““Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” - Matthew 7:1
A woman arrived early at the airport and she had some time to kill. So she went to one of the stores inside her terminal and bought a bag of bite-sized chocolate chip cookies. She found a seat nearby and started reading a book. After a few minutes she opened the bag of cookies, ate one, and then put the bag back on the empty chair next to her.
A few seconds later, out of the corner of her eye, she saw a man on the other side of the empty seat reach into her cookie bag, take out a cookie, and eat it. She thought to herself, “That dirty rotten thief just stole one of my cookies!” But she didn’t say anything. A minute later, she grabbed another cookie. And the man grabbed another one, too. This went on for about ten minutes—back and forth until there was only one cookie left. The man had the audacity to grab the last cookie, break it in half and offer her one of the halves. She snatched it out of his hand, gave him a dirty look and stormed off to her plane.
Once she boarded her flight, she reached into her carry-on bag to grab her book—and there inside was her unopened bag of cookies. That man in the terminal wasn’t a dirty, rotten cookie thief after all. SHE was! She made the same mistake that all of us have made at one time or another: She rushed to judgment without having all the facts.
That story reminds me of the most quoted verse in the entire Bible, Matthew 7:1: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Not only is this the most quoted verse in the Bible, it’s also the most MISQUOTED verse. Surprisingly, it doesn’t mean what most people think it means. If you carefully read and think about the first five verses in Matthew 7, you’ll see that Jesus wasn’t forbidding all forms of judging. He was forbidding selfish, hypocritical judging.
You see, the Pharisees and Jewish teachers had a bad habit of pointing out everyone else’s sins while ignoring their own sins. They condemned the evil they witnessed in others while making excuses for the greater evil in their own hearts. So, Jesus is placing a neon sign over others that flashes, “Caution: Judge at your own risk!” You see, it is better to “judge not” than to judge others while ignoring a glaring sin in our own lives.
The truth is: Jesus doesn’t have a problem with you or me helping someone identify and remove a splinter from their eye as long as we first identify and remove the plank from our own eye. In other words, you and I have no business pointing out others’ tiny faults until we’ve dealt with our own bigger ones. As Pastor Jon Bloom reminds us, we should never take tweezers to someone else’s faults when we need a forklift to deal with our own.
Here in Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus is condemning a critical, fault-finding spirit. Some people spend so much time criticizing others without ever looking in the mirror to see their own goof ups. Some of us are so good at pointing out others’ sins without ever admitting that some of the stuff we do is even worse. Jesus says, “Don’t be like that.” Which leads us to our first of four lessons from the early verses of Matthew 7.
LESSON #1: Spend less time pointing out others' sins and more time correcting your own sins.
Your first priority is to work with Jesus to deal with your OWN sin. My first priority is to work with Jesus to deal with MY own sin. Only when we do can we be in a place where we can effectively help others deal with their sin.
LESSON #2: Remember, you're not the ultimate judge. God is. (v. 1)
He alone will one day judge the living and the dead and pronounce a final eternal judgment on every person. So, when you go to point out someone’s fault or sin, make sure that you don’t forget who the real judge is. Evangelist Billy Graham said it really well: “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.”
LESSON #3: God will judge you the same way you judge others. (v. 2)
If you choose to judge your family and friends harshly … watch out. God’s going to judge you harshly too. If you’re critical of others, God will be critical of you. If you give others very little grace, God will give you very little grace. So, with that in mind, give people around you lots and lots of grace. Look for the best in them. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Cut them the same amount of slack that you would like God to cut you.
LESSON #4: Be kind and look for the underlying beauty in others. (v. 5)
I heard about a young Christian woman named Maria who attended an international Christian camp. One night a group of campers discussed various strategies for leading people back home to salvation in Christ. Maria’s input caught everyone by surprise. She said, “Back home we don’t have missions or give out tracts. We just send one or two Christian families to live and work in a village, and when people see what Christians are like, then they want to be Christians too.”
Do the people around you see how you live, work and love and want to be Christians too? Certainly, we would be more effective in leading people to Jesus Christ if we loved more and judged less.
Dane Davis is the Pastor
of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our in-person worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at
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