How do we see others? We have all heard the expression ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover’, yet we do judge people everyday off first appearances or hear-say of others. In Matthew 7 the first three words – “Do not judge” must be three of the most misunderstood words Jesus ever spoke. Jesus is not saying here: “Suspend your powers of judgment. Don’t make any assessments about anyone’s character or conduct.” You can tell that from the context. Immediately after this passage, Jesus says in v 6: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.” So be discriminating about the kind of people with whom you share your advice or convictions. And a little later in v 15 he says, “Watch out for false prophets …By their fruit you will recognise them.” In other words, look at their conduct, their relational patterns, their behaviour when the spotlights are off, and assess whether they’re telling you the truth. Exercise discernment. Exercise judgment.
So what then is Jesus prohibiting when he says here, “Do not judge”? The word translated “judge” can mean either “evaluate” and “analyse,” or it can mean “condemn” or “despise.” Jesus is using it in the latter sense here. He’s saying, “Don’t condemn. Don’t adopt a critical, faultfinding attitude. Don’t be quick to label and dismiss. Stop the vigilante justice – stop hanging people on the gallows of your mind without due process, without asking the proper questions.
Instead Jesus gives us this advice v2 “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” You could phrase it this way: the first step in due process is to judge others in exactly the same way that you yourself would want to be judged.
There was recently a story of a pastor who dressed up as a homeless man, and sat outside the church surround my empty cans to beer. The member of the church all looked at the man outside and walked past in a disapproving manner. After the pastor walked into the church and sat in the back pew, wondering if someone would say hello or offer any advice. Instead he just heard grumbling before he revealed his real indentiy and put the congregation to shame preaching a message on James 2:2-4 “For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” Let’s not judge too quickly.