Christians and non-Christians alike often quote Matthew 7:1, when Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” That’s a great verse. It’s a true verse. Nothing wrong with that verse. As Jesus says only a few moments later to those who would see a proverbial speck in their brother’s eye but wouldn’t notice a log in their own, “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.” Judge not.
Incidentally, Matthew 7 is also where we find what is known as the ‘Golden Rule’, another common maxim of how we are to treat others (just as we would like to be treated by them).
These words, though, are not pithy moral sayings. They are breathed out by God and profitable for study (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
As some may be surprised to find out after the charge to “judge not”, Jesus continues in Matthew 7 with some rather strong language about how we can check the claims of others:
“You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16-20)
Immediately before these verses, Jesus warns his disciples about false teachers saying, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15) Serious language for serious offenders. On Sunday Ben preached from the book of Jude, which is another portion of Scripture that warns us about false teachers. God, being infinitely sovereign and all together good has given us a way by which to determine if people’s lives match their words in Matthew 7 verse 20, “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
Determining if an individual’s claims to faith, particularly to Christ, is not judgmental. It is wise. Judge not; but if someone tells you they’re an apple tree, the Scriptures say you’re allowed to look for apples.