can also mean to make condemning, despising judgments — where we say that we are superior and someone else is inferior.

You can see this condemning, despising meaning in Rom 14:10 —

Why do you judge your brother?  Or you, why do you despise your brother?

Paul says we should not judge our brother.  And the second sentence shows that he means we should not despise him — look down on him — or see ourselves as superior and him as inferior.

So the Greek word “judge” can mean making a moral judgment — but it can also mean making a condemmning, despising judgment.

Back to Matthew 7

So think again about this man who left his wife and children.

When Jesus says “do not judge,” he does not mean “don’t make a moral judgment.”

No, the Bible says this man has sinned — he’s got a dangerous speck of sin in his eye.

What Jesus does mean is “don’t make a condemning, despising judgment” — don’t despise him, look down on him, see yourself as superior to him.

Clues

So how can I tell if I am making a condemning, despising judgment?

Here are some clues.  I am making a condemning, despising judgment if —

  • I feel superior to him, look down on him, think I am better than him.
  • I say things like “‘I’d never leave my wife.”
  • I’m not weeping over him, longing for him to repent and be restored.
  • I feel pleasure in thinking about what he did (because it makes me feel superior)
  • I feel pleasure in talking to others about what he did (same reason)

Is anyone immune from this?  I’m not.

So we have to ask —

How can we obey this?

Jesus gives a powerful reason to motivate us —

Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

If I respond to this man’s sin with condemning and despising judgment — then God will use that same standard with me — God will respond to my sin with condemning and despising judgment.

It doesn’t get more serious than that.

Why so serious?

Jesus explains in v.3 —

Why do you see the speck [of sin] that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log [of sin] that is in your own eye?

If I condemn and despise this brother for his sin of leaving his wife, that shows I have forgotten about my own sin.

Why?  Because if I remembered my own sin, the punishment I deserve from God, and what He did in punishing His own Son in my place — I would be so humbled and grateful that I could not condemn and despise anyone.

So — if I am condemning and despising someone — that shows I am not living in the shadow of the Cross.

And if I persist in this without changing — that would show I have never lived in the shadow of the Cross — I have never been saved — which is why God would despise and condemn me.

So what should I do?

How should I respond to this man who left his wife?

First — make the moral judgment based on Scripture that he has a dangerous speck of sin in his eye.

Second — remove the log of sin from your own eye.  Own up to your sinfulness.  Repent of any unconfessed sin.  Receive fresh assurance of forgiveness through trusting Jesus Christ.  And be so humbled by your sin and God’s grace that instead of condemning and despising this man — you love and care for him.

Third — remove the speck of sin from your brother’s eye.  Go to him humbly.  Share from God’s Word the seriousness of sin and the offer of grace in Christ.  Plead with him to repent.  Show him God’s promises of help and heart-satisfaction.  Offer to stand with him.  Pray with and for him.

The result?

  • You will be free from your log
  • Your brother will feel only love from you
  • Your brother will have every reason to be restored to Christ

Beautiful.

How have you experienced this?

I’d love to hear your thoughts — leave a comment below.  Thanks!

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16 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    Beautifully written, Steve ~

  2. Dan says:

    We are to love the sinner… and despise the sin…. our judgement which…..as humans we all do as a result of our sinful nature from time to time….. should be reserved only for the sin…not the sinner..as we are no better. Thank you for your words….. Dan

  3. Paul Walton says:

    Steve,
    John the Baptist called the Pharisees “vipers” and Jesus called them “children of the devil” to me these statements do not sound very loving, in fact quite the opposite. How about Martin Luther, in the beginning he loved his mother church, as much as he also loved the people. He thought that if he exposed the sale of indulgences, the pope, as a good father of the church, would correct the abuse, and all would be well. Instead, he found himself condemned, and for a while, practically had to stand alone. Eventually, as he realized the extent to which Satan had hijacked the church and was leading the people to perdition, he became very bold. In one case he referred to the pope’s laws as a “dung heap of decretals”.
    How about the all the Prophets who were quite condemning of the leaders of their day, who were leading people away from the truth, they were thrown in prisons, sawed in half, and considered outcasts. And finally how about Paul who sounds less than loving in Galatians when confronting those who preach a false Gospel? Are we to be forgiving and loving in every circumstance? Some false teachers have more than a speck in their eye, and in fact are placing specks in other peoples eyes that may lead them to hell.
    I know you love it when I stop by and ask these kind of questions? 😉

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Great question, Paul. Here’s some thoughts —

      Jesus says we should never judge, which I think means we don’t despise others or see ourselves as superior to others.

