Judging Others

Part II


Dr. John Hoole – October 1, 2017



Matthew 7:1-5 NKJV


1       "Judge not, that you be not judged.

2       For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.

3       And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?

4       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?

5       Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.


As with all the other elements of the Sermon on the Mount, the perspective of this passage is given as a contrast to some of the Scribes and Pharisees whose hypocritical self-righteousness was in direct opposition to the true righteousness of God.


When an individual or a group of people develop their own standards of religion and morality, they inevitably judge everyone by those self-made beliefs and standards.  The scribes and the Pharisees had done just that.  Over the previous four or five centuries prior to Christ’s arrival, they had gradually modified God’s revealed Word, given primarily to Moses, to suit their own thinking, inclinations, and abilities.


By the time Jesus comes, their tradition had taken such a hold on Judaism that it had actually replaced the authority of the Scripture (the Torah) in the minds of many Jews.


Matthew 15:1-3  (NKJV)


1       Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem, came to Jesus, saying,

2       "Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread!"

3       He asnwered and said to them “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?


Then Jesus continues his point in verse 6,


6       ……You have made the commandment of God of no affect by your tradition.


Along with the many other sins spawned by their self-righteousness, the scribes and Pharisees had become oppressively judgmental.  They proudly looked down on everyone that was not a part of their elite system.  They were unmerciful, unforgiving, unkind, censorious, and totally lacking in compassion and grace.


Their evaluation of others, like every other aspect of their self-righteousness, was primarily based on appearances, on the external and superficial.


John 7:24  (NKJV)


24     "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."


In Luke 16:15  (NKJV), Jesus says God knows their hearts.


15     He said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God”.


The classic portrayal of their self-righteousness is given in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican (tax collector), each of which went to the Temple to pray. It says, in Luke 18, “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people; swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax gatherer.  I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’  But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’”


         Jesus’ assessment of these two prayers is clear:  “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.”


Now let’s return to Matthew 7:1  (NKJV)


1       "Judge not, that you be not judged.”






                   Let’s not answer that immediately.


Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 2:15 (NKJV) alongside our text (Matthew 7:1)“…he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.”  On one side we are told not to judge at all.  It is totally prohibited.  But on the other, you can judge if your are spiritual.


To some of us, this may appear to be a little confusing if we were not aware that different Greek words are used in these verses --- or at least, it might seem contradictory.  But the same Jesus Who says in Matthew 7:1….”Judge not….”  also says in John 7:24 to “judge with righteous judgments” -- and this time He doesn’t even say you have to be spiritual to do it.


We have this dilemma.  Christ, on one side, says it is OK to judge, as long as it is done with righteous judgment -- and on the other side, Christ forbids any of His followers to judge at all.  We have two statements which, if we have no other instruction, seem to contradict each other.


This is one of the most quoted verses in the Bible, usually in a context something like this:  “Yeah, he cheated on his wife, but who am I to judge?  Hey, we are all sinners, right?”  “It’s like Jesus said, ‘Judge not lest you be judged,’” or “Don’t judge me – if you were really a Christian you’d listen to Jesus when he said, ‘Judge not.’”


Effectively, when quoted as such, the verse is understood as a prohibition against declaring any specific action sinful or wrong, since doing so would mean “judging’ someone.  The problem?  This verse has a context.  Always remember, a text without context is a pretext.  The primary exegetical fault leading to misinterpretation is neglecting to read closely the surrounding section of a key verse.  The significance of this verse is best understood by looking at what follows in verses 2-5.  As you read the verses that follow, this passage in Matthew is not forbidding judgment but hypocrisy.


First, Matthew 7:1-5 is not as moratorium on all judgment.  A judgment free life is impossible.  For instance, when you come to a halt at a stop sign, you will have to judge the moment it is safe to either enter the intersection.  You exercise judgment whenever you are faced with a choice or decision.  We judge between products, we judge between candidates, we judge between applicants for a job.  Often the right judgment is a matter of life and death.  Can you imagine the military without needing to make judgments?


