Walking the Thin Line of Judgment


By Carolyn Dale Newell

“Judge not, that you be not judged.”

Matthew 7:1 (NKJV)

This is one of the most misunderstood verses in Scripture. People use it without knowing the true meaning. There are two ways we can judge someone: discernment and criticism. There is a thin line between the two. We must be careful to know the difference.

Jesus said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Christians must discern, or make righteous judgments.

A few verses below our focal verse, Jesus said that we should not give anything holy to dogs, nor should we cast pearls before swine (Matt. 7:6). That requires discernment. We need to differentiate between holy and unholy.

Further down in the same chapter, Jesus spoke about false prophets. He said, “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit” (Matt. 7:16-17).

We are fruit inspectors, and we should lovingly rebuke a sinning brother as directed in Matthew chapter 18. With witnesses and in love.

The judgment we must abstain from is self-righteous criticism. In verses 3-4, Jesus gives the example of trying to remove a speck out of a brother’s eye while having a plank in his own eye. Although the plank can be any sin, it likely refers to self-righteousness. “…remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:5). Clean up your own life and then you can make righteous judgments. In particular, remove all holier-than-thou thinking. Refrain from hypocrisy.

As David said, “Create in me a clean heart, O God…then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You” (Ps. 51:10a, 13).

Prayerfully consider whether your judgment is one of loving discernment or harsh criticism. Never judge hastily, and always have all the information before making a judgment. Never play God nor allow yourself to become a gossip. Always show mercy, just as God has been merciful to us.

Heavenly Father, thank You for mercy. Help me to be merciful to others, and help me distinguish the differences between discernment and criticism. Cleanse me of all self-righteousness. For I know this is Your will for me. Amen.


Read Matthew 7:1-6, and 15-20, Matthew 18:15-20.


Examine yourself. Have you neglected making righteous judgments because you were fearful of judging? Have you been critical of someone? Has it turned into gossip? Seek God’s wisdom in these areas.

Copyright 2015 Carolyn Dale Newell.


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