Matthew 7:1
Judge not, that you be not judged.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
VII.

(1) The plan and sequence of the discourse is, as has been said, less apparent in this last portion. Whether this be the result of omission or of insertion, thus much at least seems clear, that while Matthew 5 is mainly a protest against the teaching of the scribes, and Matthew 6 mainly a protest against their corruption of the three great elements of the religious life—almsgiving, prayer, and fasting—and the worldliness out of which that corruption grew, this deals chiefly with the temptations incident to the more advanced stages of that life when lower forms of evil have been overcome—with the temper that judges others, the self-deceit of unconscious hypocrisy, the danger of unreality.

Judge not, that ye be not judged.—The words point to a tendency inherent in human nature, and are therefore universally applicable; but they had, we must remember, a special bearing on the Jews. They, as really in the van of the religious progress of mankind, took on themselves to judge other nations. All true teachers of Israel, even though they represented different aspects of the truth, felt the danger, and warned their countrymen against it. St. Paul (Romans 2:3; 1Corinthians 4:5) and St. James (James 4:11) alike, in this matter, echo the teaching of their Master. And the temptation still continues. In proportion as any nation, any church, any society, any individual man rises above the common forms of evil that surround them, they are disposed to sit in judgment on those who are still in the evil.

The question, how far we can obey the precept, is not without its difficulties. Must we not, even as a matter of duty, be judging others every day of our lives? The juryman giving his verdict, the master who discharges a dishonest servant, the bishop who puts in force the discipline of the Church—are these acting against our Lord’s commands? And if not, where are we to draw the line? The answer to these questions is not found in the distinctions of a formal casuistry. We have rather to remember that our Lord here, as elsewhere, gives principles rather than rules, and embodies the principle in a rule which, because it cannot be kept in the letter, forces us back upon the spirit. What is forbidden is the censorious judging temper, eager to find faults and condemn men for them, suspicious of motives, detecting, let us say, for example, in controversy, and denouncing, the faintest shade of heresy. No mere rules can guide us as to the limits of our judgments. What we need is to have “our senses exercised to discern between good and evil,” to cultivate the sensitiveness of conscience and the clearness of self-knowledge. Briefly, we may say:—(1.) Judge no man unless it be a duty to do so. (2.) As far as may be, judge the offence, and not the offender. (3.) Confine your judgment to the earthly side of faults, and leave their relation to God, to Him who sees the heart. (4.) Never judge at all without remembering your own sinfulness, and the ignorance and infirmities which may extenuate the sinfulness of others.

Matthew 7:1-2. Judge not — Our Lord now proceeds to warn us against the chief hinderances of holiness. And how wisely does he begin with judging! Wherein all young converts are so apt to spend that zeal which is given them for better purposes. He must be understood as forbidding all rash and unfavourable judgments, whether of the characters of others in general, or of their actions in particular, glancing, probably, in these as also in some other expressions in this chapter, on the character of the Pharisees, who were very culpable on this head, as appears from divers passages in the gospels, such as Luke 18:9-14; Luke 16:14-15; John 7:47-49, (compare also Isaiah 65:5,) and their unjust censures of Christ. Our Lord’s words imply, Judge not those about you in a rigorous and severe manner; nor pass unnecessary or uncharitable censures upon them, as many of your countrymen are in the habit of doing: nay, judge not any man, without full, clear, and certain knowledge of the blameableness of his conduct, nor without absolute necessity, and a spirit of tender love. That ye be not judged — Yourselves with the like severity. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged — Of God and man. “If you judge charitably, making proper allowances for the frailties of your brethren, and are ready to pity and pardon their faults, God and man will deal with you in the same kind manner; but if you always put the worst construction on every thing that it will bear, and are not touched with the feeling of your brother’s infirmities, and show no mercy in the opinions you form of his character and actions, no mercy will be shown to you from any quarter; God will treat you as you deserve, in the just judgment he shall pass upon your actions, and the world will be sure to retaliate the injury.” — Macknight. And with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again — Awful words! So we may, as it were, choose for ourselves, whether God shall be severe or merciful to us. God and man will favour the candid and benevolent: but they must expect judgment without mercy, who have showed no mercy.7:1-6 We must judge ourselves, and judge of our own acts, but not make our word a law to everybody. We must not judge rashly, nor pass judgment upon our brother without any ground. We must not make the worst of people. Here is a just reproof to those who quarrel with their brethren for small faults, while they allow themselves in greater ones. Some sins are as motes, while others are as beams; some as a gnat, others as a camel. Not that there is any sin little; if it be a mote, or splinter, it is in the eye; if a gnat, it is in the throat; both are painful and dangerous, and we cannot be easy or well till they are got out. That which charity teaches us to call but a splinter in our brother's eye, true repentance and godly sorrow will teach us to call a beam in our own. It is as strange that a man can be in a sinful, miserable condition, and not be aware of it, as that a man should have a beam in his eye, and not consider it; but the god of this world blinds their minds. Here is a good rule for reprovers; first reform thyself.Judge not ... - This command refers to rash, censorious, and unjust judgment. See Romans 2:1. Luke Luk 6:37 explains it in the sense of "condemning." Christ does not condemn judging as a magistrate, for that, when according to justice, is lawful and necessary. Nor does he condemn our "forming an opinion" of the conduct of others, for it is impossible "not" to form an opinion of conduct that we know to be evil. But what he refers to is a habit of forming a judgment hastily, harshly, and without an allowance for every palliating circumstance, and a habit of "expressing" such an opinion harshly and unnecessarily when formed. It rather refers to private judgment than "judicial," and perhaps primarily to the customs of the scribes and Pharisees. CHAPTER 7

