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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