Commonly Misused Bible Verses: Matthew 7:1

Both Christians and unbelievers are guilty of misusing Bible verses by ripping them from their original context.

This is the third post in the “Commonly Misused Bible Verses” series. If you haven’t read the other articles you may be interested to see my comments on 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Jeremiah 29:11. These two verses are often cited by Christians as though they were promises made to them by God, but that is not what the context shows. This post will focus on a verse that is routinely ripped out of its context by unbelievers.

 

Commonly Misused Bible Verse #3: Matthew 7:1

John 3:16 used to be the most famous Bible verse, but it may be accurate to say that another verse has now taken its place. During His famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated the following words:

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1, NKJV)

This verse seems to be used whenever someone objects to a (possibly) well-intentioned Christian who points out that a particular behavior or practice is sinful. Unbelievers and even professing Christians are quick to say that Jesus told us we aren’t supposed to judge so we’d better just keep our opinions to ourselves. But is that really what Jesus was teaching?

Let’s take a look at the context.

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1–5, NKJV)

Notice that the point of Jesus’ teaching here is that we are not to be self-righteous or hypocritical in our judgment. For example, if I was an alcoholic, then I have no business telling someone how sinful they are for being an alcoholic. That’s hypocritical. However, if I do not have a “plank” in my own eye, then I can see clearly to remove the speck from my brother’s eye. In other words, if I am living a godly life, then I can be in a position where I can properly point out sin in another person’s life. This should be done with gentleness and respect, rather than self-righteous judgmentalism.

There are several problems with someone citing this verse as “proof” that a Christian should never try to point out sin in someone’s life. First, later in the same chapter Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves…by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:15, 20, NKJV). How can you possibly know who is a false prophet unless you make judgments about their “fruits” (teaching, actions, etc.)? Obviously, we must make judgments in these cases.

Second, Jesus and the apostles demonstrated on numerous occasions that we need to make judgments of sinful behavior. Jesus showed mercy to the woman caught in adultery, but then He said to her “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). When Simon the sorcerer thought he could buy God’s gift of the Holy Spirit with money, Peter said, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God” (Acts 8:20–21, NKJV). Paul publicly rebuked Peter for leading people astray by slipping back into a form of legalism (Galatians 2:11–21). So when professing Christians cite Matthew 7:1 out of context, they reveal their ignorance of the examples set by our Lord and His apostles.

Third, notice the absolute hypocrisy of the person who tells you not to judge. What did they just do when they told you not to judge? They judged you. They made a judgment that what you were doing was wrong, and then they went ahead and hypocritically told you that you shouldn’t ever tell people that they are wrong.

The Bible is very clear that we need to make judgments. We need to know God’s Word and be guided by the Holy Spirit so we will know what is wrong and right, and we need to point out sin in a person’s life and plead with them to repent of their sin and trust in Christ. At the same time, we must not be hypocritical in our judgment. We need to constantly examine our own lives and then “go and sin no more.”

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About Tim Chaffey

I am the founder of Midwest Apologetics and work as the Content Manager with the Attractions Division of Answers in Genesis. I have written (or co-authored) several books, including In Defense of Easter, God and Cancer, The Sons of God and the Nephilim, and The Truth Chronicles Series (see the publications page for more details). Please note: the opinions expressed on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of Answers in Genesis.

Comments

Commonly Misused Bible Verses: Matthew 7:1 — 29 Comments

  1. Simple: People whether christian or not. Use “Dont judge” because theyre guilty of a sin or sins and become angry when they are rebuked.

  2. Thank you for great understanding, and interpretation of Scripture. We all need to act as the Breans’ did. Baruch HaShem.

  3. I did read your scripture that was stated as taken out of context for where 2 or 3 agree as touching anything….. And also Judge not lest you be judged…. I read all the content and the woman in the adultery situation already knew what she did and if God meant it to be that you can judge another if you have not the same sin then she would have been stoned to death and Jesus would not have said let he that is among you without sin cast the first stone. Your comments do not bear witness with the Holy Spirit.

