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Matthew 7:1-5 NIV: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Is the judgment to be avoided that from other people and this text is therefore practical wisdom that others will treat you as you treat them, or is this implying that God's eschatological judgment is on a sliding scale based on how we treat/judge others?

  • @elikakohen Yes. Another way to ask it is, "What is the motivation that Jesus is invoking for us not to judge?" Are we not judging others so as to avoid their return judgments or judgmentalism on us, or is he giving us an insight into acquiring a favorable outcome in the final judgment? – Joseph O. Sep 21 '17 at 17:06
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I suppose looking at the verse in complete isolation as you suggest, one could argue that Jesus might be speaking of avoiding worldly rather than heavenly judgment.

This is not what is suggested, however, in the parallel passage in Luke (6:36-38):

Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged

This is also suggested further on by Matthew, who refers to your Father in heaven (7:11).

That this verse refers to heavenly judgement also seems to be consistent with Apostolic teaching elsewhere in Scripture. Paul, for example, wrote:

Pass no judgment before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the thoughts of the heart; and then everyone will have his praise from God (1 Corinthians 4:5).

Further, it seems that no Church Father interpreted the verse in the manner you suggest. John Chrysostom (4th century Byzantine Greek), for example, writes:

"It is not the other", says Christ, "that you condemn, but yourself, and you are making the judgment-seat dreadful for your self and the account strict" (Homily XXIII on Matthew)

  • @user22515 - +1. I forgot the passage in 1 Corinthians 4:5 for some reason! But, the OP suggests two interpretations ... which one is being supported by Chrysostom? Is "eternal judgment" contingent on if we "judge others" or not? – elika kohen Sep 21 '17 at 15:17
  • Puzzled where I or any other contributor has suggested "looking at the verse in complete isolation." The pericope appears to be Mat. 7:1-7:5 and it is quoted in full (thanks to Johnny's contribution) which shows that no "complete isolation" is being promoted. Suggest a wider pericope for the passage or perhaps consider editing your post. – Joseph O. Sep 21 '17 at 15:23
  • Matthew 7:1-5 belongs to a trio of similar passages from the Gospels: (a) Matthew 7:1-5 (II.50, V.51), (b) Mark 4:24 (II.41); and (c) Luke 6:36:-38, 41-42 (II.56, V.59) - where (XX.yy) denotes the passage's place(s) in the Eusebian canon. This is the wider context I was alluding to - hence the passage from Luke. – user33515 Sep 21 '17 at 17:29
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1. Question:

Rephrase: According to Matthew 7, Is our "final judgment" by God, (in the eschatological sense), contingent on how/if we judge others in our lives? Or, is Jesus stating that you can expect people to not judge you, if you don't judge them?

Context: Throughout this sermon, Jesus' is consistently speaking about judgment from the "father":

NASB, Matthew 6:1 - ... otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

NASB, Matthew 7:21 - “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.


2. Answer - It is God's Judgment that is Rendered According to our Own:

NKJV, James 2:13 - For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

According to Scripture, Christian's are commanded to "judge with mercy" - regardless of how they are judged. God's final judgement is contingent on how people judge each other.

A person is only "Just" before God, if they judge with mercy as Jesus advocated for their mercy - unconditionally.

NASB, Ezekiel 7:27 - According to their conduct I will deal with them, and by their judgments I will judge them. And they will know that I am the Lord.’”

Matthew 18:35 - My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

The New Testament Teaches that Good deeds do not entail Reciprocity - from people:

NASB, Titus 2:6-8 - Likewise urge the young men ... to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, 8 sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.

So, "judging with mercy" is neither a sufficient or even necessary condition for others to judge you with mercy.

However, one can find favor and prudence with God and man because of truth and mercy:

NASB, Proverbs 3:3-4 - Do not let kindness | mercy, (חֶ֖סֶד, Micah 7:18) and truth leave you; Bind them ... 4 So you will find favor and good repute | prudence, (שֵׂ֫כֶל) In the sight of God and man.
Merriam-Webster, Prudence: Good Judgement, Caution, Use of Reason.


3. Clarification - Seemingly Contradictory Commands:

To Judge ...