      He also says we should love our enemies — which would include false teachers.

      And Paul urges Timothy to correct false teachers with gentleness (2Tim 2:24-26).

      But none of the above examples means we can’t use strong language in correcting people — or in helping the flock understand the dangers of false teachers.

      We just need to make sure our anger is righteous and God-centered, not proud or vengeful. Vengeance is God’s department, not ours (Rom 12:19).

      Anyone else have any thoughts on this?

      • Paul Walton says:

        Steve,
        I do think you are right in your interpretation of these verses, but I also think there is a righteous anger for the believer when confronting sin. We are called to be salt and light, if we casually go along with the flow of society and don’t take a stand against sin are we doing the will of God? Standing for truth will not always be seen as loving and forgiving, in fact it may get you thrown in prison or even crucified. There may be a day coming when going to church and standing up for truth is considered hateful, because Satan biggest weapon is making white look black, and vice versa.

  4. Brian says:

    Steve,

    I like the way this guy Paul thinks. You might want warn him why he should be alarmed at that statement.

    I should not judge because as you pointed out under “what should I do?”, our Lord has shown us in the Scriptures that the judgement has already been made, it is not “my opinion” that adultery is sin. Ironically, John the Baptist could use this perspective, as well, based upon the Scriptures the Pharasees were misleading the nation.

    Secondly, I need to make certain that I am not noticing my brother’s sin while ignoring my own. John 8, the woman caught in adultery (without the adulterer) might be an appropriate example here. It seems implied that some of her accusers were guilty as well.

    Lastly, it is unclear to me if one may approach their brother without having already demonstrated a depth of love for that brother. Approaching your brother in sin will be the toughest thing you ever do! Do not take it lightly. Hopefully, you will win him back but you might just alienate him further.

    Brian

  5. Amanda says:

    Steve,
    So this is an area in which I struggle deeply. I know I am not too judge and that I am a sinner. My struggle is when I see those that I love and close to me are not following Jesus, I often don’t know if I should speak up or just pray for them in silence? I try to be a witness with my own life and I let them know my own sin and how by Jesus I am forgiven and saved but where I get lost is when certain people say they are christian and love Jesus but then they have a life style that I think does not reflect what the bible teaches, I have spoken up in a loving way asking how is your walk with Jesus and are you allowing Jesus to lead you and do you believe Jesus is leading you to this decision and I get a yes response? So then I drop it because I don’t want to act or sound condemning, what is the right thing to do? Some close people to me believe in God but do not read God’s word or go to church but say they love God and that He is blessing them, and that they pray but then they lead a sinful life. It’s so hard for me when in one sentence they say God is good He blessed me with this boyfriend and then the next sentence they say, we are in love and he is moving in. This is just one example of conversation but I’d be curious as to how you would respond, because I often irritate my friends with my responses even when I reply in a loving way. it’s just not what they want to hear?

    • Steve Fuller says:

      That’s a really good question, Amanda.

      It sounds like you have responded well — with prayer, humility, removing-the-log-from-your-own-eye, going to them with love, and sharing with them your heart-felt concerns. Are they in a church? Can you pursue the steps Jesus laid out in Matthew 18?

      The fact that they are irritated doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong — the Scribes and Pharisees were irritated with Him, too.

      May the Father encourage you as you continue to urge everyone around you towards Christ,

      Steve

  6. Paul Walton says:

    The Church being Christ’s body is there to help us to overcome sin, yet many would rather be unhelped and just sin. And that is why folks who say “I do church with the trees” stay away from fellowship, trees don’t hold us accountable for our sins. When we try and show folks how God commands us to live, we are labeled as judgmental, and yet many of Paul’s writings are about how our behavior matters. It is cool to say you don’t need church today. “we’re all priests.” Indeed we are, but we are also in one Body with Christ as our head and He does not like His members dabbling in sin, it’s why He died on the cross.