Sermon on the Mount—concluded.

Mt 7:1-12. Miscellaneous Supplementary Counsels.

That these verses are entirely supplementary is the simplest and most natural view of them. All attempts to make out any evident connection with the immediately preceding context are, in our judgment, forced. But, though supplementary, these counsels are far from being of subordinate importance. On the contrary, they involve some of the most delicate and vital duties of the Christian life. In the vivid form in which they are here presented, perhaps they could not have been introduced with the same effect under any of the foregoing heads; but they spring out of the same great principles, and are but other forms and manifestations of the same evangelical "righteousness."

Censorious Judgment (Mt 7:1-5).

1. Judge not, that ye be not judged—To "judge" here does not exactly mean to pronounce condemnatory judgment, nor does it refer to simple judging at all, whether favorable or the reverse. The context makes it clear that the thing here condemned is that disposition to look unfavorably on the character and actions of others, which leads invariably to the pronouncing of rash, unjust, and unlovely judgments upon them. No doubt it is the judgments so pronounced which are here spoken of; but what our Lord aims at is the spirit out of which they spring. Provided we eschew this unlovely spirit, we are not only warranted to sit in judgment upon a brother's character and actions, but in the exercise of a necessary discrimination are often constrained to do so for our own guidance. It is the violation of the law of love involved in the exercise of a censorious disposition which alone is here condemned. And the argument against it—"that ye be not judged"—confirms this: "that your own character and actions be not pronounced upon with the like severity"; that is, at the great day.Matthew 7:1-5 Christ proceedeth in his sermon to condemn rash judgment,

Matthew 7:6 forbiddeth the prostitution of holy things,

Matthew 7:7-12 recommends prayer,

Matthew 7:13-14 exhorteth to enter in at the strait gate,

Matthew 7:15-20 to beware of false prophets, who may be known by their

fruits,

Matthew 7:21-23 and not to be his disciples in profession only, but in

practice.

Matthew 7:24-27 He compares doers of the word to houses built on a

rock, those that are hearers only to houses built on

the sand.

Matthew 7:28-29 Christ endeth his sermon; the people are astonished at

his doctrine.

See Poole on "Matthew 7:2".

Judge not, that ye be not judged. This is not to be understood of any sort of judgment; not of judgment in the civil courts of judicature, by proper magistrates, which ought to be made and pass, according to the nature of the case; nor of judgment in the churches of Christ, where offenders are to be called to an account, examined, tried, and dealt with according to the rules of the Gospel; nor of every private judgment, which one man may make upon another, without any detriment to him; but of rash judgment, interpreting men's words and deeds to the worst sense, and censuring them in a very severe manner; even passing sentence on them, with respect to their eternal state and condition. Good is the advice given by the famous Hillell (u), who lived a little before Christ's time;

"Do not judge thy neighbour, (says he,) until thou comest into his place.''

It would be well, if persons subject to a censorious spirit, would put themselves in the case and circumstances the persons are in they judge; and then consider, what judgment they would choose others should pass on them. The argument Christ uses to dissuade from this evil, which the Jews were very prone to, is, "that ye be not judged"; meaning, either by men, for such censorious persons rarely have the good will of their fellow creatures, but are commonly repaid in the same way; or else by God, which will be the most awful and tremendous: for such persons take upon them the place of God, usurp his prerogative, as if they knew the hearts and states of men; and therefore will have judgment without mercy at the hands of God.

(u) Pirke Abot, c. 2. sect. 4.

Judge {1} not, that ye be not judged.

(1) We ought to find fault with one another, but we must beware we do not do it without cause, or to seem holier than others or because of hatred of others.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 7:1. Without any intermediate connection, the discourse passes on to a new subject. Comp. Matthew 5:17, Matthew 6:1.

