There are some who would say that John 3:16 is the most famous verse in the Bible. I would argue however, that Matthew 7:1 would be the most often quoted verse in the Bible. I say that because of how many people are so quick to say "don't judge me, doesn't Jesus say that you are not allowed to judge." And in fact, Jesus does say that. He says, "do not judge so that you will not be judged."
But does that mean we are never to judge. It might seem contradictory to say this, but Jesus did not mean we are never to separate between right and wrong. In fact, later in the passage in verse 6, Jesus says that we are called to cease giving things that are holy to dogs or swine. Doesn't that mean we have to make a judgment about who the dogs or swine are? In addition to that, in verse 15, Jesus says that we are to watch out for false teachers. This means we will have to make a judgment about what is true and false.
Probably the most telling passage is found in John 7:24 where Jesus says "do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." So here we are told to judge, as long as we judge righteously. What does Jesus mean then? There are at least three ways that we should understand this command to not judge.
First, We Are Not To Be Judgmental. There will be many times when we are called to judge between what is right or wrong, between what is true or false. But we are never to be judgmental. This is the person who is always critical and condemning. They are that person you see walking down the hallway and you turn around because you know they will only be talking about negative things. They are quick to find fault in everything. There is a real negative spirit behind the judgment. It is almost like they find joy in pointing out the faults in other people.
Second, We Are Never To Judge Without First Looking At The Cross. This is the real point in verses 3-5 when Jesus says to take the log out of your eye before helping your friend with the speck. It means that when we see things in other people's lives, we should not look down our long nose with disgust, but we should be driven to our knees as we look at the cross. Their sin should be a reminder of our sin. If we ever get to the place where we forget the cross, we will become that judgmental person Jesus is talking about.
Third, We Are Never To Judge That Which We Can't See. This means we can't just the heart or motives of people. God sees them and is a much better judge. We can't see them, so why would we judge them. We can and should deal with the fruit that people display (as in the example of the false teachers), but we can't deal with the seed s it begins to grow in the heart. We can deal with how people respond, but not necessarily why they do.
The issue of judging others is very difficult and should be entered into with caution. It should always remind us that we will one day be laid open and bare before our Lord as He, the perfect judge, judges us (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Why Do You Think This Issue Of Judging Is Difficult?
If you want to listen to my full message on Matthew 7:1-6, it is usually uploaded by Tuesday afternoon HERE