    • Hi Lisa,
      Thanks for reading the posts and taking the time to comment. I think you have misunderstood my point or I didn’t make it clear enough in my post.
      I would be careful about basing an argument on the passage about the woman caught in adultery (known as the pericope adulterae) because there is considerable textual evidence to show that it may not have been part of the original. It is not found in the earliest manuscripts that we have, and from the writings we still have, no church father ever comments on it. That being said, many conservative scholars think it is authentic, but that it doesn’t belong at that part in John. Some manuscripts have it later in John, and several have it in Luke’s Gospel right after chapter 21. The writing style matches Luke’s writing more than John’s. For more on this topic, please see: https://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2015/05/02/is-the-story-of-the-woman-being-stoned-for-adultery-in-john-7-8-authentic-3/
      That being said, let’s assume for the sake of argument that it does belong right where it is in John’s Gospel. Would your claim about my posts stand up? I don’t believe it would. Even in this story of the woman caught in adultery, the people who brought her before Jesus are being extremely hypocritical. Sure, they may not have been engaged in adulterous acts, but where is the man that she was caught with? Why didn’t they bring him to Jesus as well? After all, it takes two to tango, right?
      Furthermore, Jesus did not condemn the people who brought the woman for their claim that what she did was wrong. Jesus even acknowledged that what she did was sinful: “Go and sin no more.” Obviously, she had been sinning, and he told her to stop doing it. So it wasn’t wrong for the crowd to point out the sin. He simply stopped them from attempting to carry out the judgment.
      Anyway, I think you may either be reading too much into my comment or perhaps my example wasn’t a very good example about being hypocritical or self-righteous in our judgment. We see many examples in Scripture of godly men calling on other people to refrain from sinning. Paul confronted Peter publicly in Antioch about his sin (Galatians 2:11–21). It would have been hypocritical for Paul to do this if he were guilty of doing the same thing as Peter. Of course, it’s possible that two believers can be engaged in the same sinful behavior when one of them becomes convicted of it and says, “Hey, we need to stop doing this because it’s sinful.”
      Sadly, we live in a world that cries, “Stop judging me!” whenever a Christian talks about sinful behavior. And while our job is not to run around pointing out everyone’s sin, there are times when we must simply call sin what it is: sin. Instead, too many professing Christians make excuses for those actions, and sometimes they end up enabling it and condoning it.
      It’s one thing to point out sin and attempt to help another person through it. It’s something else to act as prosecutor, jury, and judge and condemn the person.

      • Thank you so much Tim for your patience and love in presenting to us the gospel in its context. Especially in clarifying our misconceptions. May God continue to use you greatly!

    • The reason she was not stoned, is because the others were sinners also. Jesus told them (the one’s who wanted to stone her) that they could stone her if they were sinless. And that’s why her life was spared. And furthermore, the answer lies in Christ himself, besides being God Himself, he is sinless and therefore worthy to judge. Likewise, we are able to judge other Christians, if we are not committing the same sin in our lives. Otherwise, how can anyone be led to Christ or even change our sinful behaviors. Maybe that’s why the world is in the state it’s in. Noone is judging (helping, correcting) their brothers and sisters in Christ with love!!

  4. Tim, I agree with you, I used to think that we should not judge anyone, especially when we look at ourselves and see our sins, but we do have to rightly divide the word and make sure we understand it. The more I try to do Gods will for me life the more I can understand the Bible. Thanks Phil

  5. Great article. I hear unbelievers- and even Christians- misuse these bible verses often. If someone even speaks out against something that is clearly wrong that are accused of being judgmental. It seems that a Christian is not entitled to an opinion yet atheists judge us all the time! Very encouraging article. Nice to hear someone speak the truth.

  6. Thanks Tim, You have done very well to show the “context” in which the scripture was used. God is not the author of confusion, because the bible spells out clearly that His purpose is to give us “sound mind”. So, the confusion is created from us. As someone who did use this scripture out of context for a while in the past, I appreciate the clarity with which you have brought it into the open. I do hope you continue to do this, and that the Holy Spirit continue to teach you, as you yield to Him. Thanks and God bless you.

  7. Thanks for your response, Tim. I hope my questions/concerns and your response will help others understand what we are to do as believers. We need to spread the word and save as many souls as possible. I was once lost and now I am found. I pray for the lost that they will be found as it is a wonderful thing knowing Jesus died for our sins!

  8. I have struggled with people being very rude pointing out others’ sins when it is a known fact the ones bringing down the judgement have sin in their lives.

    If one is an adulterer and then continually quotes homosexual type sin verses, or if one is is an embezzler and slams the adulterer, doesn’t this encourage non believers to want to run from the hypocrites?

