Do Not Judge – What Did Jesus Really Mean?

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By Melissa McLaughlin

“Don’t judge.” “Judge not or you will be judged.”

That is straight from the Bible. Perhaps among the most frequently quoted words, in fact.

But what did Jesus really mean?

Does it mean that my friend, who was physically and sexually abused by her father and brother, should pretend they have done nothing wrong?

Does it mean that my neighbor, whose spouse struggles with alcoholism and pornography, should turn a blind eye to all of this?

Where do these words “do not judge” leave them?

In the end, we know that God is Judge and He is a righteous Judge. He sees the depths of our heart and our underlying motives. God is the one Judge we can trust to be true, just and perfect through and through.

Thankfully, He is also gracious and merciful. Therefore, He sent His Son, Jesus, to stand in our place exchanging His righteousness for our sin. Believers are forgiven and heaven-bound, based on Jesus’ perfect goodness. Hallelujah!

But what are we to do in the meantime. In this lifetime. Until that final day of judgment when God will make right all that is wrong?

Is Jesus asking us not to think or discern?

Let’s take a closer look at what Jesus said…

In Matthew 7:1-6, Jesus said these words: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 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. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the verb “judge” is defined with such phrases as: to form an opinion through careful weighing of evidence, to sit in judgment or try a case, or to be critical.

Clearly, the act of judging can take one of two forms. One is a type of discerning or ascertaining truth, using careful thought and evidence. Another assumes an air of condemnation.

Is Jesus asking us not to discern? Certainly not. If we read the whole paragraph to obtain the context of this passage, we see that Jesus explains we must first take the log out of our own eye, then we can help a friend. He is asking us to begin with self-examination before examining others. Afterwards, if we see others who are struggling with sin, the goal is for us to be compassionate, humble and helpful, keeping in mind our own “log and timber pile”!

Jesus then goes on to say that we should not give dogs what is holy or cast pearls before pigs.

Wow! That’s a pretty strong statement for someone who just asked us not to judge others, to then turn and call some people dogs and pigs! How would we know who to guard against if we didn’t conduct some sort of evaluation? Jesus is inviting us to discern when others are taking advantage or misusing our kindness, faith or love. He makes it plain, stop giving to them.

I love this bold teaching. Jesus sets firm boundaries for those who are abusive or misuse others.

Just a few verses later, in this same chapter, Jesus teaches his followers to beware of false prophets (or teachers) who walk about like wolves in sheep’s clothing. By their fruit we will recognize them. Matthew 7:15-20 Once again Jesus is asking us to be watchful and aware, to observe carefully and discern whether or not people are truly following God and His Word, based on their actions.

In another passage of scripture, Jesus actually teaches his followers to judge correctly. John 7:24

When we read these three words “Do not judge” in context, combined with the whole counsel of scripture, it is abundantly clear, Jesus is teaching us to refrain from any form of judgment that is unforgiving, condemning, tears others down, that exalts ourselves or that inserts ourselves in God’s role as final Judge. However, Jesus does encourage wise discernment.

Does this mean we should not address sin or hold one another accountable?

In Galatians 6:1 we read, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.”

How do we go about this delicate and difficult task of restoring one another when caught in sin?

Though it is never easy for someone to help me see the logs and specks in my life, out of love for one another, we should pray, ask for the leading of the Holy Spirit and try our best to help one another grow to reflect the image of Christ. How do we tackle this? Here are some Bible verses that provide clarity in this matter.

Let us speak in truth and love. Ephesians 4:15 – Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

Let us approach one another in total humility. James 4:6 – God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

May we be kind, compassionate and forgiving. Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

May we speak with gentleness and hope. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 – And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

May we be encouraging, patient and careful. 2 Timothy 4:1-2 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction.

What are my takeaways from all of this?

1.Jesus does not ask us to put our brains on a shelf.

2.Jesus teaches there is a difference between discerning with wisdom and judging with condemnation.

3.Jesus asks us to evaluate ourselves first.

4.Jesus asks us to gently and compassionately help others who are struggling with sin, while humbly remembering that we are also sinners in need of a Savior.

