When someone chooses to play the “judge card” it’s like playing the ace of spades. It trumps everything else. It puts people on their heels. Because the “judge card” is what it is today, there are a variety of subjects that seem to be untouchable. The result? There is a fear of being labeled “judgy” or “intolerant,” or a “bigot.”
While the basis for the “don’t judge me” mantra has changed, it used to be Jesus’ words from Matthew 7 that were being vaguely referenced. So does this passage support the sentiment? Let’s take a look…
When Jesus says in verse 1, “Do not judge or you too will be judged,” he is not saying turn a blind eye to sin and unrighteousness. He is not saying ignore injustice. He is not saying keep quiet when you see wrongdoing. After all, in this passage about not judging, Jesus labels some people as “wild dogs” and “pigs.” Kind of judgy, right?
Jesus says, “Don’t judge…you dog, you pig. Don’t judge, pig.” He’s not turning a blind eye to sin. Jesus isn’t keeping quiet over wrongdoing. The exhortation not to judge doesn’t mean ignoring sin and keeping your mouth shut when you see it.
Look a little further down in verse 5: “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Notice what Jesus doesn’t say, “Take care of the plank in your own eye, but ignore the speck in your brother’s eye. Pretend it doesn’t even exist. Turn a blind eye to it.” Jesus says, “remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
This passage doesn’t mean Christians are supposed avoid making moral judgments. In a passage about not being judgmental, Jesus still makes moral judgments. So this passage doesn’t mean ignore wrongdoing or turn a blind eye to sin.
This passage is fundamentally about attitude. It forbids a condemning spirit. To level judgment calls at someone or about someone in order to make ourselves feel better, or to be heard, or to enhance our reputation, or simply to demean another person is what is forbidden in this passage.
That’s why Jesus says, “Before you take the speck out of your brother’s eye, you need to remove the plank in your own eye.” Before you confront someone or make a judgment call on their attitude, examine yourself. Ask yourself some tough questions. Spend time in prayer: “God, before I do this I need to confess my own unrighteousness to you. I also need your help in assessing my motives for confronting this person. Am I doing this because I’m genuinely concerned for their spiritual well-being? Am I doing this out of love or am I doing this to take them down a notch or two? Am I doing this to make myself feel better? Or because I’ve got a soap box I want to protect?”
By getting real and honest about your own sin before confronting someone, you’ll create a spirit of humility. Often we condemn, or criticize, or confront out of a spirit of pride. That’s what Jesus is warning us about. He’s not saying, “don’t confront sin.” He’s saying, “confront sin with humility and a genuine regard for the spiritual well-being of others.”