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Judge not, that ye be not judged (Matthew 7:1)

I have always considered the verb "to judge" to have two meanings: one is to judge in the position of the one having the authority of a judge, that is "to determine the guilt and, if there is such, to determine the degree of punishment". Another one is simply to pass a positive or a negative judgment about someone's actions or words without necessarily having the authority of pronouncing the punishment.

It looks like Matthew 7:1 doesn't imply the first meaning as it doesn't seem likely that Jesus was teaching against the institution of judges.

Thus, the second meaning is left. However, then does that mean that Jesus was teaching that his followers were now not allowed to pass any judgment about whether someone's actions were good or bad?

So, I am a bit puzzled here.

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I would recommend you to read: biblehub.com/matthew/7-1.htm –  Avinesh Nov 7 '13 at 1:24
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The verses which proceed this verse shed light on the intent. It appears to address the inability to judge clearly in regards to your brothers faults BEEFORE taking care of your own faults. Judge yourself first and be careful to judge others only through the same judgement you want them to judge you. Greater insight is found in Mt 18:15-19. Individuals have the authority to confront about sin, but the authority beyond that lies with two/three witnesses, then ultimately with the church when discipline is in order. Always the goal is restoration! –  Sarah Dec 5 '13 at 0:55
    
Many years ago while still in seminary the professor interpreted the passage as meaning GOSSIP as well as a judicial judgement , So my basic understanding is that GOSSIP is a more honest realistic meaning of the passage of scripture –  user3442 Feb 5 at 3:02
    
@Rev.D.E.Hughes, the passage could be seen as a statement of symmetry, as kind of the opposite of "love your neighbor as yourself": you will be treated as you treat others. Note that Mt 7:5 assumes the goal is to remove the speck from your brother's eye; this indicates that gossip cannot be all that is being talked about. –  Luke Breuer Feb 8 at 19:16
    
@LukeBreuer - In fact, looks like a valid answer to me. Why not post it as an answer instead of a comment that could be erased by moderators at any time? –  brilliant Feb 9 at 7:37

2 Answers 2

It was a call for hypocrites to examine themselves, and thus be qualified to judge others. Paul calls us to examine our hearts before taking communion. Revelation shows Christ judging the new churches for "budding sins" before He goes and judges the fullgrown sins in Jerusalem (hence the reference to Balaam and Jezebel in Rev. 2-3 and the false prophet and harlot in later chapters). Jerusalem failed to judge herself and take refuge under Christ's wings, and was thus judged. Judgment began, and still begins, at the house of God. If we are governed by God, that is, humble, then we are fit to govern, and He will exalt the Church. Examining oneself makes one qualified to be a judge. Adam failed and was given no greater responsibility. Noah was faithful and was given the authority to execute people if necessary, because he was a just man. Jesus is warning the Pharisees that they will be judged for their hypocrisy. They are like Lamech (70 x 7 vengeance) instead of like Jesus (70 x7 mercy). The Pharisees were not qualified to judge others because they failed to judge the same sins in themselves.

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"It was a call for hypocrites to examine themselves, and thus be qualified to judge others" - I am a bit puzzled by this. I guess by examining oneself everyone will see that he is not an will never be qualified to judge others, isn't? If so, then does it mean that humans are forbidden to judge others at all in this verse? –  brilliant Nov 7 '13 at 6:58
    
I replied but will edit it into the answer. –  Mike Bull Nov 8 '13 at 1:18
    
Thank you, but I am afraid it's a bit too abstract. How far should I (or any other man) go in examining myself in order to be qualified to judge? Examining oneself seems to me to be an endless process as long as we possess sinful flesh. And another question is this: If I see a sinful act in someone, which I admit I myself often commit, does that mean that I have no right to say that that act that that man is committing is a sin? Shortly put, can I call someone's sin a sin even if I myself don't deny having it? –  brilliant Nov 8 '13 at 5:06
  1. “Judge not, that you be not judged.
  2. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.
  3. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
  4. Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?
  5. You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

v5 makes it clear that the purpose of judging is healing, contra standard Pharisee behavior as outlined in Mt 23:1-4. In v4, Jesus implies that one cannot heal others of a sickness one has, and hasn't been healed of oneself. v3 insinuates, where Jesus later makes it clear, that there is something seriously wrong if you care about problems others have but not problems you have. In v2, Jesus outlines a danger in judging others by a given standard: that standard will be used to judge you. v1, therefore, is a warning to be careful of when and how you judge. It does not mean to never judge.

It is necessary to distinguish between:

  1. discerning between good and evil
  2. condemning

There are a plethora of verses calling us to do #1; a few are Rom 12:9, Eph 4:12-14, 5:17. On the other hand, the parable of the weeds (or of the wheat and tares) in Mt 13:24-30 instructs us to not to uproot weeds and burn them before "the harvest", which seems to be a Second Coming activity. Christians are not called to do #2.

Gal 6:1-5 describes one scenario for speck-removal:

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

Here we can also see that the point of catching people in transgression is to restore them.

P.S. I say 'us' and 'we' instead of 'Christians'; I can change this if desired.

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