“Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:37-38).
Did you hear that? From the very lips of Jesus Himself – you shouldn’t judge! Instead you should be showing forgiveness and generosity. You should be accepting and loving of all lifestyles and choices. That’s what it means, doesn’t it?
These are familiar verses to Christians and the world. Many are quick to quote verses like “Judge not” if they feel morally attacked. However, not judging is not the same as acceptance. If we read a little further in the same passage we will see that is not what Jesus said at all.
In Luke 6 Jesus did not prohibit the judgment of others. He said, “the same measure we use will be measured back to us.” According to the Blue Letter Bible Commentary that means our judgment is to be fair and only done with a standard we would also like to have measured to us.
The commentary goes on to say often times the problem is not with our judgment but the exercise of judgment according to our own hypocritical standards. The wrongs we are quick to point out in others we hardly acknowledge or perhaps even notice in ourselves.
Three verses later Jesus asked, “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye?” Jesus knew we are more susceptible to or tolerant of our own sin than that of others. However, our hypocrisy is always evident to people even if not to ourselves. Therefore Jesus is not telling us to not judge. Rather He is giving us warning in how we do so.
In fact, helping someone with a speck or sin is a good thing. After all, that is exactly what Jesus did. He saw the giant plank or sin in us and did something. He came to earth, made us aware of our sin and need for a Savior, and died so we could have life and see clearly.
However we cannot help others if we are trying to point out the same sin in someone else that dwells in us. The passage goes on to say, “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch,” (Luke 6:39). Unless we have effectively dealt with our own sin we are like a blind person leading another blind person. We will lead them into a ditch and cause them more damage.
Therefore, according to Enduring World Bible Commentary, it’s clear some sort of assessment is not only important but necessary. As Christians we should not be seeking the counsel or guidance of others who are living in the same sin as us.
Instead we should be looking to those wiser than ourselves who see more clearly. Luke 6 also says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher,” (Luke 6:40). It is clear we will become like those we follow. Therefore, we must decide to listen to and follow good teachers – teachers like Jesus Himself and others who mirror His image.
Towards the very end of the passage Jesus instructs us how to judge for ourselves who is a good tree and who is not. “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit” (Luke 6:43-44).
If we do (put into practice) these things, we are “like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock.” However if we don’t then we are “like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation…and the ruin of that house was great” (Luke 6:46-49).
Jesus sees us for what we were and still are – sinners, imperfect beings in desperate need of a Savior who cannot even perceive alone how gargantuan our planks are. Despite that, He loves us and at the same time does not accept our sinful ways.
In light of all this, we should be slow to judge and quick to look within our own hearts. We are called to love, show mercy and forgiveness while also practicing good discernment in our assessments of the world around us.