Judge not, that you not be judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 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? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your own eye?” 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.
Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. — Matthew 7:1-6
“Don’t judge me!”
This could well be the mantra of our time. Nobody wants to be called judgmental, despite our deeply held longings for things to be just. And this particular passage guards against whatever judgmental tendencies we may have. Jesus clearly says that judgment is not ours to pass.
And yet, based on the full teaching, I think it’s safe to say that Jesus encourages His followers to engage in careful, thoughtful, and prayerful discernment.
There is a fine line between judgment and discernment.
Here’s how I see this: judgment assumes a posture of condemnation. This is never our purview as Christians. God alone is qualified to judge in this manner. But Jesus goes on to teach His followers not to cast their pearls before swine, not to give that which is holy to “dogs.” Who is He talking about here? Whoever it is, isn’t this a pretty “judgmental” thing to say? Well, according to our usage of the term, perhaps. But this is where biblical teaching differs from cultural understanding. It is spiritual discernment that prompts this teaching. The same thought is found in Matthew 10 when Jesus tells the disciples to shake the dust off their feet and move on when they face opposition to the Gospel. It is an act of discernment to make such a “judgment call” in the moment. But such judgment is free from the spirit of condemnation that Jesus clearly speaks against in the Sermon on the Mount.
So when we cry foul and shout, “Don’t judge me!”, we might just as well be saying, “Don’t make any sort of value statement about the way I’m living!” And why not? You can cover up a whole host of sins this way. You can live any way you want and anytime someone loves you enough to call you out, you can simply throw up the “Don’t judge me,” line and walk away feeling completely vindicated. What a lie we’ve consumed!
Is it possible to exercise spiritual discernment without issuing spiritual condemnation? This seems to be the tension we are meant to live within as followers of Jesus.