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The gospel is the power of God for salvation, and I believe we grow in our faith through the study of His word and in gathering with our brothers and sisters in Christ to receive Him in word and sacrament. We are also instructed to be able to defend our faith and have been given a faith that is grounded in history and logic. Beyond the daily study of scripture, I'll occasionally post to this page with personal thoughts related to faith and reason.


Why does Jesus say, “Judge not lest ye be judged”?

Posted on October 23, 2023  - By Chris LaBelle  

Although the King James version of the Bible is not the ideal translation for most people, everyone seems to have this statement from Jesus memorized in this translation. It’s doubtful that most people have actually memorized (or even read) the entire statement by Jesus, “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. 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 eye,’ when there is the log in 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.” (Matthew 7:1-5 ESV)

The key to understanding Jesus’ statement about judgment is His use of the word “measure”. Throughout time, the image used to depict justice is a blindfolded woman holding a scale. The blindfolded woman is a symbol of perfect impartiality in weighing justice, and there are two platforms to the scale in which she uses. One is the matter which requires justice, and the other is where justice is measured out to balance the scale.

There are two types of measures which can be used to balance the scales of justice: judgment and mercy. You may ask how can mercy satisfy justice? Any wrongdoing creates an imbalance— a cost that needs to be paid. Perfect justice requires satisfaction. If the one wronged shows mercy, he takes the burden of that cost. If he exacts judgment, the one who did the wrong pays the cost.

In Jesus’ statement, He was saying that whatever measure you use for a wrong done to you will be used on you when you have wronged someone else. If someone shows mercy to a neighbor who has wronged him, he will receive mercy when he wrongs a neighbor.

It is not wrong to pursue judgment against someone who has wronged you, but Jesus warned against doing so hypocritically. If you point out someone’s sin (a speck in their eye) while openly engaging in something egregious (a log in your own), you can expect judgment to come upon you in a like manner.

If we have an understanding of our own sin debt to God and the mercy that has been given to us by Christ, we desire to show mercy to others who have wronged us. When people quote Jesus’ statement, “Judge not lest ye be judged,” they generally portray Jesus as being okay with sin but not with Christians describing something as sin. However, Jesus gave a very direct mandate after His resurrection for His church to go and make disciples of people from every tribe and nation. This is done by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe all that He has commanded.

How can someone understand the mercy of Christ if they do not understand the judgment that awaits them without it? With that said, it is important that we examine our own motives for discussing a particular sin. If it is to deflect people away from noticing the log in our own eye or to belittle another person with shame, it is much better to remain silent. Our motive should be bound to a love for our neighbor that is so great, it is worth risking a precious relationship to help them be reconciled with the creator of their soul.


Dear heavenly Father, please help us to be merciful to those who have wronged us and give us a desire for people to know Christ and His wonderful gift of mercy which satisfies Your perfect justice. For once we had not received mercy, and now we have received mercy. Alleluia. Amen!