“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.
3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. -Matthew 7:1-5
It used to be that the best-known Bible verse was John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him, should not perish, but have eternal life.” No longer is that the best-known Bible verse. That honor belongs to Matthew 7:1, “Judge not…”
Sadly this verse is not only the best known, it is the most poorly applied Bible verse. People use this verse to justify all sorts and kinds of actions. “Don’t judge me,” they say when you point out a propensity to engage in pornography. “Don’t judge me,” they say when they are confronted about a sexually-wanton lifestyle. “Don’t judge me,” they say when there is the slightest innuendo about too much drink or drug use.
Sadly, these words betray an even greater issue than people not wanting to be accountable for any sort of ungodly behavior. The greater concern is that by invoking this verse, they are actually relying on the justification of others, or their own personal assumptions about what is right or wrong.
The problem with this conclusion is that only God can justify. At the end of all time we will not be subjected to others’ judgement. We will stand before Jesus himself. He will judge. He justifies. And Jesus’ justification is all that will ultimately matter.
We receive this gift of his justification (his righteousness) by faith. He declares us righteous by his grace and we receive that justification by faith. This is not new: “Abram believed in the LORD, and he reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). No human can provide that eternal verdict: only God.
There is a similar mis-application of this verse that is exposed in Romans 1. There Paul lays out all manner of sin, showing how God punishes sin with sin. The obvious conclusion is that those who sin like that deserve to be judged. Then he says, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things” (Romans 2:1).
Try as we might we cannot help but fall into the trap of judging others. We can, however, examine ourselves. We can be very conscious of the fact that we can all too easily miss the log in our own eye while pointing out the speck in someone else’s eye.
This calls for humility on our part of the highest order. Thank God we have an example in Jesus, whose humility took him all the way to the cross for the forgiveness of our sin. God judged him guilty in our place and we are declared righteous for his sake. Keep your eyes on him!