    I have friends that are gay, and I have a very hard time telling them they are going to hell or that they are sinning. I believe that Jesus died for our sins, and I believe we need to accept Him, but I have a hard time with judgement when I have so many areas that I feel are sin in my life.

    For the record, I do believe that a sin is a sin and that all sins separate us from God.

    I just think that the approach to which some people take is more harmful than helpful. The gentle approach is best and maybe one day I can have those conversations when led. Thank you.

    • Rachel,
      I would agree that the approach some people take is more harmful than helpful. Our goal as Christians is not to impose morality on unbelievers, but we do need to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with lost sinners on their way to eternal punishment. Part of understanding why the gospel is good news is the unbeliever recognizing that he or she is in rebellion against God so that they recognize their need for a Savior. Romans 1–2 tells us that people can know certain things about God through creation or conscience, but many people suppress that truth in unrighteousness. You do not need to be perfect to let someone know that what they are doing is sinful nor do you always need to focus on one particular sin. For example, you mentioned that you have friends who are gay (most of us do). Have they lied before? Have they committed any other sins? Focusing on the sin of homosexuality will probably not be the most effective approach, but if you can show them that they sin in other ways, then they can still recognize their need for the Savior.
      Finally, remember that if you truly do care about someone, then you should care enough to tell them the truth. You aren’t the one who judges them—God will. But you can show them from God’s Word that what they are doing is sinful (deep down, they often know this already). Informing someone that what they are doing is sinful is not the same as judging—it’s warning them about judgment. But if we go by the popular definition of “judging” in our culture, then if anyone tells you that you are judging them, just ask them why they just “judged” you. They just did the very thing they don’t want you to do. The fact is that they know it is sinful and they don’t want to be reminded of it. We don’t need to be rude when handling these things. If they are your friends, then they should know that you care about them and should be willing to listen to you even in areas where you disagree.

  9. Hi Tim,

    I really appreciate this post as it has been my thinking for a long time that this verse is seriously misused and out of context – not at all meaning “Don’t Judge” as many Christians and non-Christians alike both misuse.

    I personally believe that the bible calls for us to judge one another (Christians), but leave those who aren’t followers of God/Jesus, to God, as he will judge them.

    I feel that 1Cor5:9-13, and 1Cor6:1-onwards is quite clear in the handling of these matters.

    I have many friends who are gay, and I have no problem with them at all.. because from what I read here, it is not my place to Judge them for who they are or what they are doing… they have not chosen to be under God, and hence they are his responsibility, not mine.

    However… if a homosexual (or any overt sinner for that matter) came into the church, was claiming that he could follow Jesus and yet be an actively gay (or whatever), then I would be very Judgemental in this situation – to the point of 1Cor5:13 “… Expel the wicked person from amongst you”.

    I know this might seem like a contradictory situation, but I think those who do slander, judge and hate those who have not chosen to be under God, then they are going against Gods word.

    1Cor6:1 is quiet clear. We are qualified to Judge one another and settle disputes amongst ourselves.

    Excellent post mate.

      • What is a life style? If I drive 56 mpH in a 55 mph zone, do I live a”lifestyle” of speeding? I know speeding is wrong because it is against the law, endangers others, takes money and resources away from more profitable pursuits, etc. I say Nay. I am a sinner, saved by grace. If you disagree with me, feel free to let me know, once. Beyond that, work on your log and leave my mite alone. Discernment is a gift of the Holy Spirit. The devil is our accuser daily. Love. Peace.

  10. I am not a homosexual, so I judge homosexual lifestyle as sinful. This according to Scripture. There are parts of my life I am not so clear on, but I still judge according to the Bible. I know by this I am judging my self, as I am doing it. Trying to fight it, but still falling into this sin. How do we solve this? You know what is right. You tell others, but you know you do not live godly to the letter. It really kind of tears you up from the inside.

    Thank you for great site.

    • I think what you are describing is very similar to what Romans 7 talks about. As long as we are still in our mortal bodies, we will struggle with sin. We should be growing and becoming more like Christ, but as the Holy Spirit works on (and in) us, He reveals more and more of our sin that needs to be done away with. The fact that it bothers you (and other maturing believers) is probably a good evidence that He’s working on you. Keep up the good fight.