The beauty of all this is that God defines sin, according to His Word. That responsibility is not put on our shoulders. Praise God, He provided His Son to forgive our sins! His Word is true. His Son is our Savior. His Spirit helps us. This is reason to rejoice! If we turn to Jesus, we can rest in His truth, power, justice, forgiveness, mercy and love forever! This is amazing grace!

What are your takeaways?

Please join me in prayer.

Heavenly Father,

We praise you, for only You are God! Thank You for sending Jesus to forgive us and draw us into Your eternal family of love. Holy Spirit, help us lay our hearts, minds and lives before You to examine truthfully and help us grow. May we remember that only You are Judge and we can rest in Your judgments for You are good, true and merciful. Give us a heart of compassion for all who are hurting, wandering, or caught in the enemy’s sin-laden traps. May Your kindness flow through us, splashing over the edges and refreshing those around us, for it is Your kindness that leads us to repentance. We love you, Lord. Help us reflect Your beauty, truth and grace in all we do. In Jesus’ name and for His sake we pray. Amen.

Additional Resources:

Who Labels or Defines Sin? By Melinda V. Inman

The Power of Sin is Broken! Past, Present and Future! By Melissa McLaughlin

Judge Not? By Desiring God

What is the Whole Counsel of God by Got Questions

For an amazing story of someone who has overcome childhood abuse, please read more about Lori Cunningham at Not Alone Because of Jesus.

For a remarkable story and helpful teaching about overcoming spousal abuse, please read more about Alice Mills  at Poema Chronicles.

43 thoughts on “Do Not Judge – What Did Jesus Really Mean?”

  1. My takeaway would be that there are clearly terrible things that we should condemn and speak out against.
    For most things, yes we need to discern what is good and what is wrong but not judge the person.

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  2. Great information!! We are supposed to keep ourselves clean and in His will so that when He shows us something, we are fit and obedient to carry out His instructions. This is also a “righteous judgment”. Ultimately, He’s the Judge, He needs us to be ready to be His messengers when He needs ya.

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    • Amen to that, Melissa! We need to pause often for prayer and to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that we may reflect Jesus’ truth and grace, with the goal of carrying His restoration, healing and hope to others.

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  3. We are called to forgive, as a child of being abuse by my grandfather and father, with Christ’s help I can to forgive both of them. And before my father died in 2018 he accepted Christ into our heart. It is never an easy journey but we need to remember we do not work this journey alone once we accept Christ in our hearts

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    • Dear Eileen, thank you for sharing your gracious heart. I’m heartbroken for you, to hear of the abuse you endured. What a gift that you were able to forgive them. God has worked a miracle in your heart. And another beautiful gift was that your father accepted Christ before he died.
      We have a merciful heavenly Father. May we help others to see Jesus as Savior and King, for we are all sinners in need of a Savior. Jesus is the greatest gift we can ever share with them. We cannot celebrate sins that God does not celebrate, but we are called to forgive as God forgave us. You have lived out this truth in a profound way. May God bless you and hold you close always. Much love to you, my sister.

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      • With Christ’s help I was able to forgive, for me I could not preach on forgiveness if I could not forgive my father and his father with the abuse they did to me as a little girl. My mom caught my grandfather in the act and he was put in jail and died there, however when my father did it she had already died from cancer so there was no one to protect me. It is a shame that too many times a parent will look the other way when this happens. I truly believe that these things must make God cry.

      • Dear Elaine, the tears are falling. I am weeping for you, dear sister, and all who have suffered such abuse. There are not enough words to suffice. How my heart aches. Lord have mercy.
        You are a living breathing miracle, Elaine. I’m praying right now for others who are suffering like this.
        Oh God. hear our cries. Deliver those who suffer, we pray. Let them know that you see, you know and you will right all that is wrong one day. Hold them close to your wounded side. Shelter them, oh God. Send a deliverer. Don’t let their loved ones look away. Oh God, please help. We pray for the perpetrators to be released from sin’s grip, that this evil may be stopped. Thank you for helping Elaine to forgive, that she might walk in freedom that can only be found in you. You are the God of miracles. In Jesus’ name. Bless you, dear sister. ❤

      • Thank you Melissa, however my name is Eileen, we as Christians must speak out when we know of this abuse. God has bless me throughout my life, I also adopted two children and one was a shaken baby little girl who is now a teenager and I am the bless one to be called her mom, and she even looks like me. We do not understand why we go through what we do in our lives, but I do know that God walks with us in our journey.

