An oft quoted verse of the Bible is found in Matthew 7. Even people who claim no allegiance to Jesus can easily quote it … and frequently do.
Matthew 7:1 (CSB) “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.”
Basically, people use that verse to gain the right to do anything they want to do without any moral judgment from someone else.
“I can do anything I want to do. I can even do things that your Bible says not to do. Why? Because your Bible also says not to judge me.”
Friend, that’s not at all what Jesus was saying in Matthew 7:1. That verse is not a prohibition against making moral judgments.
How do I know this? Just read the next 5 verses. Jesus continues to talk when He says…
Matthew 7:6 (CSB) “Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.”
In this verse, Jesus commands us not to “give what is holy to dogs.” He also tells us not to “toss (our) pearls before swine.”
He’s not talking about animals. He’s talking about people who would marginalize and denigrate the Gospel message that we have. If people aren’t going to listen or will mock our Gospel message, move on.
This understanding is consistent with what Jesus said in other places in Scripture. For instance…
Matthew 10:14-15 (CSB) “If anyone does not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.”
“Well,” we might ask, “how do I know who is a ‘dog’ and who is a ‘swine?’ ”
That, my friend, requires a moral judgment.
So, only 5 verses after Jesus told us not to judge, He tells us to make moral judgments.
That being the case, what can Matthew 7:1 mean when it tells us not to judge?
It does not prohibit moral judgments. Instead, it prohibits a critical spirit. It forbids us from having the sort of attitude that enjoys finding fault in others.
Is it wrong to be self-righteous and have an attitude that can easily look down our nose at others for their faults and failures? Yes! That is prohibited in Matthew 7:1.
Is it OK to make moral judgments about people so that we know how to act around them and what truth we should share with or withhold from them? Yes, that is commanded in Matthew 7:6.
It seems to me that the biggest difference in Matthew 7:1 and verse 6 is our heart. If we are spiritually proud and enjoy finding fault, we break the command of Matthew 7:1.
But, if we love God’s Word and are humbled by our own faults and failures, we will be free to assess the actions of others and make moral judgments, complying with Matthew 7:6. We won’t be looking down our noses. We will simply acknowledge reality and respond accordingly.
Once again, we see that we cannot simply rip verses of the Bible out of context. We have to read the Bible in it’s context to get the meaning of what God is telling us.