Summary: Matthew 7:1-6 Judge ye not
Judge ye not
7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Who’s heard that before? It’s a well know verse from the Bible. It’s a well known saying of Jesus: “Judge not, that you be not judged.” But what does it mean? You know this verse has confused people down through the centuries - what does it mean to judge? Does it mean that we shouldn’t have courts, lawyers and judges? Does it mean we should just let anything happen and never call anyone to account? On the one hand this verse has confused many people as to what it means.
On the other hand this verse has also been used and quoted a lot, usually quite out of context, and used by people to stop others passing judgement on them or their actions. I’m sure I’m not the first person who has had that verse quoted at them as I’ve voiced some sort of opinion.. People have quoted this to me - “judge not – lest you be judged.”
So what does Jesus mean when He says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”? I guess the first question to ask is – what does the word “judge” mean here? In English, “judge” can mean all sorts of things. Anything from passing a sentence at court – that is, condemning someone, to making a value judgement, to making a decision about something or to choose one thing over another, or just forming an opinion about something. In English it has a pretty wide meaning, and the Greek word has a similarly wide meaning as the English word too. Anything from condeming someone, to making a decision - that is choosing something - or even to have an opinion about something. Pretty broad meaning.
So is Jesus telling us that we can’t do any judging? No choosing, no forming value judgements, not even having an opinion about various things? Well, is that what Jesus is saying? Some people say that it is. and therefore we shouldn’t condemn or judge anyone for anything. We shouldn’t even form an opinion. We should leave all the judging to God. We are just to love and accept people unconditionally. And if you just read Matthew 7:1 on its own you could think that.
But we need to take into account other things that it says in the New Testament about judging. For example, in Matthew 7.1 it says, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” but then if we pop over to 1 Corinthians 5, we have the situation of someone in the Corinthian church who had been committing sexual immorality. The church had been tolerating this person - that is,. they had not been judging this sinful person, but then Paul writes to them:
1 Corinthians 511 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
There we have it. Paul is saying we should judge those who are inside the church, and it’s the same Greek word for judge here as it is in Matthew 7. That is – we are to judge those in the church who sin and don’t repent and continue in their sin even after being warned. Ah … so how does that fit in with Matthew 7.1 where it tells us not to judge? Well, we can go even further. Even within Matthew there are instructions from Jesus about judging .
Matthew 1815 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
That passage doesn’t have the word “judge” in it, but it’s certainly a judgement that is happening. It outlines a process where a sinning brother who refuses to repent is to be treated as a Gentile or tax collector - that is, as an unbeliever. Now if that isn’t judging then I don’t know what is!
So how do we reconcile that with Matthew 7.1 where it tells us not to judge? Well the answer is that verse 1 is not all that Jesus is telling us about judging. We need to read the next verses, and as we do so we will see that Jesus is not telling us not to judge at all, but to be very careful when we do judge, and that there is a certain way we must judge, and we shall also see that that matches up very nicely with those other passages that we have looked at today. So let’s look at what the rest of the passage has to say. We’ve already seen verse 1: