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“Judge not!” is a favorite saying of many. “Only God can judge me!” is another. The first one is often taken out of context and the second should scare you enough that you would listen to someone who is trying to point out your problem.

Let’s take a look at the first one here. It is found in Matthew 7:1, but let’s look at the verses around it as well. I notice that Jesus is saying this in the context of an entire sermon beginning in chapter 5 and going all the way through chapter 7. Jesus had a lot of different but connected things to teach here, but he did have separate topics. Let’s look at the original Greek language, too. Judging here has to do with distinguishing and deciding, and by implication speaks of judicial decisions (Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries, G2919). The verses following verse 1 (2-5) tell us that judgement itself isn’t bad, but it also tells us that the way we judge is how we’ll be judged in return, and we should judge ourselves first, before judging another. Essentially Jesus is telling us to have good judgement and to watch our attitudes about it.

Now there’s a difference between being judgmental and judging properly. One is based on your standards and one is based on God’s standards. For example, God says not to steal. If someone steals then they can and should be held accountable for that. On the other hand if someone is going to the movies and you don’t like the movies, as long as they aren’t going to see an ungodly movie you don’t get to judge.

Now let’s talk about verse 6. It seems an odd commentary on the previous verses, and at first I wasn’t sure what to think of it. But let’s talk about giving holy things to dogs and pearls to swine. They don’t recognize or care that those things are valuable. In the same way, sometimes you’ll find that someone doesn’t want to hear what you have to say about what God says, and how they are actually judged by it. That doesn’t mean you get to have a bad attitude about judging them, that just means that this is sometimes what happens.

Now let’s go back to the part about judging yourself before you judge another. This is an important key right here. Before you even consider judging someone else, take a look at yourself and your motives. Your attitude and motives are probably wrong. You’re likely to have as many problems as the person you’re judging. You might even have a bigger problem. Talk to God about it first, and you’ll be better for it.