Discerning Judgment

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you”. (Matthew 7:1-2)

Judge not. As the context reveals, this does not prohibit all types of judging (v. 16). There is a righteous kind of judgment we are supposed to exercise with careful discernment (John 7:24). Censorious, hypocritical, self-righteous, or other kinds of unfair judgments are forbidden; but in order to fulfill the commandments that follow, it is necessary to discern dogs and swine (Matt. 7:6) from one’s own brethren (vv. 3–5).

Commentary by John MacArthur

This passage has erroneously been used to suggest that believers should never evaluate or criticize anyone for anything. Our day hates absolutes, especially theological and moral absolutes, and such simplistic interpretation provides a convenient escape from confrontation. Members of modern society, including many professing Christians, tend to resist dogmatism and strong convictions about right and wrong. Many people prefer to speak of all-inclusive love, compromise, ecumenism, and unity. To the modern religious person those are the only “doctrines” worth defending, and they are the doctrines to which every conflicting doctrine must be sacrificed.

In many circles, including some evangelical circles, those who hold to strong convictions and who speak up and confront society and the church are branded as violators of this command not to judge, and are seen as troublemakers or, at best, as controversial.

We do a great disservice to the Body of Christ when we confront and judge one another in arrogance and self-righteousness. But, as John MacArthur writes, we also do damage to the church if we fail to exercise godly judgment and discernment when it’s warranted.

Discernment does not have to lead to division. If we faithfully follow the pattern Christ gave us, we will be able to confront one another out of love and humility, not arrogance and self-righteousness. And we’ll be able to humbly accept the input of others without rushing to defensive arguments and judgmental retaliation.

Excerpts from John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary