"Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Matthew 7:1). Even if you are unfamiliar with many passages from Scripture, this one is probably familiar. It is typically referred to when someone knows their life will not stand inspection in some area. "You can't say that, because you're judging me, and the Bible says not to judge!" What people don't understand is, when they criticize someone for judging, they themselves are judging that person, in their motives and what they say. They have become guilty of doing the same thing they condemned someone else of doing.

Is Jesus condemning all judging? If so, he contradicts himself, for elsewhere he says, "Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24). Obviously, there is a way to judge that is acceptable, based on God's will, not on sinful human motives (Matthew 7:2). As we are to be judged by how we judge, it is imperative our motives are pure, that it's to be done speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), and that we are seeking to live by the same pattern we expect of others. "I can of myself do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is righteous; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of him that sent me" (John 5:30).

The judging Jesus is speaking of in Matthew 7 is that which is hypocritical, condemning others for what one practices himself. "Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me cast out the mote out of thine eye; and lo, the beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye" (Matthew 7:4-5). This is the type of judging the Pharisees practiced. They condemned others for what they themselves would do. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, even while for a pretense ye make long prayers: therefore ye shall receive greater condemnation" (Matthew 23:14). They summarily condemned entire classes of people, such as tax collectors, even the general population. "But this multitude that knoweth not the law are accursed" (John 7:49). Judging from evil and sinful motives is wrong and will bring God's judgment on the person who does so.

There is a righteous judgment, however. It's done because of one's love for God. It's based on God's truth, Scripture. It comes from pure motives, seeking to help, not harm. It comes from those seeking to live by the principles of truth that is being encouraged in others. This was how Paul judged the man engaged in an incestuous relationship in Corinth; "For I verily, being absent in body but present in spirit, have already as though I were present judged him that hath so wrought this thing (1 Corinthians 5:3). His motives were for this man's salvation, to get him to see his sin and repent (5:4-5). How great a love does one have, to point out someone's needs that they might be saved for eternity?

In reality, every one of us makes judgments on all kinds of things, every day. When it comes to each other, we must make sure our standard is truth, and our motives are pure. We should be glad there are those who love us enough to help us in doing so, that we all might be pleasing to God, who is the ultimate and eternal Judge.

Robert Johnson

Longview, TX