In Christ’s day, the group that set the standard of righteousness in Jewish society and were well known as the leading  judgers-of-others were the PhariseesBut Jesus had earlier said that standard of righteousness for his disciples was not to be like that of the Pharisees.  He had already declared in Matthew 5:20, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”  The kind of righteousness the Pharisees had was not real righteousness before God, it was self-righteousness.


Luke 18:9 (NKJV) describes the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees this way:


“They trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.”


What the disciples needed to enter heaven was Christ’s perfect righteousness, and that is something we only get by faith.  But as believers in Him, Jesus is now teaching them not to act in the self-righteous, judgmental way that the Pharisees did.


The theologian, AW Pink put it this way:


“That which pre-eminently characterized the Pharisees was the very high regard which they had for themselves and the utter contempt in which they held all who belonged not to their sect.”


And the person they judged the MOST harshly, was Jesus Himself.


The Pharisees thought they could see plenty of sins in others, but what they couldn’t see were their own sins.  To illustrate their problem, Jesus used the example of a speck and a plank.  Have you ever thought of how appropriate it is that Jesus used this as an example?  He was raised in a Carpenter’s workshop, and who no doubt had experienced the pain or discomfort of getting a particle of wood in His eye.  And He uses this as an example.


Now when you have a splinter like that, you often need the help of someone else to get it out.  But in this example, the person who has detected the speck in someone else’s eye has a plank, a dokos in the Greek – the main beam holding up the roof of a building,  The primary concern of someone in that situation should have been removing the BEAM in their own eye BEFORE searching for SPECKS in other peoples!  Their own sin so blinded them that they could not see at all, much less function as an optometrist for another person.


You may remember that Jesus had talked about the Good and Bad Eye in Matthew 6:22-23.  And the beam-filled eyes of the Pharisees were bad, so bad that Jesus called them “blind.”  You wouldn’t go to a blind optometrist would you?


So, what does Jesus mean when He says in Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”  Or, better yet, what does He NOT mean by these words.


This Passage has been grossly misapplied by many, many people – both by the non-Christian as well as the Christian.


There are probably more that could be added to my list, but I want to talk about three things that Jesus was NOT saying in Matthew 7:1


Each of these require some sort of judgment or discernment.



I only mention this one because if you were to study commentaries on this verse, you would come across Tolstoy’s interpretation of this verse.  Tolstoy’s belief, based on this verse, was that “Christ totally forbids the human institution of any court of law.”  He goes on to say that Jesus “could not have meant anything else by those words.”


I would submit that the words of Jesus cannot possibly mean what Tolstoy says it must mean for the context does not refer to judges in courts of law, but rather to the responsibility individuals have to one another.  Couple this contextual setting with other Passages about governmental systems and justice.


Romans 13:1-4 NKJV


1       Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

2       Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

3       For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.

4       For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.


                   We are to submit to the governing authorities.


There are several other passages on this topic.  Let me point to just one of them.


John 19:10-11 NKJV


10     Then Pilate said to Him, "Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?"

11     Jesus answered, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin."


Jesus did not dispute Pilate’s authority to execute capital punishment.  Rather, He stated that the authority that Pilate had came from God.


2.      It is not wrong to think critically


It should be noted that this passage has erroneously been used to suggest that believers should never evaluate or criticize anyone for anything.  Many in our culture hate absolutes, especially theological and moral absolutes.  Members of modern society, including many professing Christians, tend to resist dogmatism and strong convictions about right and wrong.  Many people prefer to speak of all-inclusive love, compromise, ecumenism, and unity --- each of which have some place in the Christians’ life.


