Does the Bible say “judge not lest ye be judged?”
Where in the Bible does it say to judge not?
The verse most people are thinking of when they are quoting this is found in Matthew 7:1, which is:
“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.
The way “judge not” is most commonly misinterpreted is that people will use it to say, “you can’t tell me what to do.” Or they may say, “Who are you to judge?” At the core of this mindset is that truth, as well as right and wrong itself, is relative. If truth is grounded in us individually, then people who say those sorts of things would be right in their position, how can you say that what someone else feels is right is wrong? My book The 10 Most Misunderstood Bible Verses discusses whether there is an absolute right or wrong, what is the standard of truth, and other verses in the Bible that talk about judging in the Bible. Click here to order the book.
Who is to Judge According to the Bible
So who is to judge according to the Bible? We are to judge according to God’s word, but there is a qualification. Paul explains this in 1 Corinthians 5 when he writes:
9 When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. 10 But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. 11 I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people. 12 It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. 13 God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.”
So are we to judge, meaning to determine whether actions are right or wrong? According to Paul, yes we are. However, who are we to judge? Is it the people who are outside the church? No, Paul tells us very specifically that it is not our “responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.” Does it mean that those outside the church will do whatever they want without consequences? No, everyone is held to the same standard of truth, of right and wrong, but God will judge unbelievers. The “Scripture” Paul is quoting here is Deuteronomy 17:7. Paul is telling the church they need to clean their own house and leave the unbeliever to God. He writes that we are not even to “associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people.” We have this attitude today that just showing up to church on Sunday and saying we love Jesus gives a pass to anything else that we do. It is beyond Bonhoeffer’s “cheap grace.” Yet at the same time, we try to tell people outside the church that they need to follow a standard that not only did they not sign up for, but that we in the church often don’t follow ourselves. That is completely opposite of the way that it is supposed to be. If we see in Scripture that we can and are instructed to judge, what is Jesus saying in Matthew 7:1?
What is the meaning of Matthew 7:1?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus in essence highlights “The Way of Life” and the “Way of Death.” As we discussed in the last lesson on Proverbs 29:18, “where there is no vision, people perish” where Solomon does the same in that chapter, this is a common theme throughout the Bible. In Deuteronomy chapters 27-28, the LORD gives the Israelites a choice between living in a state of blessing or under a curse based on the actions they choose. That choice does not end with the Old Testament. Not only do we see Jesus repeating the same theme here, but one of the earliest church documents that we have, The Didache, specifically spells it out for new converts in that way. There is a way those who follow the Most High are to behave and there is a way that they are not. The activity of the Holy Spirit within us should produce fruit. Jesus takes it a step further in the Sermon on the Mount than the instructions given to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai in Deuteronnomy 27-28. The first four commandments of the Decalogue have to do with honoring God. The first commandment of God is that we are to have no other gods before the Most High. The second is not to make any graven images of Him. The third is not to take the name of the Lord in vain, and the fourth is to keep the Sabbath. Over the hundreds of years from the time of the giving of the Law to the coming of the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, there was — just like today — much commentary by those who tried to explain just exactly what those commandments mean. Not only those ten commandements, but the 613 found in the entirety of the Torah. You can read some of that commentary online (note how many of them disagree with each other and often contradict Scripture itself), but we get a sense of the legalism and concrete literalness that had risen among certain sects of Jews in Jesus’s commentaries to the Pharisees. Jesus tells them often that they are missing the point, and because they miss the point of the instructions, they miss the person whom those instructions point to. We know that Jesus primarily taught in parables, but in the Gospel of Matthew, the writer not only records a sermon, but a long one. As we have discussed in other Bible studies, the Gospel of Matthew is not chronological as is Luke, Matthew is thematic. The purpose of Matthew is to illustrate to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah they have been waiting for. Matthew, more than any other gospel, not only points out the prophecies Jesus fulfilled as Messiah, but he also uses midrash, or interpretations of those Messianic passages. Throughout the Old Testament, the LORD had given messages through his prophets to show his people how to be in relationship with him, but they misinterpreted the message and came up with their own idea of what he meant. Then, God came in the flesh to show them what it looked like for a human being to truly seek God with all his heart. Matthew takes a break from the parables recording a sermon of Jesus’s and spells it out for them in the Sermon on the Mount. As I mentioned, the Gospel of Matthew is arranged to a purpose and the Sermon on the Mount specifically is. Scholars disagree on the specific structure Matthew used and what he meant in using it, but they all agree that the writer ordered the Sermon to a purpose. As John Stott notes in his book on the Sermon on the Mount, the account of the sermon comes directly after Jesus begins his ministry and calls for repentance, writing
The Sermon on the Mount, then, is to be seen in this context. It portrays the repentance (the Greek meaning is “the complete change of mind”) and the righteousness which belong to the kingdom. That is, it describes what human life and human community look like when they come under the gracious rule of God.
