In Jesus’s “Sermon on the Mount” Matthew records a verse that’s probably quoted by more non-Christians than Christian. Can you guess what verse I am thinking of (I know the title of the post probably gave it away)? Matthew 7:1 , “Judge not, that you be not judged.”
But let’s look at the context of what Jesus is saying here, and let’s see if he really means what people often use this verse to mean. In full the passage reads as follows:
“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. 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.” Matthew 7:1-6 (NKJV)
When we look at what Jesus is actually saying it’s really less of a prohibition against judging as it is a warning about how one judges. Be careful, he’s saying, because the same way you judge others will be how you are judged. The standard you use to measure them will be the standard used to measure you.
Then he starts talking about the great issues that effect you, removing the plank in your own eye, before you can help someone else with the same issue to a lesser degree, the speck in their eye. He wants us to recognize that speck for the problem it is. He wants us to be able to help them. And that means judging the person and their problem after we have applied that judgment to ourselves.
And then he cautions us in our use of judgment toward those that will not or cannot receive it. He equates righteous judgment with pearls and calls it holy. We have the responsibility to judge with clean hands and a loving heart those that will receive it. We must treat others the way that we would want to be treated.
Because, judge not, lest you be judged, is really just another way of saying, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And that’s really just another way of saying you should love your neighbor as yourself. And that, Jesus said, is very like the greatest commandment to love God with all of your heart , soul, mind, and strength.
So we are commanded to judge righteous judgment. To treat others as we would want to be treated. When we love that way, when we judge that way, then we fulfill the law of God.