“Use your judgment, of course: the verse implies that you will judge in a right sense. But do not indulge the criticizing faculty upon others in censorious manner, or as if you were set in authority, and had a right to dispense judgment among your fellows. If you impute motives, and pretend to read hearts, others will do the same towards you. A hard and censorious behavior is sure to provoke reprisals. Those around you will pick up the peck measure you have been using, and measure your corn with it. You do not object to men forming a fair opinion of your character, neither are you forbidden to do the same towards them, but as you would object to their sitting in judgment upon you, do not sit in judgment upon them. This is not the day of judgment, neither are we his Majesty’s judges, and therefore we may not anticipate the time appointed for the final assize, nor usurp the prerogatives of the Judge of all the earth. Surely, if I know myself aright, I need not send my judgment upon circuit to try other men, for I can give it full occupation in my own Court of Conscience to try the traitors within my own bosom.” – Charles Spurgeon
The command to “not judge” doesn’t mean we give license to sin or universal acceptance with no delineation between right and wrong. In fact, we are called in verse 5 to aid in the removing of our brother’s speck. In 1 Thessalonians 5: 21-22, it states, “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”
Jesus is warning against hypocritical judgement. We cannot play God in our judgements. We can’t know the intentions, motives, or desires of another. Only our omniscient God can see into the hearts of men. We can’t make assumptions or jump to conclusions. This is a very humbling truth for me, as I can often make assumptions about another’s motives. It is much harder to bravely approach someone and get to the truth of their intentions. It is much harder to give people the benefit of the doubt. It is much harder to give grace before character evaluations.
We are called to humbly search our own hearts. When we do the hard work with God to “remove the plank in our own eye”, we are changed. Our spiritual blinders are removed and we can see the depths of our own sin. When we taste this grace, our hearts melt. We melt from being judgmental, hypocritical, and self-righteous to become meek and humble. We see the glorious riches we have received in Christ Jesus and that treasure brings delight to our souls. We can then move in step with the Spirit and offer this treasure to others. Rather than judgement, we can offer the mercy, comfort, and grace of Christ.