What Did Jesus Mean By “Judge Not”?

Jesus vs. Jesus?

Jesus hasn’t denounced moral discernment. In fact, he has directed us in the non-hypocritical way of being discerning. Jesus does allow that we should correct sin — first our own, and only then the sin of others so that we can do it in a more effective way.

 

Those two words, “judge not,” can threaten to stop a dialogue.

But two more words can restart it: “keep reading.”

The “judge not” in Matthew 7:1 is not the end of the chapter.

By the third verse Jesus has pointed out that we should indeed be judging our own spiritual state:

“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

By the fifth verse Jesus commands that a hypocrite ought to take the beam out of his own eye:

“And then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

We already have several reasons to suspect that Jesus wants people to draw clear moral lines.

For one thing, Jesus hasn’t denounced moral discernment. In fact, he has directed us in the non-hypocritical way of being discerning. Jesus does allow that we should correct sin — first our own, and only then the sin of others so that we can do it in a more effective way.

For another thing, by saying all of this, Jesus himself is setting the model of drawing a clear moral line. Can the one who accuses people of being hypocrites really be against drawing clear moral lines?

Assume for a moment that Jesus was following his own stated standards and not himself being a hypocrite. How, then, was he able to do it? By the very means he has described:

Jesus has first considered whether he has sin of his own that could be clouding his vision. He doesn’t. Jesus knows he is able to “see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

In Jesus’ case, of course he had no sin. But Jesus apparently thought that his advice applied to ordinary folks too.

Just about anyone is capable of casting out a beam from his eye if he does a little introspection. By common grace we all have minds capable of identifying gross hypocrisy, even prior to conversion.

Keep reading.

As we continue, it becomes more clear that Jesus is not against discernment or the drawing of clear moral lines.

Verse 6 says:

“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine.”

Verse 6 is part of the context in which we must understand verse 1.

Does it matter that the one who said “judge not” then commanded us to differentiate between the type of people who are worthy vs. unworthy of receiving what we have to offer?

How can all of this be?

Is Jesus actually in favor of discernment and the drawing of clear moral lines? If so, then what does “judge not” even mean?

Verse 11 offers a hint. Jesus has shifted to the topic of prayer. He points out that:

“If ye then, being evil…”

Reading this, it is hard to imagine Jesus being against the drawing of clear moral lines. He is willing at least on some occasions to tell people they are evil.

We see Jesus drawing line after line.

Keep reading.

Verses 13–14:

“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

According to Jesus, there will be a clear division between those who find life and those who find only destruction.

The difference? Did you enter in the narrow way? Or the broad way?

Your actions will lead to your fate, which will one day be determined by “the Judge of the Earth” (Genesis 18:25).

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