  11. Hi Tim. I agree we are to point out that what they are doing is sin in Gods eye and that we do not agree with their lifestyle choices since it is against God. However I feel a lot of people take this verse and use it to Judge people harshly and doing it quite rude. I dislike when people rudely say stuff like (you are going to hell because of … or you are completely sinful and you need to change.) We can tell them however (I don’t agree with what you are doing. This is a sinful act against God. I can not change you but God can. I will pray for you.) And we are to be there for them in a friendship to show them how God wants us to live. So they can see by our example that we are living a Godly life. So when they need God the most they will come to us for help in receiving the Lord. I just dislike hypocritical people that feel they should Judge everyone sins without getting to know the person and giving them the chance to see Gods love. People need to be gentle like you said when pointing it out. We do not want to push people away from God but to bring them closer to him.

  12. thank you Tim for this excellent post. i personally have been attacked with this verse twice now. i would very much appreciate another post on romans 10.
    i try to read the scripture within the context of the time, the place the apostle was preaching, the audience he was preaching to and keep in mind their other writings. in other words, i try hard not to pull scripture out of context to suit my own beliefs or agenda. this makes me a target of those who read scripture as a way to support their beliefs.
    these are the same people who ignore scripture that doesnt suit their belief system.

    there are all to many who only want to believe that God is love, while dismissing that God is righteous also. that with mercy comes discipline. while some of these may have vastly more scripture memorized than i, it does not mean they have a better comprehension of the meaning.

    so sad that this is happening, but 2 thess 2 warns many of our fellow believers will be under a delusion to believe that what is wrong…is right.

  13. Hi Tim,

    Blessings to you brother for being salt and light of this earth.

    I encourage you to go on with your work of explaining bible verses within their proper contexts. I agree completely with your explanation of Matthew 7: 1. A lot of well-meaning Christians come away, after reading this verse, with the impression that we are to simple turn a blind eye and “zip it” when we see wrong being done by others. The danger of misinterpreting this verse is the penchant to look away and ignore sin, which is far from our Christian duty. As salt and light of the earth, we are to love our neighbors and point them to Jesus Christ and appropriate His righteousness unto our lives. While we should be examples of gentleness, kindness, love and forgiveness in relating to others, it is also our duty to correct and rebuke those who err with the end of restoring them. The only prerequisite is that we should check ourselves first, not only if we are guilty of the same error, but also our attitude: that we should correct out of love, not out of condemnation. Christ came not to condemn, but to save the lost.

    We ourselves were once lost. Now we have the saving knowledge of Christ and given discernment by the Holy Spirit. As iron sharpens iron, we have been given knowledge of the truth and hence must continually discern righteous from sinful living. 1 Corinthians 2: 15 says that the spiritual man judges all things… It doesn’t give us the license to judge (for there is only one law giver and one Judge), but it tells us to stay spiritually sharp in discerning truth from error.

    Therefore, Matt 7: 1 is not a proscription on identifying sin in others. It merely tells us to call sin for what it really is but only after we have done self-examination (of both our behavior and attitude), and only in a way that shows love for others. This is subsumed in the verse God disciplines those whom he loves.

    If we adopt the thinking to just ignore others, especially our loved ones, from sinning, what do you think would happen to all of us.

    Blessings!

    July

  14. None of us lead godly
    Lives! There is none righteous… No one. We pursue it as Christ followers. So the point of sayi g I live godly, so
    I can point out another’s sin is ridiculous!

    • Hi Shelli,
      I believe you mean well, but you are mistaken. First of all, I said, “If I live godly….” Second, what do you do with all of the passages in Scripture that talk about people who lived godly lives? 2 Peter 2:9 says that God knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations (for examples he mentioned Noah and Lot. Do you think any Christian on earth is as godly as Lot was?). Titus 2:12 states that we should live godly in this present age. Is that impossible? If so, then why are we instructed to do so? 2 Timothy 3:12 says that anyone who desires to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. I realize that it says “desire” so it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are doing it, but by the Spirit’s strength within us, we can. Psalm 32:6 says that the godly man will pray to God. So who are all these godly people if it is ridiculous? Yes, we are supposed to pursue godliness. We agree on that point, and in Christ, we can lead godly lives. While it may seem like living godly should mean that we never sin, it actually means that we live our lives in such a way that we honor God. Certainly Lot was sinful, yet he was called godly.
      Finally, the point of this series was to show how people misuse Bible verses, and that’s exactly what you did by quoting Romans 3:10 in this way. Do you know the context of that verse? Do you know the context of where it was originally written and how Paul was using it? If there are none righteous, then how could Lot be called righteous in Peter 2:7? I’ve been contemplating writing a post on Romans 3:10 and how it is often misused. Your comment has made me seriously consider it. Christians have Christ’s righteousness imputed unto them, so technically, all Christians are righteous, but not because of our own deeds. Paul’s point was that before coming to Christ, we are all unrighteous, but with Christ, we are righteous, and we can live godly lives.
      The point of this series is to encourage people to dig deeper into Scripture and study it, rather than trying to find one verse that seems to support something we want to believe, and then quoting it as if it proves our point. Do you really think it is ridiculous to point out another person’s sin? So was it ridiculous when Peter and Paul did it?

