Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
Many in our day are distorting the expression “do not judge” to mean acceptance of the behavior of others even if it violates scripture, common sense, or any absolute standards of right and wrong. According to this view, no one, no behavior, no thinking, no motive is wrong. Right and wrong, truth and lies are determined not by an absolute, God-given standard, but are relative to each situation. There are no absolute principles to guide us in making value judgments about our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and behavior. John Stott says it this way: “‘judge not’ cannot be understood as a command to suspend our critical faculties in relation to other people, to turn a blind eye to their faults (pretending not to notice them), to eschew all criticism and to refuse to discern between truth and error, goodness and evil.” The word “judgment” can be used in both a negative sense – being a censorious fault-finder of others – or in a positive way to indicate discernment between right and wrong, truth and error.
When Jesus says not to judge in Matthew 7:1, He is talking about the negative sense of the word “judge” to mean censoriousness, judging others harshly, being a fault-finder. John Stott says, “The censorious critic is a fault-finder who is negative and destructive towards other people and enjoys actively seeking out their failings. He puts the worst possible construction on their motives, pours cold water on their schemes and is ungenerous towards their mistakes.” The harsh critic sets a negative atmosphere in which everyone is ‘on edge’, in which creativity is stifled, and in which we set ourselves up as judges in which unconditional grace, acceptance and love are replaced by rewards for performance.
Jesus is not asking us to suspend all critical discernment toward the thoughts and actions of others nor to abandon absolute standards of right and wrong but rather that we would avoid being a harsh, fault-finding critic. The command to ‘judge not’ is a plea to be generous with others’ shortcomings, to apply God’s judgment, not our own, to others’ faults and to generously apply God’s grace toward the motives, thoughts and actions of others.