“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
The first five verses demonstrate the standard of our relationship to others in the kingdom.
This judgment is a judgment about motives arising from hostility and bitterness. None of us can know the true motives of others. A critical, fault-finding attitude that makes judgment not based on fact is the issue here. Some people can find nothing good in anyone. It is the censorious spirit that Jesus judges, not objective evaluation.
that you be not judged.
We will reap what we sow; our judgment will come back on us. God will administer judgment on us based on how we judge others.
The word “for” explains the phrase “that you be not judged” in the previous verse. God will apply the principle of your own judgment to you.
With what judgment you judge, you will be judged;
God judges unrighteous judgment in kind. When we judge, we set the standard for our own judgment.
And with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
The unjust verdict we make about other people is the basis for our judgment. Our own judgment judges us.
Judging the motives of others is God’s role, not ours.
We cannot judge motives of others, for that requires the capacity to see into their souls. Only God has that capacity. However, Christians can make objective evaluation about factual issues. No fair judge will hand down a determination until he has all the facts. If I see a tree with apples hanging from it and I call it an “apple tree,” that is not judging the tree; it is asserting a fact that the tree is an apple tree. If, on the other hand, I spot a tree in the distance and am unable to determine its bark or leaves or fruit but decide it is an apple tree, then I am being judgmental because I do not have the facts to make the judgment.
Since all of us sin, we do not have the right to be self-righteous. We view others through the lens of our own sinfulness. Acceptance of others does not infer that we condone their sin. Total approval of any and all sin violates God and His Word. We can discern their sin without judging their motive. God does not ask us to become jellyfish who flabbily yield to any and all viewpoints.
This passage does not forbid all judgment regardless of the facts. The Bible has many cases of legitimate judgment. We see some of these cases in the following:
We judge with righteous judgment, Jn 7:24; Mt 7:16
We judge spiritual things, 1 Co 2:15
We judge unruly believers, 1 Th 5:14
We judge carnal Christians, 1 Co 5:9-13
We judge legal cases, 1 Co 6:1-8
We judge doctrinal issues, 1 Co 14:29; 2 Co 11:4