NASB, John 7:24 - Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous [equanimity] judgment.”

Or not to Judge ...

Matthew 7:1-5 NIV - “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Important Note: The word "Righteous" - as we understand it in the religious sense today - does not appear anywhere in Hebrew or Greek texts. The word δίκαιος, (Logeion), means "Just", "Equanimity", "Lawful"; and, "δίκαιος" was understood - at that time - in this legal and moral sense - without necessarily conveying a religious idea. Every instance of "Righteous", in Biblical texts, can properly be replaced with "Just".

In other words, Jesus' commandment is:

Paraphrase, Mathew 7 - Do Not Judge with Condemnation, but Judge with equanimity (justly), with mercy, as you hope to be judged [by God].


4. Explanation - This is the Fear of God and the Beginning of Wisdom:

There is a very big difference between "Accepting People" and "Approving what they do". "Identifying a wrong" is not the same thing as "proclaiming that wrong" and then responding by injecting death into them, (by diminishing their life).

In English, we often use "Judge" in two different ways - conflating: "To pass a verdict" and also "To Condemn". In our society, we very rarely contemplate the ability to Judge with "Mercy".

If "True Justice" is "Equanimity", (balanced scales), then the one who appeals for mercy before God forfeits their right to condemn. Any other form of Judgment - would be "Unjust" - not "righteous" - and cannot fulfill Jesus' commandment.

Example: "No, I cannot be your advocate in court." According to Scripture, this judgment might be returned as, "No, I [Jesus] cannot defend you before the Father."

Scripture, in many places states that God will render judgments - according to their own judgments:

NASB, Ezekiel 7:27 - According to their conduct I will deal with them, and by their judgments I will judge them. And they will know that I am the Lord.’”

James 2:13 - For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

Christians are Empowered to Forgive - in view of Eternity:

Matthew 18:18 - Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

John 20:23 - If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

Christians are Commanded to ALWAYS judge with Mercy:

NASB, Matthew 6:12 - ‘And forgive us our debts, AS we also have forgiven our debtors.

NASB, Matthew 6:14 - For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

NASB, Ephesians 4:32 - Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just AS God in Christ also has forgiven you.

1 Corinthians 4:5 - Therefore do not go on [a]passing judgment before [b]the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.

2 Corinthians 5:18 - Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,


5. Is the Command for Unconditional Mercy "Unwise"?

Some argue that judging with unconditional mercy, (as Jesus did on the cross, See: Luke 23:34), is not "wise". Again, "Acceptance" is not "Approval". It is only "Acceptance" and "Togetherness" that strengthens people to withstand temptation and from stumbling, (Hebrews 12:12). Mercy does *not** approve* of ungodliness; rather, mercy can only happen once sin is recognized.

In the New Testament, "judgments and consequences" for sin are mentioned, (divorce, separation from the Body, 1 Corinthians 5:2, etc.). However, Jesus said that provisions like these were given only because of the hardness and stubbornness of peoples' hearts, (Matthew 19:8) - but it was never intended to be this way "from the beginning".

Wisdom is NOT always "Just": Wisdom never returns evil for evil, it always seeks to inject life - regardless. There is only one exception where Wisdom will impute death: against others who inject death into others through their condemnations.

So, "Judgment" must always be rendered with mercy: for the intent of reconciliation (2. Corinthians 5:18), and "life". Otherwise, it is wrongful condemnation. (For example: A fundamental issue of our prison systems today is that prisoners are often released with more toxicity/death than they came in with - regardless of what happened.) Yes, perhaps it might be "just" to inject death into those who may have caused death - but never wise. "Wisdom" will judge those who are contrary to God's desire for the wicked to repent, (through his kindness, Romans 2:4), and for them to have "abundant life", (Ezekiel 18:32).

Don't get me wrong, this is THE most difficult and greatest command in all of Scripture, to: "love as I have loved you" - unconditionally, (John 13:34).

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Meaning of Judge

First, let's consider the word "judge". It can mean two things in the English language. One is to pass judgement on someone, the other is to observe. The bible encourages us to observe throughout, particularly "you'll know them by their fruits," so we're commanded to judge others in that sense.

But what of the sense of passing Judgement?

