Judged By Your Own Standard – Matthew 7:1-2

American culture can fairly be described as a culture of condemnation and judging. Despite the pop-culture commitment to not judging others (“haters gonna hate,” “only God can judge me”), the culture we live in judges everything we wear, everything we say, and everything we do.

“Like it or not, you are being judged by how you look, how you dress, and how you carry yourself—and, if you’re lucky, how you do your job. As uncomfortable as it may be, we are under the microscope every day. Our employees, our colleagues, and our customers judge us by how we look, how we dress, our table manners, our grooming, and sometimes even how we do our job.” Ty Kiisel, Forbes OnLine, March 20, 2013.

These may be superficial judgements about fashion choices, but sometimes judgment runs deeper than the surface. Blondes are ditzy, fat guys are jolly, white girls like Pumpkin Spice lattes; tall people play basketball; people with glasses are smart, etc.

In this section of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells his disciples they should NOT judge. For those who hear this teaching out of context, they assume Jesus means we ought not to judge anything or anyone as wrong. Pop-culture turns this verse into the central teaching of Jesus, despite the fact there are plenty of people Jesus judges (Matthew 23, the condemnation of the Pharisees, for example).

As in English, the Greek verb “to judge” has a wide range of meaning. The word can refer to deciding between two options, such as a decision in a legal matter or in an argument between two people. It would be virtually impossible to not judge between two choices in life (I judge apple pie is better than chocolate cake, and opt to eat the pie every time.) Society has to have some system of justice, which implies someone will have to judge between right and wrong legally. Christians have long struggled to work out how to interpret and apply this commandment to “not judge.” “All these examples show how this commandment of the Sermon on the Mount was ‘domesticated’” (Luz, Matthew, 350).

There is nothing quite like this saying in Jewish, although a few parallels are often suggested. m. Abot 1:6 B “And give everybody the benefit of the doubt” and m. Abot 2.4 “And do not judge your fellow until you are in his place.”

Often, “judging others” is taken as condemnation on superficial issues. If I do not like the way a person dresses, I ought to refrain from condemning the person. Think of the church’s attitude toward long hair and bears on men in the 1960s. People with tattoos used to be scandalous, now it is no problem if the pastor has a tattoo. In fact, a tattoo might be a job qualification for doing youth ministry.

Taylor glares

Rather than prohibiting any judgment of a behavior as good or bad, a follower of Jesus ought not to presume to be in the place of God and pronounce a person as condemned. The saying is less about “I think your clothes are ugly” than looking at a person’s lifestyle and judging them as condemned by God. Jesus’s followers should be more interested in reconciling people to God than condemning them as sinners in the hands of an angry God.

By way of application, “evangelists” who go to college campuses and hold up signs declaring homosexuals as damned to hell are not doing any good. Think of the typical rescue mission in movies like Guys and Dolls: you have to listen to the sermon condemning you for being a drunkard and gambler before you can get some soup and coffee. On the other hand, a ministry like Craig Gross’s XXX church reaches out as non-judgmentally as possible to people struggling with pornography and works with people in the porn industry (at their “Porn & Pancakes” events, for example).

The corollary of this is also true: judging someone by their lifestyle and assuming they are right with God. A person who appears to be a solid Christian may not have a relationship with God at all!

The difficult problem is balancing moral discernment and personal condemnation (McKnight, Sermon on the Mount, 227). It is easy enough to state the Bible condemns a particular sin (adultery, drunkenness, etc.) but quite another not to personally condemn the sinner. Pennington adds the word “unfairly” to his translation: “Do not judge unfairly.” (Pennington, Sermon on the Mount, 256). Since the English word “judge” is almost entirely negative (practically equally to “condemn”), Pennington adds the modifier to get at what Jesus meant.

If we judge, Jesus says the same standard will be used against us. This saying implies the person who presumes to stand in the place of God and judge whether a person is condemned or not does not live up to their own standards. There are plenty of examples of evangelists or politicians who condemn some sexual sin as loudly as possible and are later caught in the very sin then condemned.

The ultimate example of non-judgmental outreach to sinners for the purpose of their reconciliation with God is Jesus, a “friend to the sinner.” Jesus eats with tax collectors and other sinners (Matthew 9:9-13, for example). This is more complex than “love the sinner, hate the sin.” When we model our lives after Jesus we will treat everyone with respect regardless of our view of their lifestyle.

How does this work in the real world? Is it possible (for you) to reach across cultural, social and religious lines and “be the love of Christ” to someone who is radically different? How does a Christian make a moral stand on an issue while also treating a person who disagrees with that moral stand with love and respect?