μὴ κρίνετε] κρίνειν means nothing more than to judge, and the context alone will decide when it is used in the sense of a condemnatory judgment, as in Romans 2:1; Romans 14:4; Galatians 5:10; Hebrews 10:30 (frequently in John). In this respect it resembles the Heb. שָׁפַט. But in this instance it is proved by Matthew 7:2 and Matthew 7:3-5 that κρίνειν is not to be explained as synonymous with κατακρίνειν (in answer to Theophylact, Euth. Zigabenus, Kuinoel, and Olshausen). Nor is this required, but, on the contrary, plainly forbidden, by Luke 6:37, for there the difference between κρίνειν and καταδικάζειν is of the nature of a climax, the latter being the result of the former. Accordingly, the correct interpretation is this: Do not sit in judgment upon others; do not set yourselves up as judges of their faults (Matthew 7:3), meaning thereby an officious and self-righteous behaviour (the opposite of that prescribed in Galatians 6:1-5), that ye may not become obnoxious to judgment, i.e. that ye may not be subjected to the divine, the Messianic, judgment; that instead of obtaining mercy and the forgiveness of your sins in that judgment, you may not draw down upon yourselves that judicial sentence (which, according to Matthew 5:7, Matthew 6:15, is averted by cherishing a forgiving spirit). To refer κριθῆτε to our being judged by others (Erasmus, Calvin, Kuinoel, Fritzsche), and not, with Chrysostom, to the future judgment, is wrong; because Matthew 7:2, if referred to the Nemesis of the existing order of things, would not be altogether true; and further, because, throughout His address, Jesus treats the idea of retribution from the Messianic point of view (Matthew 5:1-12; Matthew 5:19-20; Matthew 5:22; Matthew 5:25; Matthew 5:29 f., Matthew 6:1; Matthew 6:4; Matthew 6:6; Matthew 6:14 f., 18, 20, 33, Matthew 7:13; Matthew 7:19; Matthew 7:21; Matthew 7:23-24 ff.). Of course it is unnecessary to say that, in forbidding judging, Christ is not speaking “de ministeriis vel officiis divinitus ordinatis, sed de judiciis, quae fiunt extra seu praeter vocationes et gubernationes divinas,” Melanchthon. Nor does He forbid the moral judging of others in general, which is inseparable from truth and love, and is at the same time a necessary element in the duty of brotherly νουθετεῖν. “Canis pro cane et porcus pro porco est habendus,” Bengel.Matthew 7:1-5. Against judging.1. Judge not, &c.] This is the form which the “lex talionis,” or law of reciprocity, takes in the kingdom of heaven.

The censorious spirit is condemned, it is opposed to the ἐπιείκεια, “forbearance,” “fairness in judgment,” that allows for faults, a characteristic ascribed to Jesus Christ Himself, 2 Corinthians 10:1; cp. also Romans 14:3 foll.

that ye be not judged] by Christ on the Last Day.

(a) Judgment on others, Matthew 7:1-6.

The passage occurs in St Luke’s report of the Sermon on the Mount (ch. Luke 6:37-38), with a different context, and a further illustration of “full measure.”Matthew 7:1. Μὴ κρίνετε, Judge not) i.e. without knowledge, charity, or necessity. Yet a dog is to be accounted a dog, and a swine a swine; see Matthew 7:6.Verses 1-12. -

(2) As anxiety about the things of this life hinders us Godwards (ch. 6:19-34), so does censoriousness manwards (vers. 1-12), our Lord thus tacitly opposing two typically Jewish faults. Censoriousness - the personal danger of having it (vers. 1, 2), its seriousness as a sign of ignorance and as a hindrance to spiritual vision (vers. 3-5), even though there must be a recognition of great moral differences (ver. 6). Grace to overcome it and to exercise judgment rightly can be obtained by prayer (vers. 7-11), the secret of overcoming being found in treating others as one would like to be treated one's self (ver. 12). Verse 1. - Parallel passage: Luke 6:37. Judge not. Not merely "do not condemn," for this would leave too much latitude; nor, on the other hand, "do not ever judge," for this is sometimes our duty; but "do not be always judging" (μὴ κρίνετε). Our Lord opposes the censorious spirit. "Let us therefore be lowly minded, brethren, laying aside all arrogance, and conceit, and folly, and anger, and let us do that which is written... most of all remembering the words of the Lord Jesus which he spake, teaching forbearance and brag-suffering; for thus he spake... 'As ye judge, so shall ye be judged,'" Clem. Romans, § 13 (where see Bishop Lightfoot's note; el. also Resch, 'Agrapha,' pp. 96, 136 ft.); cf. 'Ab.,' 1:7 (Taylor), "Judge every man in the scale of merit;" i.e. let the scale incline towards the side of merit or acquittal. That ye be not judged; i.e. by God, with special reference to the last day (cf. James 2:12, 13; James 5:9; Romans 2:3). Hardly of judgment by men, as Barrow (serm. 20.): "Men take it for allowable to retaliate in this way to the height, and stoutly to load the censorious man with censure."
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