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Matthew 7:1  (King James Version)
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<< Matthew 6:34   Matthew 7:2 >>


Matthew 7:1

Some cite Matthew 7:1 as proof that we should do no judging whatsoever: "Judge not, that you be not judged." Here, the Greek word for "judge" is krino, meaning to condemn, avenge, damn, sentence, or levy a punishment. Christ plainly says that if we condemn others, we will be condemned ourselves. Dangerous territory indeed!

Though it is certainly hazardous to evaluate the problems or sins of others, the context answers the question of whether we are to do so. We are to judge and in every aspect of life, as other scriptures show. Christ continues His thought, in context, by showing that we are to evaluate the deeds of others, but to be very careful with our judgments. We should consider our weaknesses and sins very carefully, to the point of overcoming them, before we make harsh judgments on others. How can we condemn someone else when we may have even bigger problems? He instructs us to remove the hypocrisy and then we can help our brother with his difficulties.

Focusing on the Greek to show that "condemning" defines judgment better than "justice" really makes no difference. The sense of the context is proper evaluation of our own and others' conduct so that proper justice is done. If we wish to use a harsher definition, such as condemnation or damnation, then Christ is saying He will also evaluate us in that light. Major or minor infraction, light or harsh judgment, the outcome is the same: "As you do unto others, so shall it be done unto you!"

Christ's initial statement about judgment cannot be ripped out of context to stand on its own. We must understand it considering His whole explanation, which includes recognition of others' sins and their disposition, but only after overcoming our own faults.

Otherwise, Matthew 7:1 directly contradicts John 7:24 where He uses the same Greek words: "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge [krino] with righteous judgment." Here He says we are to judge, but He mitigates it with instruction on how to judge, just as in Matthew 7. Certainly, we are to analyze—judge—what is right or wrong, based on the mind of God as expressed in His Word. How we apply that judgment to others is critical, for Christ will take the same attitude with us that we take with others.

Like it or not, life forces us to make judgments or decisions about people every day. These may deal with mundane physical things or with friendships or marriages that affect a lifetime. Many have gone through life wishing they had been equipped early in life to render and exercise sounder judgments, for the process of making good calls can be very confusing. It is so easy to dwell on the wrong factors or see only what is on the surface.

Staff
The Weightier Matters (Part 2): Judgment



Matthew 7:1-5

God will often see to it that we are treated the same way we treat others.

Jacob was a talented young man with great ability, but he had a serious fault: As a young man, he would lie, connive, and scheme to get his own way, without a thought for other people's feelings. He deceived his father Isaac into blessing him, instead of his brother Esau, with the birthright, an incident that split the family and caused much suffering and ill will, as Genesis 27 records.

God, of course, fully intended Jacob to have the birthright and could have worked it out in a way in which nobody got hurt. But this was not the first time that Jacob had used shrewdness to get his own way. Earlier, when Esau was about to collapse from lack of nourishment, Jacob gave Esau bread, a stew of lentils, and a drink in exchange for his birthright. Jacob had a secret sin and needed to be taught a lesson. He could not look at himself and see that he had this sin. He probably looked at himself as many today in business look at themselves; he probably thought he was being clever and wise.

During the next few years, Jacob reaped what he had sowed. His employer and future father-in-law, Laban, tricked him out of his wages and the wife for whom he had labored seven years. In addition, toward the end of his life, Jacob was also deceived by the use of a dead goat, just as he had deceived his father Isaac. Jacob's sons dipped Joseph's coat of many colors in the blood of a goat to convince their father that his favorite son, whom they had sold, was dead. Jacob spent many years in grief, deceived as he had deceived others.

Martin G. Collins
The Law's Purpose and Intent



Matthew 7:1

The subject of judging often seems very difficult to grasp. Some use the term "judge" in a generalized way, making assertions such as, "We shouldn't judge one another." Is this true? If we took this to an extreme, we could make no evaluation of whether a person's conduct is acceptable to God, society, or ourselves. Such a totally non-judgmental atmosphere would generate such tolerance that it would be hazardous to life and limb. Nothing would be called into question. Nothing would be wrong.

God never intended any such thing when Jesus said, "Judge not that you be not judged." Again, if taken to an extreme, a person's example, whether good or bad, would have no power to influence behavior in others. Before determining whether we want to imitate or reject how another person acts, we must evaluate—judge—his conduct.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Judgment, Tolerance, and Correction



Matthew 7:1-5

We cannot avoid judging. As the stock in trade of the mind, appraisals are inevitable. If we were witnesses to a flagrant violation of law in which innocent people were harmed, could we keep quiet because we are not to judge?

