Summary: Does Jesus prohibit judging one another?
Should We Judge
How many times have we heard “Don’t judge me?” These people claim this verse as saying that no one has a right to confront their evil actions, as though Jesus was the ultimate preacher of tolerance. Is this indeed what Jesus means here? Or does Jesus have something else in mind?
Let us look into this passage further from the Sermon on the Mount.
Exposition of the Text
It is generally a good idea to read any text of Scripture in its context. First of all, it needs to be read within the immediate context, which is the Sermon on the Mount. Secondly, it needs to be read within the context of the Gospel of Matthew. Then it needs to be read in the context of Scripture as a whole. The context helps to inform us as to the meaning of the text and prevents the danger of prooftexting.
We have already established in this sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount that it was and is preached for those who would be the true disciples of Jesus. The true disciple is the one who hears the words of Jesus and puts them into practice. Secondly, we have learned that Jesus fully upholds all of Scripture, every jot and tittle. Jesus also places His words at par with Scripture as the Word of God. Because He says that He came to fulfill all of Scripture, nothing He says here contradicts the true interpretation of Scripture, which at Jesus’ day was what we call the Old Testament. Finally we recognize that Jesus used the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees as an example of those who were foolish, who heard the words of Jesus and failed to put them into practice. Jesus demands a righteousness greater than that of the Scribes and Pharisees. The Pharisees had watered down the Old Testament and substituted the tradition and wisdom of men for the intended meaning of Scripture. This is something that the true follower of Jesus dare not do.
When we come to the beginning paragraph of chapter seven, we should realize that it points forward to verse eleven, which has been called the “Golden Rule”, of doing to others what you would have others do to you. So we need to keep this in mind when we interpret this passage.
Passing judgment was one of the traits of the Scribes and Pharisees. For example in John 7:49, the Pharisees judged the common people who did not know the Law as “accursed”. They considered these “people of the land” who at that point gladly followed Jesus as if I could use the words here as people with splinters in their eyes. Of course, their judgment of the Gentiles was even worse. They were no better than the wild dogs or pigs. Many thought them unworthy to have the precious pearls of the Law preached to them. So we need to realize that Jesus here is preaching here against Scribes and Pharisees and commanding His followers not to follow their evil example.
The true followers of Jesus are His church. We have in a previous sermon mentioned that the word “church” is central to the Gospel of Matthew. Even though the word only appears twice in the Gospel, it is at the very center of the gospel when it is mentioned in Matthew 16:13 where we read “Upon this rock, I will build my church.” This church in Matthew is the new people of God, made up of people who were formerly Jewish as well as those who were formerly Gentile. (See the sermon “Upon this Rock” in this sermon archive). The church is to resist judging who is and who is not worthy to receive the gospel. I would thing that Jesus is also saying that hypocritical judging within the church which disrupts the unity of His body is something which will bring His judgment upon the offender. The passive here “shall not be judged” is usually seen as what Christian theologian refer to as the “divine passive” which indicates that God will judge those who wrongly judge others in the church. Does this mean eternal judgment or some lesser form of discipline? I really cannot answer this for sure, but it is always safer to keep the former interpretation in play, especially since Jesus has already spoken about the judgment of hellfire against the Scribes and Pharisees.
Jesus follows up His command not to judge with a parallel statement that God will return in measure the criticisms which one makes of others within the context of the church first, although it does not exclude hypocritical and self-righteous judging of those outside the church. This is also an allusion to “an eye for an eye” or what is called the Law of Retribution. God as the true and faithful judge will repay such sin in this manner.