When Jesus instructed us to “judge not,” he was not asking us to be gullible, mindless and saccharine sweet all the time.  Loving – yes;   mindless – no.  Jesus was not asking his people to rid themselves of their critical powers and go with the flow.  No, as disciples of Christ we must use our minds because God has renewed them, and we are, therefore, enabled and instructed to think God’s thoughts.


3.   Taking a decisive stand on doctrinal and moral issues is not forbidden.


So often whenever a Christian takes what might be regarded by some as a negative position, the response is, “Judge not……”  But the very context of our passage indicates that we must at times make decisions and take a stand.


Our Lord’s injunction to “judge not” cannot be understood as a command to suspend our critical faculties in relation to other people,…..


                   --- to turn a blind eye to their faults (pretending not to notice)

                   --- to shun all forms of criticism

                   --- and to refuse to discern between truth and error, goodness and evil.


Let’s look at the context of Matthew 7:1 to see if Jesus is telling us NOT to discern between the goodness and evil we see around us.


Matthew 7:6  (NKJV)


6       "Do not give what is holy to the dogs: nor cast your pearls before swine.


IS HE TALKING ABOUT LITERAL DOGS?  IF NOT, WHAT (OR WHO)?  He is speaking of the heathen.  Here Jesus was instructing us to make a judgment, not about literal dogs and pigs, but about people.  If we are not to give that which is holy to dog then we have to use our critical faculties in order to decide who are dogs, or hogs.


Later in the context of chapter 7 we hear Jesus saying:


Matthew 7:15-16  (NKJV)


15     Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.

          16     You will know them by their fruits…


Obviously, we must engage in some form of fruit evaluation if we are going to determine who is a true or false prophet.  In other words, we are to discern who speaks for God or who does not.  So, once again we see that we are called upon to make some sort of judgment about individuals and their behaviors.


So, in the context of Jesus’ command in verse 1, we are still called to evaluate the behavior of dogs and pigs and false prophets.  In order to do that we must be able to recognize them and in order to do that we must exercise some critical discernment.


In other places in the New Testament we find:


         •        Paul taking a public stand on the issue of immorality within the Church (1 Cor. 5:4-5).


         •        Timothy being instructed to take a stand in Ephesus


1 Timothy 1:3-7  (NIV)


3       As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer

4       nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work-- which is by faith.

5       The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

6       Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk.

7       They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.


         •        We are to refuse to invite false teachers into our home (2 John 8-11).


         •        We are also instructed to “earnestly contend for the faith.” (Jude 1:3).


         •        Paul tells believers to watch for those causing discord in the church (Romans 16:17).


Romans 16:17  (NIV)


17     I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.


Obviously, each of these demand that we employ a certain kind of judgment or discernment before we can obey their instruction.


In many circles, those who hold to strong convictions and who speak up and confront society and the church are branded as violators of this command not to judge.  And yet, at no time in its history has the church had a moral and spiritual reformation, apart from some discerning of their current low spiritual state.


If this greatest sermon by our Lord teaches anything, it teaches that His followers are to be discerning and perceptive in what they believe and in what they do and that they must make every effort to judge or discern between truth and error -- between true righteousness and that which is false.


What we have shown thus far, both from the context of the Sermon on the Mount, as well as many other Passages, is that Matthew 7;1 could not possibly be forbidding any and all forms of critical analysis or the distinguishing between right and wrong views of doctrinal and moral issues.


If Jesus, then, was NOT forbidding criticism, in all its forms, what did Jesus mean by Judge not….?  In a word, “censoriousness.”  The follower of Jesus is still a ‘critic’ in the sense of using his powers of discernment, but not a ‘judge’ in the sense of being censorious – or judgmental.


The censorious critic is a fault-finder who is negative and destructive towards other people and enjoys actively seeking out their failings.  He puts the worst possible construction on their motives, pours cold water on their schemes and is ungenerous towards their mistakes.




How do we know the difference?  Where is the line between judging others improperly vs. properly?  From this point on I am going to use the word “judge” or “judging” to represent the negative connotation.  For the other side, I will try to use “examine” or “discern.”


