Judge not, that ye be not judged. Matthew 7:1
suggested further reading: James 4:1–12
“Judge not” is not an absolute prohibition against criticism. Rather, Jesus’ words here are intended to cure a disease that is natural to us all.
We all have the tendency to flatter ourselves while passing severe censure on others. This vice provides us with a kind of strange enjoyment, for hardly anyone exists who is not tickled with the desire of asking about other people’s faults. Yet we also acknowledge that it is an intolerable evil to overlook one’s own vices while being critical of others.
The heathen in ancient times cited proverbs to condemn such inconsistencies, for the tendency to excuse ourselves while faulting others has existed in all ages as well as today. What is more, judging often includes another, worse sin, for most people who condemn others then think they have more freedom themselves to sin.
Jesus warns against the depraved eagerness for backbiting, censuring, and slandering others when he says, Judge not. He is not saying that believers should be blind to the faults of others, perceiving nothing, but only that they should refrain from the undue eagerness to judge. If they indulge themselves, everyone who wants to pass sentence on others will exceed the boundaries set by Christ.
Judging may also be influenced by wrongful curiosity about the actions of others. This disease includes the injustice of magnifying any trivial fault of others, as if it were a very heinous crime. In addition, it includes the insolent presumption of looking disdainfully at every action of others, passing unfavorable judgment on it even when it might be viewed in a good light.
for meditation: This frequently quoted verse is often cited to excuse sin, contrary to Christ’s original intent. Those of us who are fond of quoting it forget that we, too, will be judged by Christ himself. Does the coming Judgment Day ever humble you and rein in your quickness to judge others? The next time you are about to criticize someone, stop yourself and ask whether you could and should express that disapproval in a loving manner directly to that person (see Matt. 18:15–17).
How is Jesus’ admonition not to judge a cure for the common kind of fault-finding that alienates people from others? What steps can you take to eradicate criticizing others from your thoughts and speech?