Matthew 7:1 – A World Without Judgement

by Phoenix Hayes

“Who are you to judge me,
And the life I live?
I know that I’m not perfect
And that I don’t claim to be,
So before you point your fingers,
Make sure your hands are clean.”
‘Judge Not’ – Bob Marley

Let’s be real. As a group, Christians often receive criticism for being judgmental. It’s an easy accusation to make when one’s beliefs or lifestyle choices don’t align with other people. Even when no words are exchanged, it’s not uncommon for believers to receive the label of ‘judgmental,’ simply by choosing to refrain from certain activities. And while this is a sweeping generalization, I can hypothesize that this observation rings true enough to spark at least one memory from your life. It may have been from an exchange with friends or family members, a colleague or classmate, or even a random internet troll.

Facebook users type, “Don’t judge me!”

Bob Marley sings, “Who are you to judge me…?”

And in Matthew 7:1 it is written, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (NIV)

But what are each really asking for? What would a world without judgement look like? And furthermore, is the message to avoid judgement truly biblical?

People often fall back on this common exclaim when facing negative feedback on their behavior or decisions. Yet curiously, positive feedback is welcomed – “Make me feel good and I will accept your observations.” It is critical to note that a positive observation can be just as much a judgement of a one’s behavior or decisions as a negative observation. The former is typically permissible since it doesn’t imply that a person might benefit from change, or even a simple examination of one’s decision-making processes.

What the World Really Wants

Anyone who has walked through the eye-catching purple doors of a Planet Fitness has read the bold, bright yellow words emblazoned across the walls that read ‘Judgement Free Zone’ or ‘No Critics.’ For a place that conjures up cold sweats and terror for the average American, it’s a gentle icebreaker for a gym slogan. For anyone who isn’t an elite level athlete, a no judgement zone sounds perfect.

The same could be said for everything that occurs outside of Planet Fitness. For the sake of argument, let’s imagine a judgement-free zone that covers the entire globe. If the world wants to cruise through a carefree life, the first step is the removal of all critics, because society views critique as a negative assessment. Our lives would exist in an environment where no one measures your attitude, skills, natural aptitudes, or progress at work, school, or home. Without a mirror held up to our face, one might imagine that life is safe, simple, and above all, comfortable.

From this utopic perspective, comfort is the ultimate goal. The text, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” is a popular mantra seen and heard throughout popular culture, current events, and daily life. A demand for unaccountability, thinly veiled as a call to righteousness by, none other than, Jesus Christ. In a pluralistic worldview where all roads can lead to happiness/heaven/nirvana, what right does anyone have to openly critique how one gets there?

If we are honest with ourselves, the only time we wish to be excluded from judgement is when we feel like we’re making a contested decision. Our decision may not align with the status quo. Maybe there was no single perfect choice, so we had to choose “the best of the worst.” Perhaps we are still wrestling with our choices – ‘buyer’s remorse,’ second-guessing, or similar issues of decision confidence. Or further still, maybe our decisions were made hastily in fear of making no decision at all. Whether these or similar statements are true, exclusion from judgement insulates the decision maker from the effects of their own contested decisions.

So, while pretending that we want a world of peace, love, and acceptance, what we really want is permission to do life on our own terms, without criticism. The fear of criticism is not about losing a sense of belonging to whichever circles we are part of – deep down, the fear of criticism is often a fear of being wrong. And no one wants to admit to being wrong, especially when it is directly related to our own comfort.

A World Without Judgement

What would a world look like if everyone got a free pass – if everyone was excluded from judgement?

The ability to judge is what helps maintain an orderly society and live our best lives. Judgement allows us to weigh the pros and cons of any situation or relationship, before investing time, emotion or money into it. A world without judgement may sound blissful on the surface, but after careful examination, one doesn’t have to dig deep to discover the absurdity of such a world when played out to its extreme.

Imagine if nobody had the right to speak out against abuse, corruption, or even violence. If our leaders were announced, not appointed, and if they were to free to operate without critique.

Life in a completely judgement-free society does not work on any level. Imagine the outrage if such a carefree approach to morality was called upon in the courtroom, in a company’s boardroom, or even your family room. A society with no system of checks and balances, with trusted members of society to enforce them, would potentially lead to a form of individualist anarchy.

Even more concerning, a world without judgement would mean a world without justice. For if there is no right to intervene when evil occurs, there can certainly be no way for amends to be made. Why? Because humans are generally focused on comfort through self-preservation and typically lack consistent outpourings of grace, empathy, and kindness. Finally, a world without justice is a world without an opportunity for mercy and love. For if no one is ever wrong, how can they be forgiven?

What the Bible Says About Judgement

Does the Bible really forbid judgement? Of course not! One only needs to look at verses 15-23 to see Jesus expressing the necessity of discerning truth from error, such as in the case of false prophets and false disciples (aka. Christians). There are examples throughout scripture of appropriate judgement between humans. For example, James, the brother of Jesus, certainly did not downplay the eternal importance of intervening when someone “wanders from the truth” in his letter to the early church.

“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” James 5:19-20 (NIV)

For anyone seeking the Truth of God’s Word, it’s clear that Jesus is not forbidding judgement at all but a certain type of judgement.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 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.” Matthew 7:1-5 (NIV)

Jesus warns us not to judge hypocritically. Does this mean that one must be perfect before they have the right to speak into another person’s life? No! Though such an interpretation of this scripture and others (see John 8:7) is sadly all too common, this is an incorrect reading of Matthew 7:1 and its surrounding context. Rather, Christ cautions us to think before speaking into someone else’s life if we are also struggling with a similar sin.

For example, if you are currently engaged in sexual immorality such as adultery, you are in no position to speak into someone else’s behaviour. First, get your own marriage on the right track, (or the plank out of your own eye) if you want anybody to take your advice, or assessment seriously.

It is important to also note, that one should always ask themselves the following two questions before criticising someone else:

1. What is my intent?
2. What is my relationship to this person?

If your intent is to condemn, it may be wise to hold your tongue. Any type of human judgement ought to be done in the hope of helping and healing the accused. Secondly, if you make it your mission to speak into the lives of everyone around you, you’ll quickly become unpopular and your words will lose their potency. Save your words of council for those with whom you have already established a relationship of trust with, so that your words may help and not hinder them.

Final Thoughts

A worldview that forbids calling out evil or unwise choices when one sees it, is one that will lead to at best, pain, at worst, gross misjustice. So the next time someone tries to quote Matthew 7:1 to you out of context, rather than attempt to lecture them on the absurdity of their demand, you could simply point out that “You shouldn’t judge” is in fact itself… a judgement.

Disclaimer: All views expressed by those associated with this ministry or on our platforms do not necessarily represent the opinions of Women in Apologetics, Inc. or its individual team members.

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