There is only one Greek word used to represent improper judging of another person.  That word is “krino”.  It means: To pass judgment on, to sentence;  to mentally or judicially condemn; to conclude, to decide, to determine.  It has a dozen or so shades of meaning that must be decided from the context.


There are three Greek words that describe the scope and action of proper discernment.


They are:


         Dokimazo       …to test, to examine; to interpret, to discover;

                                     to approve; to prove, to demonstrate.


         Anakrino        …to ask questions, to examine; to evaluate,

                                     to scrutinize, to investigate; to search out.


         Diakrino         …to make a distinction (between persons);

                                     to weigh thoroughly each part.


We will look at the various Scriptural uses of these words in a few minutes.  But, firstly, one thing should be obvious from these short definitions.  “Judging” focuses more on the person than on what they did.  As a result, condemnation occurs.  “Discerning” looks more at the activity than who did it.


Let’s go back to the two verses we showed side-by-side a few minutes ago, where one forbids us from judging another person….and the other allows, even instructs us to make proper judgments.


Matthew 7:1  (NIV)


“Do not judge (krino), or you too will be judged (krino).”


1 Corinthians 2:15 (NKJV)


         “…he who is spiritual judges (anakrino) all things, yet he himself is rightly judged (also anakrino) by no one.”


In Matthew 7:1, the Greek word “Krino” is used twice.


It is referring to judging another person’s motives which no mere human can know of another.  Thus, it speaks about “passing sentence upon” or “judicially condemning” a person.  And we are instructed with no uncertain words:  DON’T DO IT!!


With the last phrase “or you too will be judged” or as in the KJV “lest you be judged.” Jesus is reminding us that we are not the final court.  To judge another person in a censorious, unmerciful manner is to play God.


In John 5:22, Jesus says,


“For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son”


During the millennial kingdom Christ will share some of that judgment with us (Matthew 19:28,  1 Cor. 6:2), but until that time we blaspheme God whenever we take upon ourselves the role of judge.  Paul asks, in Romans 14:4, Who are you to judge (Krino) the servant of another?  To his own master he stands or falls.”


In 1 Corinthians 2:15, we have a different Greek word.




Here we are informed that a spiritual person does not condemn or pass judgment upon another, but rather, examines the data, investigates, discerns with care and love, searches out.


The Bible consistently forbids hasty judgments that do not have full knowledge of the heart or of the facts.  Proverbs 18:13 instructs us:  “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him”  Sometimes what appears to be wrong is nothing of the sort.


Let’s look at a few more Scriptures which deal with this facet of judging – discerning.


1Thessalonians 5:21  (KJV)


21     Prove (anakrino) all things; hold fast that which is good.


The same word translated “judge” in 1 Cor. 2:15 is translated “prove” here.


Did you notice that last phrase?   “Hold fast that which is good.”  After “proving” or “examining” or “testing” all things, we are to hold onto only that which is good.  Is it your tendency to more quickly notice the wrong things that others do?  Do you focus in on, or latch onto, those things that, on the surface, appear improper?


This verse instructs us this way: “After proving (anakrino) – that is, following much examination and investigation --- after the facts have been sifted, the only things left in our hands should be those items which are good.


The Lord knew this would not be an easy thing for most – if not all – of us --- so he uses the words “hold fast” -- grasp tenaciously….with resolve…..only that which is good.


It might be well to summarize what we have discussed up to this point.  One who judges (krino):


                   •        forms opinions on first impression, hearsay or sketchy information,


                   •        is suspicious and looks for evidence to confirm his suspicion,


                   •        passes judgment upon or criticizes the person.


One who discerns:


                   •        checks the facts for their accuracy,


                   •        examines all related factors before reaching a conclusion,


                   •        after sifting the evidence, does not hold on to those things that are evil and questionable --- nor those things that could damage, belittle or tear down someone.