  7. Sean Rafferty says:

    @Paul “trees don’t hold us accountable for our sins” ah Paul, so true, so true! Nor do they correct our faulty theology or lead us to a more holy walk w/our Lord. Good line though bro.

    @Amanda – Having read your comment and then immediately after Steve’s post “One Reason You MUST Be Part Of A Church Community” …I’m thinking he may have had your comment in mind in writing it 🙂

    James said that demons believe in God as well (James 2:19) – belief alone is never very assuring, neither to friends nor should it be for any of us. This chapter in James clearly demonstrates that how our works reflect our faith. I think many of us can fall guilty to not leading a life that shouts out our love for Christ and is clearly demonstrated to all around (how many times have we found out that someone we work with, live near, or go to school with is a Christian and we had no clue – but nor did they about us). But, when a life lived before us not only doesn’t demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit but also clearly contradicts clear passages of Scripture then we either have someone who really doesn’t know Jesus or someone who does but is in rebellion (whether admittedly or not) against Him through unrepentant sin – and in either case we are called to shed light on the person’s sin, urge repentance, and show/remind her of His grace and mercy to forgive sinners.

    So I totally say GO and urge your friends to consider what Scripture says. Pray before. Consider fasting for them as well. As others to pray and possibly fast for you and them as well. Go with love, gentleness, respect, and BOLDNESS knowing that Jesus desires us to take such action (you don’t need to pray about that – it’s all through out His word 🙂 and that if nothing else, you are being obedient to Him.

    I think good things will come out of it. If not now, then later.

    Check out the sermon @ http://marshill.com/media/luke/jesus-and-repentance

    Watch the video, download the podcast, or read the transcript. It’s really good. I’ve added it to my Playlist in iTunes to share w/others. I’d recommend you get in the ears of those your concerned about as well.

  8. Shannon Bible says:

    I came across this bog because of goggling the question “what does it look like when Jesus says “do not judge” and was very encouraged by your insight Steve. You affirmed what I thought.
    As I continued to read the posts under the subject I can hear the heart of all the individuals. I, too, have family members that claim their salvation but are definitely living alternate life styles. It’s been a life changing event especially when I had been so hard-core about different sin issues especially homosexuality. I was always very judgmental toward those that practice this life style until I found out my daughter, and nephew, came out as being gay. My heart broke, but it also caused me to look at the log in my own eye before I could point out the speck in theirs. It’s funny how God teaches us about our own judgements! Through all this I have come to see those involved in homosexual sin as people, people with real hurts and pain, that are trying to deal with life but having a hard time trusting people, let alone God. I do not condone the sin but also do not condemn or judge the sinner. I have been radically changed in my views which God has changed from detestable to loving these hurt people. My daughter has told me that she has accepted Jesus as her savior (she was raised in the church) but she does not attend on a regular basis and her life does not reflect her relationship with Christ. This is where I am learning more about judgement….Only Christ knows the heart of man. My daughter knows the truth of that life style and I continue to pray, asking God to keep calling her.
    By not judging I am free to love my daughter knowing that God has her. I think with judgment comes control and that is where we also get in trouble because, to me, it shows we are not trusting Christ for the situation.
    All this to say…sometimes the things we judge others for we may find ourselves facing head on and will reap the consequences of our judgements. We are told to not be like a fool for we will also reap with what we sow. In our wall of judgement we become an ineffective witness for Christ. Christ tore down the walls of judgement, and legalism, to teach us about loving people to Him.
    As he said to the crowd that was ready to stone the woman who was caught in adultery…”you without sin cast the first stone.”

    Shannon

    • Steve Fuller says:

      I’m so glad you found the post helpful, Shannon.

      And thank you for sharing your story.

      May the Father give you wisdom as you continue to love and reach out to your family members — and may He also powerfully comfort your heart concerning them.

      Steve Fuller

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