13 thoughts on “Judged By Your Own Standard – Matthew 7:1-2

  1. It is almost as if our human nature seeks to judge others. Every single day we are making judgments, even if they are small, and most times they are negative about ourselves, someone, or something. In Matthew 7, we read that the only judge is God. We were never called to be judgmental, rather when we are judging we are being hypocrites. McKnight writes, “to avoid the powerful indictment of being called ‘you hypocrite,’ we must clean up our own act by removing the plank of our own sins” (229). When we take on this posture, we realize that rather than coming from a place of judgment or disrespect, we should desire to show the same kind of grace and mercy given to us when we were entangled in our sin and shame. Our hearts should be broken by the fact that these individuals may not know the Lord, and we can show them the hope of Jesus. James 2:12-14 says, “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Our calling as Christians is to show the love of Christ through mercy, just as Christ showed us mercy when He died on the cross for us. It is not our responsibility to speak poorly or judge another. Which is an aspect that the church is struggling with today. Just because we know the Lord does not mean we are better than the person next to us. Instead of believing that it is our place in condemning the homosexual, the drunkard, the greedy, etc. we must remember that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. Culture believes that Christians are judgmental because many Christians have been trying to take on the role of God as judge. The culture has such a skewed perspective of Jesus because we have so poorly modeled His greatness. Jesus disagreed with many, and so will we. Jesus had differing beliefs and lived His life differently than many, and so will we. But Jesus showed respect and He loved without limits or hesitations. Our purpose on this earth was never to judge, but simply to love our neighbor as our self. It is up to us how we will show Jesus to this world, but we must first remember how Jesus showed loved to everyone.

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  2. Judged by your own standard I find this article very true we are being judged by many things that should not matter to like you mentioned how we look, how you dress, everything we do, everything we wear, and everything we say and its wrong to be looked at that way but that is how this society has become and I feel like everyone is in the wrong for doing it because there may always be someone that we do not get along with. Judging others is something we tend to do which is sad because God has created each of us single human beings in his own image. “The judging that Jesus condemns here is thinking about another person in a way that is contrary to love.” (Mcknight 227). Matthew 5:7 says “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Mcknight mentions this verse and he makes some points about clearing up the point so you are not being called a hypocrite so the main focus he mentions about is taking care of our own sins first he mentions we should not consider ourselves as God but instead seek and help others.

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  3. As human beings, it is easy for us to see someone and instantly judge them. We judge people for what they wear, how they look, what they say, what they do and what they do not do. We instantly jump to conclusions about the person and judge them for it. I love the point that you made about, “Jesus’s followers should be more interested in reconciling people to God than condemning them as sinners in the hands of an angry God.” Our jobs as Christians on this earth is not to judge others that are sinning. It is to bring those sinners to reconciliation with God. We cannot be acting as the condemners attempting to do the judging for God. God did not call us to be condemners. He called us to love one another. This does not mean that He is calling us to love sins. He is calling us to love people, the sinners. God calls us to be friends to the sinners. Jesus was the greatest example of this. He spent time with sinners all the time in hopes to bring them to reconciliation with God. I also love Pennington changed the phrase from “do not judge” to “do not judge unfairly.”

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  4. I can see how it’s very hard to separate the sinful action from the person. However, the action (even though not justified) is product of our sinful nature. We all fall short, but it’s displayed in different ways. Some people struggle with sexual sin, others struggle with worshiping money or even putting their security in their significant other. They are all some type of “missing the mark”. I once heard that us as humans look at sin like buildings downtown. We think some of them are taller than other, meaning they are worse than others. However, God’s perspective is from above. He only sees the rooftops of the buildings. They are all the same. They are all sin. We ought to take that perspective as well. After all, without God’s help we end up in the same boat. Being a Christian is a journey, not a destination; we cannot expect everyone to go at the same pace or have the same progress. We are all different and the only judge should be God.

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  5. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).” If one of my friends was to come to me and ask for help with a sin problem my first reaction would be to first talk with them about their problem. I would tell that friend that I’m not going to judge them, but what I am going to do is help them to the best of my ability, or point them to someone else who would better at being able to help them. I think the hardest part about judging people is because we all grew up differently. Someone who grew up in a city will have very different experiences, style, personality, and worldview than someone who was raised in the country. I learned in my Youth Ministry class that two people the same age from the same area will have two different personalities and experiences, despite having so much in common. Because of stereotypes and different pasts it makes it easy for us to look at someone and make conclusions about them even without talking with that person. It’s hard to not look at someone and judge them for their appearance, mannerisms or stereotypes. Anytime I meet someone new I think of the verse from the book of Matthew “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 (Matthew 7:1-2).” How are we to know who a person really is just by looking at them? “Kingdom people are called to love, not to act the part of God. Thus, judging others “is the forbidden evaluation of other persons.” It corrodes simple love (McKnight pg. 228).”

