Judging With Righteous Judgment

“Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.  And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?  Hypocrite!  First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

- Matthew 7:1-5

In a society that constantly preaches “tolerance,” we are often met with people who cry out that we “have no right to judge them.”   Some will even claim that “Jesus never judged people.”  They will try to use Jesus’ words against us and insist that He forbids all judging.  So, what did Jesus mean by saying “Judge not, that you be not judged”?

In the same context of instructing us to “judge not,” Jesus gives us the right and responsibility to make judgments that we may help our fellow man.  Provided we have first “removed the plank from our own eye…” , Jesus expects you to be able to see clearly so that you can “remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).  There are judgments to be made, within ourselves, and of others. 

What judging is the Lord telling us not to practice?   Jesus wants us to avoid the kind of hypocritical judgments that cause us to overlook our own faults.  How can you expect to help a person with a few transgressions when you are overwhelmed with sin?  Jesus simply teaches that, to pass righteous judgment on another, we ought to first examine ourselves.  Let us remove the plank in our eye. Then, and only then, can we see clearly to remove the speck in our brother’s eye.

Christ does not want us to avoid making hard decisions or taking difficult stands. He is warning us not to have a bitter, hyper-critical, faultfinding spirit.  That is a haughty attitude God will not tolerate.  However, as God’s children, we cannot ignore our Lord’s commandment to make righteous judgments.  In John 7:24, Jesus said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”

But what does it mean to judge with righteous judgment?   Jesus revealed this earlier in John 5:30: saying, “I can of Myself do nothing.  As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.”  If we seek and follow the true will of God, which can only be found in His word, then when it comes time for us to help people discern between right and wrong, we will not judge with our opinions or what we think is right, but just like the mind that Christ had, we will only seek to do the will of the Father. 

How can anyone honestly say that Jesus didn’t judge?  For that matter, when our Lord’s true followers make righteous judgments, exposing sin and helping the lost to learn the truth, why would Jesus condemn us for that?  Jesus has plainly revealed that those who abide in His ways must judge with righteous judgment.