Matthew 7:1 is arguably one of the most abused Bible passages in the entire history of Christianity. If you don’t know that reference, the text itself is likely familiar to you: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (ESV). In our society today, you are very likely to hear that verse quoted at you if you try to tell someone they are doing something wrong or that they are believing something wrong. But is that how Jesus meant His words to be used? Hardly. I say that for two reasons.

First, when the verse is used in that way, it is taken out of context. Here is the statement along with Christ’s explanation of it:

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. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, 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. (Matthew 7:1–5, ESV)

Clearly the Lord was teaching against hypocrisy. That is indisputable since He clearly refers to criticizing others for little faults (“the speck that is in your brother’s eye”) while failing to see one’s own major faults (“the log that is in your own eye”). It is also indisputable that He is speaking against hypocrisy because He plainly says, “You hypocrite, … ” His final admonition in v. 5 should put to rest the kind of abuse of this passage I described earlier, where Christ said, “[F]irst take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Obviously the Lord was not prohibiting all criticism but specifically the hypocritical kind whereby one delights in finding fault with others without concern about changing oneself first.

Second, if Christ really meant this verse to mean that we should never criticize at all, isn’t it odd that He calls people “pigs” and “dogs” in v. 6? Look what He said:

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”

I heard someone once say, “A text taken out of context becomes a pretext for a proof-text.” How true.

The sign I use in street evangelism

Recently I was doing some street evangelism with my A-frame sign, which asks the poignant question, “Are You Good Enough to Go to Heaven?” A woman approached and adamantly quoted Matthew 7:1 to support her belief that people of all faiths are going to heaven. Her basic argument seemed to be that we should not tell people they are not going to heaven because that would be judging them. Aside from the fact that I don’t actually tell people they are not going to heaven but instead ask them to take a quiz so they can determine that for themselves, she was clearly misusing Matthew 7:1.

Now it shouldn’t—and didn’t—surprise me that this verse was misapplied. It happens often nowadays. What amazed me, though, was that the woman who said this was a professing Christian. Before she went into her message of religious pluralism, she declared confidently that she had accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior and that she prays every day. Let me say it again: This amazed me. Why? Because it was a blatant denial of the value of Christ’s blood coming from someone who claimed to follow Him! Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is pointless if people who don’t believe in Him will get into heaven anyway. The truth is that the One who said “Judge not” also said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, ESV).

4 Responses to Judge Not!

  • Lalique says:

    Great Message Jeremy! I especially like the latter part where you summed up in your blog, exactly what you said to the lady that day (I remember because I was there folks!) “the One who said “Judge not” also said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, ESV).

  • Lalique says:

    She seemed very adamant and I think that you are lost on such as those who are only seeking to stump you.
    You have such clear insight into how to guide those who are lost. I think your effort is better saved for those who really need you, like the girl who was clearly curious about the quiz and took it home.

    May God Bless you Richly for your Faithful Service for the Sake of His Holy Name!

    • Jeremy says:

      Thanks again for your support, Lalique. That’s why I try to avoid debates when doing evangelism: Usually it doesn’t amount to anything and generates more heat than light. I think the wisest thing to do (which I should have done with that lady) is to give the person my card and ask them to e-mail me their questions/concerns so that I can give them a better response.

      Having said that, perhaps God is planning to do a work in that lady. You never know. Maybe my encounter with her on Sunday was the beginning of God’s work in softening her.

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