Does not Jesus command us to judge in verse 6? "Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces." Do we not have to judge who are "dogs" or "swine"? Considering verse 15 ("Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves"), do we not have to judge whether a man is a false minister? Do we not have to reject his teaching based on an appraisal of his fruits?

We must therefore take care to understand clearly what Jesus meant. He obviously did not mean we should not judge at all. Within the context of Luke 6:35-38, Jesus uses "Judge not, and you shall not be judged" to urge us to love our enemies, be merciful, forgiving, and generous. This very greatly modifies Matthew's account, showing that "Judge not . . ." is a warning against self-righteous severity, sharp-tongued criticism, and condemnation. Thus, it is not a command to be absolutely neutral and tolerant regarding moral issues, but a warning to be careful and loving when we judge. We can apply this admonishment to Romans 14:10-13 and James 4:11-12 as well.

There are practical reasons why Jesus would advise us about this. Of prime importance is that even though it is important that we judge rightly, it is even more important that we do not usurp the place of God! "Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand" (Romans 14:4).

Paul begins this letter to the Romans calling himself a servant of Jesus Christ. He reminds us that we are all His servants (verses 7-8). A servant does not have the same rights and responsibilities as a master. Though we are permitted the right of making an appraisal of conduct, we are not permitted the right of passing judgment upon a fellow servant. A fellow servant does not stand or fall at the bar of our judgment. The only judgment that matters is the judgment of our mutual Master. If He is satisfied or displeased, He will act in His good time and in His way. To usurp His responsibility is an act of sheer presumption.

This in no way means we cannot approach a brother to inquire about and understand his conduct so that we might know whether our appraisal is correct. Assuming that our intent in questioning him is for his good, why would we even approach him? Would it not be because our evaluation of his conduct had led us to conclude—yes, to judge—that he was in serious moral or spiritual trouble?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Judgment, Tolerance, and Correction



Should a Christian Serve on a Jury (Matthew 7:1)?

The Bible teaches that Christians should not involve themselves in judging others (Matthew 7:1). God's people ought to decide matters within the church (I Corinthians 6:1-5), but they should not sit in judgment of those outside the church (I Corinthians 5:12-13). Notice that on one occasion even Jesus refused to make a judgment when asked to settle a dispute over an inheritance (Luke 12:13-14).

Those who are converted to God's way of life are called ambassadors for Christ (II Corinthians 5:20). Paul writes that our "citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20). As ambassadors and citizens of the Kingdom of God, true Christians must not be a part of the affairs of this world (Revelation 18:4).

Man's judgments are mainly concerned with the letter of the law and usually do not take into account repentance and other spiritual factors. In contrast, God looks on one's heart and is concerned with the spirit and intent of the law. Jesus taught that Christians must be willing to forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15).

The Constitution of the United States establishes and protects each person's rights to his religious beliefs. Those whose deeply held religious convictions do not allow them to serve on a jury will usually be excused once they make their belief known to the proper officials. Sometimes, simply writing "My religious convictions prevent me from service, and, therefore, I request to be excused" on the jury duty notice is all that is necessary. Also attaching a short statement giving the biblical reasons for one's convictions is a good idea. Of course, the form should be returned within the specified time.

At other times, one must answer the summons and appear at the courthouse. If one is called to serve on a jury, questions from the judge and the respective lawyers will usually serve to remove a Christian from the jury pool, as the lawyers often see Christian values as harmful to their cases' ultimate success. Once a judge sees that a Christian will not be persuaded from his refusal to sit in judgment, he will often excuse the Christian himself to avoid later problems, such as a hung jury.

The key to refusing jury duty is standing by one's convictions (Psalm 16:8; 55:22; 62:6; Proverbs 12:3; I Corinthians 16:13: II Thessalonians 2:15; etc.).

Additional Reading:
Are Your Beliefs Preferences or Convictions?
The Weightier Matters (Part 2): Judgment
Why Should Christians Refuse Jury Duty?
Judgment, Tolerance, and Correction




Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Matthew 7:1:

Matthew 7:1
Matthew 7:1
Matthew 7:3-5
1 Corinthians 5:12-13
James 2:4

 

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