  15. Interesting reasoning. You’re not an alcoholic, so it’s alright for you to judge an alcoholic? I think it’s clear that you do not understand (or do not want to understand) this verse.

    • Hi Martin,
      Thanks for the comment. I think you missed the point of the post. I didn’t say it was alright for me to judge an alcoholic. I stated that if I am living a godly life, then I can be in a proper position to point out sin in a person’s life and that this must be done with gentleness. This doesn’t mean that I’m judging them. It means that I’m making a determination (or judgment, if you will) about their behavior. I can tell someone that a particular behavior is sinful (if God’s Word says that it’s sinful), but that doesn’t mean I’m judging the person. God is the one who will judge, but Jesus did instruct us to look at the “fruit” of a person’s life and to beware of those who promote false teachings and the self-righteous hypocrites.
      I’m not sure if you read the whole article, but by telling me that it’s clear that I do not understand (or do not want to understand) this verse, you just judged me. So apparently it’s okay for you to be judgmental about my alleged judgmentalism?
      The fact of the matter is that we all make judgments every day. We make decisions and determinations about what is right and wrong, or what is better or worse. The point of the article is that we are not to be self-righteous hypocrites in those judgments, which I’m sure I have been at times.

      • I would not listen to people who are disagreeing with you. You are reinforcing what God says, yet there are some would are people pleasers and would rather not speak out against anything wrong. Jesus, as you know, did not care what others thought. He testified of their evil and they hated him. If it was now, they would be calling him judgmental! Look at what he did when he chased everyine out if the temple. He did not sit backo and allow it fir fear if being seen as judgmental! Very insightful and truthful article. God bless.

      • Interesting stuff, and while I agree with the meat of this post, I can see why the use of an alcoholic as an example could stir such a response.

        As an alcoholic who has recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body, I can say with confidence that it was the judgement of (and further discernment with) fellow alcoholics that helped guide my path into His light. These were not all Godly people that helped me to see the Truth, and some of them remain considerably spiritually sick to this day. They were able to help me anyway, and in doing so, I believe that I was helping them too.

        In my early sobriety, it was very much the case that my service to other alcoholics (including my own judgements and determinations) was the very thing that helped me to overcome mental obsession, physical craving, and the overall spiritual sickness that comes with the disease of alcoholism… again, ultimately bringing me to closer contact with God.

        When I was still sick, any judgement – well meaning or not – from a non-alcoholic drove me to stay sick. It took the judgments of other alcoholics (sometimes with a whole forest in their eye!) to help me to see myself accurately and with clarity… and it was from that point that I was able to make the approach toward a spiritual life.

        I like how Emmet Fox approaches this verse in “Sermon on the Mount”, when he says quite simply “….that this is an example of the Law of Life that, as we think, speak, and act toward others, so will others think, speak, and act toward us.” With this in mind, it’s not so much about it being good or bad to judge (we all judge, regardless) what we should examine is how and why we are judging… is our judgement for the purpose of being helpful to others or is it being helpful to the growth of our own ego?

        And this, I think, speaks more the meat of your post (and your response to the alcoholic backlash)… we should strive to judge out of Love and the spirit of helpfulness and not out of fear or with self seeking motives, because we will inevitably be judged by others on the same basis we use. “By what measure ye mete…”

        So, by that token, when I could recognize that I was being judged by my peers under a self-righteous and hypocritical light, it served a great purpose for me in understanding that I might be (and most definitely was) doing the very same.

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