What better way to tell people to mind their own business than to quote Jesus? People who seldom read the Bible are quick to quote Matthew 7:1 when they want to silence someone whose opinion they don’t like. “Judge not, that you be not judged” seems like the perfect response.
In context, however, the passage indicates that we are indeed to judge; we’re just supposed to avoid faulty judgments. Furthermore, our judgments are to begin with self: “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye,” Jesus said (Matthew 7:5). He then said, “Beware of false prophets” (Matthew 7:15). This too requires judging – we need to be able to discern truth from falsehood.
Jesus used the metaphor of fruit to give us the proper criteria for judging. “By their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:20). We are to judge people (including ourselves) by the quality of the fruit they produce. This fruit cannot be judged by earthly values such as how good we look (Matthew 7:15). It must be judged by heavenly values – the fruit of the Spirit produced within us – love, joy, peace (Galatians 5:22).
Our tendency is to judge by appearance – but God judges by what we produce, and so should we. What a challenge to us all to be slow to judge others and quick to judge ourselves!
Here is the whole portion of Scripture 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.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
Ask, Seek, Knock
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
The Narrow and Wide Gates
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
True and False Prophets
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
True and False Disciples
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.