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  6. Our society has become one that reacts first, thinks second, and unfortunately most of the time that reaction is by condemning or judging. The prevalence of social media (or media in general) has given us the ability to instantly judge another’s actions or words without any consequences. Yes, it is in our sinful nature that we do find it easy to quickly pass judgement. However, as McKnight reminds us, we are warned that by judging others we are then “assuming the posture of God, not the posture of humans” (227). This should be a reminder to abstain from condemnation and judgement, whether it is a thought, a verbal action, or hiding behind a keyboard. McKnight’s statement is especially applicable when considering how to take a moral stand with love and respect. We can, and should, take a stand when it comes to issues that are unbiblical. However, the way we present ourselves and our opinions can be the making or breaking of how we are received. McKnight says that the “flipside of this posture of condemnation is love, humility, mercy and forgiveness” (227). I can think of many times when I heard someone preface a statement with “no offense, but….” Of course, the intent of the coming statement is to cause offense, or at least put the other person on guard. Our approach to a moral issue should not be prefaced with “no offense”, but rather simply brought with the attitude of humility and love. As the blog states, “when we model our lives after Jesus, we will treat everyone with respect regardless of our view of their lifestyle” (Long). We are living in a society that freely condemns and judges one another, even encourages it. It is our calling to be a light which embodies true respect and unconditional love, that we may be a representation of Christ’s unconditional love for us.

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  7. Dr. Long,
    I want to comment on the statement you made in your blog. You said,”it is easy enough to state the Bible condemns a particular sin (adultery, drunkenness, etc.) but quite another not to personally condemn the sinner” (2018). I 100% agree with this statement you have made! I cannot express enough how often I see other Christians condemning another person for sin. For example, this happens a lot within my family. But, I think it is important to point out that no one is perfect–no, not even a Christian. No matter how much you pray, go to church, read the Bible, resist temptation, you will still succumb to temptation at some point because that is human nature and that is why we need Jesus in order to be forgiven because we cannot save ourselves through a life of no sin because we are not without sin–ever. So, as a Christian myself I always find it curious to see Christians judging and condemning others because they are not without sin either. Romans 5:12 says, “therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…” (ESV). Just as Scripture says, all have sinned.
    So, I think that as Christians we can state the Bible condemns a certain sin, but it is important that we do not condemn the sinner personally because that is only for God to condemn, not us.

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  8. It’s so incredibly difficult to not judge others in our every day circles. I actually believed when I was a child that in heaven someday, all of the people there will look very similar, and that there wouldn’t be any diversity. I believed this because I couldn’t think it possible for some people to have desired characteristics and others not have them. I understand now that the flesh we live in today is not just sinful, it is perfectly designed by God and although there are flaws in many humans bodies that God will perfect one day, He created diversity and differences in us as beautiful things. It’s so sad to recognize when I am judging others or even envious of others for something they have, or being upset when someone does something a certain way I’m not fond of. I know that I am heaping coals on my own head when I judge others, because I can in no way keep the law like I concur others around me should do.

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  9. Dr. Long,
    I completely agree with your statement that “a follower of Jesus ought not to presume to be in the place of God and pronounce a person as condemned” (Long, 2018). This is an important statement to be made because it is so common within the Christian community to be or to feel judged. Now, there is a big difference between stating what the Bible says as fact and judging people. If someone is falling short and succumbing to the temptation of sin, it is important to be there to help them and to guide them back to the kingdom of God, that is what God calls us to do as Christians, not to judge them and condemn them for their short comings, but to guide them. Strauss says in his textbook, Four Portraits, One Jesus that “love for God and love for others fulfills the law because these imperatives reflect the essential nature of God whose love motivates his behavior toward all creation” (Strauss, 2007, p. 444). Love and compassion is what God calls us to have as Christians, not to judge and condemn because we are not God nor should we place ourselves on the same level as God in anyway and only God can condemn those who sin against Him. Scripture says, “there is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:12, ESV). That is a very good question to ask those who judge: who are you to judge? Because none of us are perfect, none of us are in the position to judge another persons short comings — only God is righteous enough to judge.

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