Today the schedule calls for us to read Matthew 7, so I recommend doing that now.
This chapter is the end of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” that we started on Friday back in Matthew 5. Right away Jesus commanded us not to judge (v. 1a). The reason? “or you too will be judged.” And the standard for the judgment is the “the same way you judge others, you will be judged.” In other words, God will judge us for judging others. But what exactly is Jesus teaching here about judging?
First, he is not talking about a legal situation. For human society to exist peacefully, there must be peaceful methods for resolving conflicts. That requires some kind of decision-maker: a judge, a jury, an arbiter. So, this isn’t a command for you to avoid jury duty or to recuse yourself from everything if you’re a judge.
Second, Jesus is not talking about using discernment. In the same context down in verse 6, Jesus commanded us not to “give dogs what is sacred” or “throw your pearls to pigs.” The “dogs” and “pigs” are metaphors for a certain kind of person. Jesus was commanding us not giving truth to those who obviously will not recognize it as precious. It takes discernment to know what kind of person is like a dog or a pig and Proverbs commands and instructs us to live with discernment, so Jesus is not forbidding the use of it here.
The attitude Jesus commanded us to avoid is the attitude we label as “judgmental.” It is the attitude of harsh criticism we feel (and sometimes speak) toward others, condemning them as evil or jerks or stupid as if we had all knowledge like God does. An example may help (one that I’m totally guilty of, to my shame): If a person cuts me off in traffic and I think (or say), “that guy is a selfish jerk” I have judged him in the way Jesus spoke against here. Maybe he is a selfish jerk or maybe he’s late for a job interview or his wife is in labor or he’s preoccupied by fear or grief or stress and just didn’t notice me. So Christ commands us not to take on a God-complex and pass judgment on everyone. Instead, we should learn to show grace to others who seem difficult or unkind to us.
If I judge someone’s driving but I don’t know that person and he or she never hears my condemnation, little damage is done. Others in the car might lose some respect for me, but I haven’t done any damage to the other driver. But when we judge others in our lives without having many (any?) important facts, we poison our relationship to that person. We may never speak our judgment out loud, but we start to treat that person differently.
More importantly, when we judge others we are expressing a deep, disgusting sin–the sin of pride. We judge others because we think we are better than they are–smarter, more compassionate, more discerning, more godly, whatever. This puts us at odds with God, the only one capable of judging justly and the one who “resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). So, consider your heart, your attitude toward others and ask God to give you more grace and humility in your relationships with other people.