I feel we should consider the whole verses:

7 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Here, we are given some examples to clarify it. That, if you have major problems, but instead of addressing those you worry about others' (lesser) problems, that's surely going to do you no good.

In other verses, we get more examples. The parable of the man who owed a great sum to the king, but wouldn't forgive a servant who owed him a small sum was sent to the torturers. If we are so unfair that we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us.

The Pharisees are another example of this, where Christ said they laid heavy burdens on men's backs, but do not lift a finger themselves. They were quick to judge, and slow to improve themselves.

Conclusion

To return to your original question, I feel it is safe to say that we should act fairly. But more than that, we should remember the mercy we get is unfairly good in our favour--so we should be more than fair ourselves.

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

This to me speaks clearly in the simpler sense. If we put measures to others, they will be put to us. If we are not merciful in our judgement, we will not have mercy.

Certainly, we cannot infer that others will treat us as we treat them, as that is rarely the case. The bible says do unto others as you'd have them do unto you, but it does not say they will treat you as you treat them. Quite the contrary, it tells us to expect persecution, to turn the other cheek, and to be better than the World.

God's Judgement

Let's not forget, however, that God is the judge, and we can use His judgement of sin.

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We as intelligent beings are "condemned" to judge, that is to say, estimate actions, tell good from evil, which faculty is engrafted in our very hearts, as an innate law written on fleshly tablets of our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33; 2 Cor. 3:3; Romans 2:15); thus, it is not only impossible for is not to judge, but it is not even permissible, for by not judging, we shall stray from our basic human faculty of thinking and distinguishing good from evil, in order to embrace the first and avoid the second.

In this light, Jesus' saying "judge not, and you shall not be judged" should be understood thus: "you should judge, but first of all your own self, hone your own conscience and find out evil inclinations, habits in yourself in order to overcome them, and in order to ask God, the Principal Judge, forgiveness for them. And, now see, how do you judge yourself? with what purpose? with a purpose to condemn yourself, or to become better, with a vision that God will be merciful and forgive? Of course the latter is true! Therefore, you should look similarly also at others who sin: not to condemn them and hate them, but treat them as you have treated yourself: desire for them forgiveness and healing from God, love them despite their misdeeds as you continue loving yourself despite your misdeeds.

And here is a profound theological wisdom in the saying: "first take plank from your eye and then you will know how to take speckle from neighbor's eye": "plank" represents our misdeeds, because only our own misdeeds can be fully known by us, both in terms of actions and motivations, whereas "speckle" represents misdeeds of others, for we can know only a top of the iceberg, their wrong action itself, but never their motivations, at least in full, thus our estimation of deeds of others will always miss the point, more or less. Moreover, the saying tells us that we must try to help others improve themselves, but we must "take speckle from their eye" only on a condition that we have improved ourselves, otherwise all our efforts to educate others is a blatant hypocrisy.

Yet saintly people, who really have removed the "plank" from their own eye, will be able to help also others overcoming their sins, and treat them as lovingly and tenderly in that effort, as if taking a speckle from their eyes, even as Jesus, who, yes, knows and weighs our sins, but being Himself sinless, always helps us to overcome, defeat and abandon them.

Eventually, we, humans, shall become greater than angels, for angels are not judges, while we shall become judges (1 Cor. 6:3; Matt. 19:28), as God Himself, but God is such a judge who "judges", that is to say, condemns nobody (John 5:22; John 8:15; John 12:47), but whose love and mercy triumphs over His judgement (James 2:13), that is to say, who judges only for the reason to save, which means to give us that portion of the "consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29) of His salvific grace, that will be appropriate for burning up fully the timber and planks of our sins; therefore, He superabounds bestowal of His fire of love there, where sin abounds (Romans 5:20), for more "planks" are to be burned in order to save a lost sheep.

Exactly such judges should we become eschatologically: judges full of consuming fire of love, who condemn nobody, but wish all to be saved and come to the blissful knowledge of truth (1 Tim. 2:4).

To conclude and answer the question: not at all "practical morality", not a tiny bit of it! Jesus speaks of eternal things that amount to our final ontological status of becoming "perfect as our Heavenly Father" (Matt 5:48), as gods through Him.

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