The sermon, in this context, is taking the Law given at Mt. Sinai and showing what it looks like truly lived out from a heart level, rather than skirting the letter of the law and being performative. Yes, the law was given as a basis for judgment with the expectation that actions would actually be judged by God’s standards. However, what Jesus is saying is that you cannot even begin to judge correctly until your own heart is right and your own eye is clear. Our own sins and heart-issues will result in a wrong perspective. Let’s look at the the Sermon on the Mount in chapter 7. In chapter 5, Jesus highlights what the actions of kingdom citizens looks like. In chapter 6, he tells his hearers that God’s standard is much higher than the instructions given at Mt. Sinai, that was just what they could handle. Chapter 7 begins with the warning about judging, that we are to make sure our perspective and our hearts are right, and then Jesus moves into even heavier warnings about the consequences of living a life where one only acts religious to put on a show.
Matthew 7 (ESV)
“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 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? 4 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? 5 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.
Jesus’s point about judgment does not end with verse one. His point is that we are to make sure our own perspective is clear, removing the “log” before we try to judge others. I think an obvious example of this in the church today is the (primarily) evangelical outrage over racism and a fabricated version of Critical Race Theory (CRT). If you think you know all about CRT because of Voddie Baucham’s book Fault Lines or work by Neil Shenvi — you don’t. They promote what I call a “Boogeyman” version of CRT promoted by white nationalists and Lost Causers. Baucham has been called out for his lack of actual knowledge about the subject matter, his flagrant dishonest misrepresentation about the actual CRT theorists he does quote, and actual plagiarism. Baucham is belligerent in his refusal to acknowledge any of it. The scare quotes Boogeyman CRT accuse those of promoting it as thinking whites as a race are fundamentally incapable of “righteous action.” I’m not going to go into reasons in this lesson on why this claim is untrue, there have been entire books written refuting this (for explanatory articles about CRT, visit Also a Carpenter by Bradly Mason). Let me just say, “Log, meet Speck.” Before you accuse someone of misrepresenting your actions, have you tried imagining how you would see your own actions if you were standing in their shoes? Do you even know what it would be like to walk in their shoes? Have you ever listened? People have been sharing their stories and experiences, have you even cared enough to try to understand? Because if not, you have a forest full of logs that need to be cleared out before you can say anything to the point. And just FYI, if you want to “know how to respond to the racism issue,” a start would be to acknowledge that it is wrong and in conflict with God’s righteousness, that the U.S. has done wrong in its history (we fought an entire war over slavery, it should be obvious), and there are things that we corporately as a nation should confess and repent of. Start there. If you can’t even do that (and I’ve encountered people who can’t), don’t pretend to care. You have no right to be offended by someone else’s perspective of your actions.