      • Please forgive me, Eileen, on the name error.
        You are right, we cannot be silent in the face of evil. I hope I was able to capture that message in this article about judging.
        May God bless you, your children and your ministry! May God continue to use you to bring healing and hope!

  4. Very well put especially in our society today. We must stop and seek God before speaking out. But that does not always mean silence. Many of the Old Testament prophets listened to God and spoke out against those in sin when God led them. Judges and helping sinners repent and return to the Lord are very different things. Great timing for this subject. Thanks my dear sister.

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    • Such truth, Yvonne. You captured so many elements of Jesus’ teaching regarding the topic of judging vs. discerning. We do need to slow down and seek the Lord before speaking. That alone could work wonders in our present culture. On the other hand, as you say, that does not mean God calls us to be silent, either. Being unforgiving or condemning is completely different from someone who is humbly, graciously helping another person break free from the grip of sin. How we need each other in this journey of faith! With God’s help, may we truly live out Jesus’ words, as we seek to reflect his truth and grace, that many may see Him, love Him and follow Him! Thank you, dear sister.

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  5. Great work here. We are to love those in bondage to sin. But we are to understand people–by their fruits, you shall know them. Discernment is the key. Love all. But don’t agree with all. Follow God. Very simple. Not always easy. God bless!

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    • You’ve captured so much truth in your reflections, Nancy! I agree, Jesus” teachings are often simple, but not always easy to carry out. Holy Spirit, give us your power to live as you have called us to! Blessings to you!

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  6. What a beautifully written piece, Melissa! You did such a good job covering this thoroughly, kindly, and accurately. You’ve presented the whole counsel of God along with personal reflection and application. All of these need to be held in balance for us to navigate this path requiring discernment and love. Well done!

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    • Thank you, Melinda, for your kind words of support! It means so much to me, as I know how beautifully you express the whole counsel of God in your writing. I am truly grateful for your deeply thoughtful work and have included one of your recent articles as part of this piece. These topics can be easily skewed one way or another. I love how you say, “these need to be held in balance for us to navigate this path requiring discernment and love.” Lord Jesus, help us remain true to Your Word, in all of its fullness, shining with Your glorious truth and grace. Bless you, dear sister!

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      • Thank you for sharing my link! I think our two topics here fit together nicely and have much commonality. The whole counsel of God is so important when discerning meaning and application. God bless you, Melissa, for all you do to promote the truth of God’s Word!

      • You are most welcome, Melinda! It is a joy and privilege to know you and learn from your faith, life and writing. I agree, these two topics overlap in many ways, as we seek to know God and live out the truth and grace of His Word. Thank you for thinking deeply, teaching clearly and writing so eloquently about the whole counsel of God. You shine the spotlight on Jesus in a beautiful way!

  7. Yes, yes, yes, Melissa! You tackled this subject of judgment so well. I love that you looked at the whole counsel of Scripture…that is key! Love how you note the difference between judging with condemnation and discerning with wisdom. And how we should first look at ourselves. In a nutshell, I think this is an awesome way to remember it, ” Jesus is teaching us to refrain from any form of judgment that is unforgiving, condemning, tears others down, that exalts ourselves or that inserts ourselves in God’s role as final Judge. However, Jesus does encourage wise discernment.”

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    • Thank you, Karen, for your kind encouragement! I so appreciate your perspective as I am deeply blessed by the way you balance the whole counsel of Scripture in your faith, life and writing week after week. How important it is to hold fast to God and His Word or we easily allow our own thoughts to rule and reign. May we walk ever more in the beauty of His holiness, with the wisdom and discernment of our precious Savior!

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  8. And this is one of the many reasons why I love what you do – “Jesus does not ask us to put our brains on a shelf.” Amen, sister! Keep blogging on these “brain” topics and make us think! Love that about your blog. Great job, as usual!

    Reply

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