How to Judge Rightly
How do we judge rightly? If we are to be God’s ministers of justice here on earth, we have to be discerning and be able to judge right from wrong. How can we make sure that we do not have a log in our own eye? The first steps is that we have to be willing to repent, we have to be willing to acknowledge that we have been wrong. When we first become a Christian and make Jesus the LORD of our life, we are justified, our spirit is born again and God imputes to us, or sees us through, the righteousness of Christ. Our spirit is justified, made perfect, but the Holy Spirit is just beginning to work on the rest of us — our mind, body, will, and emotions — that is sanctification. Sanctification, the being made holy, is a process and we have to be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. When we are justified, the chains tying us to our sins are broken, but as James tells us, we must “Submit yourselves to God, resist the devil, and he will flee.” That submission, the humbling of ourselves before God, allows the Holy Spirit to empower us to resist the thoughts, actions, and behaviors that we used to be tied to. But if you are not willing to admit to the possibility that you might be wrong and allow the Holy Spirit to show you where you are, then you are stuck in the same cave of darkness that you were when salvation found you. Not because you cannot walk out, but because you are choosing not to. You are quenching the Holy Spirit that is sent to be your guide. And where does that leave us? Still suffering under the same burden of condemnation that we should be free of. When Jesus says “ For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you,” he is rephrasing what he has already said twice in the sermon. He is saying, the standard you want others to be held to is the same standard you will be judged by. Do you want to be held accountable for the slightest transgression, or do you want to receive grace? Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy,” and later in the sermon, he tells his disciples to pray that their trespasses be forgiven, “even as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Have you forgiven? What lens are you seeing that other person through?
Having a Clean Heart
What we have seen in this lesson is that our heart has to be right. How do we get there. We can try to fix things up ourselves in our lives, but it is only God who can give us those “clean hands and a pure heart.” We believe in the power of the blood of Jesus, we trust in him as our Savior and Redeemer, and we invite the Holy Spirit to work in our lives and transform us. Pray David’s prayer in Psalm 51:10-13
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me. 11 Do not banish me from your presence,
and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you. 13 Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
and they will return to you.
Available Bible Studies
 1 Corinthians 5:9-12 NLT  This is not the only place in the New Testament that talks about judgment falling on believers. Among others, the letters to the church in the book of Revelation are warnings to repent of certain actions and attitudes lest “their lampstand be removed.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, trans. Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2015). In his book Discipleship, Bonehoeffer spends an entire chapter contrasting “cheap grace” with “costly grace.”  “The Didache,” New Advent, accessed May 26, 2022, https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0714.htm. Ch 1  D. Pemberton, Glenn, “Matthew and the Prophets,” Leaven 13, no. 2 (2005): 90-91..  Glen H. Stassen, “The Fourteen Triads of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-7:12),” Journal of Biblical Literature 122, no. 2 (Summer 2003): 267–308.  John R. W. Stott, Sermon on the Mount: 12 Studies for Individuals or Groups (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Connect, 1978) 4..  Salem Media Group (www.salemmedia.com) is the parent company of Regnery Press (www.regnery.com) and I am not joking when I say they are Lost Causers. They aren’t even being shy about it. Just a few of Regnery Press’s titles: The Encyclopedia of Conferderate Generals (States like Texas are afraid U.S. history will be taught, but we need to know all about those who fought for slavery and were traiters to the United States), It Wasn’t All About Slavery (Confederate apologists … yes it was all about slavery), Bust Hell Wide Open (what one reviewer called a “hagiography” for Nathan Bedford Forest, a Confederate general and the first Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan), Gettysburg Rebels, and The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War. The Confederates lost the Civil War, they never changed their mind, and Salem Media Group has moved the war fought with one of words rather than bullets, although they do also platform quite a few insurrectionists who incited a mob that was ready to hang Mike Pence and threatening to kill other members of Congress. (www.salemmedia.com/salem-podcast-network/) Charlie Kirk’s organization Turning Point funded buses that brought in a number of the convicted insurrectionists. (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/oct/23/turning-point-rightwing-youth-group-critics-tactics) Jenna Ellis got a podcast deal with Salem Media while her co-litigator, Rudy Guiliani, in the election fraud hoax is desperately battling to stay out of jail. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/rudy-giuliani-jenna-ellis-subpoenaed-by-jan-6-committee-11642545914). Dinesh D’Souza, on the other hand, is still pushing the election fraud hoax with his easily debunked film “2000 Mules.” (https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-usa-mules/fact-check-does-2000-mules-provide-evidence-of-voter-fraud-in-the-2020-u-s-presidential-election-idUSL2N2XJ0OQ) which is just as deceptive about the election process as Baucham’s Fault Lines is about CRT. If you read the reviews of books published under one of Salem Media Group’s imprints, a common thing you will find is reviewers commenting on is, like Baucham’s, the poor sourcing within the books. It is very unfortunate that the publisher that platformed William F. Buckley, who led the charge to oust the far-right movement of his day, the John Birch Society, has now promotes it. https://www.regnery.com/our-story/ https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2021/01/15/john-birch-society-qanon-reagan-republicans-goldwater/ This isn’t your grandmother’s Regenery Press.  Brad Mason, “The Faulty Lines in Voddie Baucham’s ‘Thought Line,’” Bradly Mason, April 21, 2021, accessed May 31, 2022, https://alsoacarpenter.com/2021/04/21/the-faulty-lines-in-voddie-bauchams-thought-line/.  Marty Duren, “Fault Lines, by Voddie Baucham—Book Review, Part 1,” March 30, 2021, accessed May 31, 2022, https://www.martyduren.com/2021/03/30/fault-lines-by-voddie-baucham-book-review-part-1/.  Anthony B. Bradley, PhD [@drantbradley], “Voddie Bauchman Is Fraudulently Presenting CRT. It’s Deceptive and Unethical to Bear False Witness like against CRT Authors. I Have My Own Critique of CRT but I Don’t Need to Misrepresent Delgado, et al. Just It Make an Ideological Point. Not Scholarly. Https://T.Co/4gSsXu9RNw,” Tweet, Twitter, August 5, 2021, accessed May 31, 2022, https://twitter.com/drantbradley/status/1423111423958323206.  Asher Witmer, “Where Voddie Baucham Gets It Wrong,” Asher Witmer, December 15, 2021, accessed May 31, 2022, https://asherwitmer.com/where-voddie-baucham-gets-it-wrong/.  Founders Ministries, TS&TT: Voddie Baucham | A Response to Plagiarism Charges from Joel McDurmon, 2021, accessed May 31, 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=su2MsHevrqM. In this interview, Baucham claims that he didn’t misrepresent Delgado because the indent that looks like he is quoting Delgado isn’t a blockquote (3:23). He claims that he’s “giving an outline,” (but his “outline” is still a misrepresentation of what Delgado wrote). He claims it is just “unfortunate” “structural and formatting issues.” And it’s been a long time since he’s “gone back and read Turabian.” (5:28). In the end, Baucham apologizes for nothing and claims that the whole thing is that “they’re just trying to discredit people who are upsetting their racket.” (12:58)  Bob Sinietana, “Voddie Baucham’s Publisher Defends Fault Lines against Plagiarism Claims,” Religion News Service, August 3, 2021, accessed May 31, 2022, https://religionnews.com/2021/08/03/voddie-bauchams-publisher-defends-fault-lines-against-plagiarism-claims/. This was the publisher’s response to the claims of plagiarism: “The blogger’s claims of poor documentation and plagiarism in Fault Lines are not well-founded. McDurmon’s weak argument is based on his preference for quoting in an academic style of documentation and formatting, rather than the Chicago Manual of Style, which is the standard for popular-level works published not only by Salem Books but also for most of our peer publishers in the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association,” Peterson said in an email statement to Religion News Service.” This is so patently false that anyone associated with Baucham or Regenery Press should be embarrassed. I can tell you for a fact that “academic publishing” is not sloppier or more haphazard than the Chicago Manual of Style. Baucham has an undergraduate degree from the same university where I received my masters. We used Turabian, which is almost identical to Chicago. (https://www.bibme.org/citation-guide/chicago/turabian-or-chicago-whats-the-difference/). SBTS where he received his M.Div., Turabian (https://libraries.swbts.edu/turabian-style-and-templates). SETS where he received his Phd requires Turabian (https://libask.sebts.edu/faq/22439). Some theological publications use the SBL format which, like Turabian is a modified version of the Chicago style (https://guides.asburyseminary.edu/c.php?g=944597&p=6809162), but there is very little difference between them. The primary difference is whether a publication requires and (author, date) format or a footnote or endnote with a Bibliography. The minute differences between the formats does not change what should be cited, that what is someone else’s words and your words should be clearly indicated, or that you cannot misrepresent what the person you are quoting is saying.