Bible with Cross ShadowJudge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:1-5

This passage has been a challenge to many in the church – including myself. Jesus seems to begin with an emphatic statement, only to follow it with a process for doing the very thing He said not to do. Many have harmed themselves (and the church) by misinterpreting this to mean that we are prohibited from identifying the sin in our brother and helping him to remove it.

A more careful reading of this and related passages, reveals just the opposite (see Ezekiel 3:16-21, Matthew 18:15-17, 1Corinthians 5:1-5, Galatians 6:1, James 5:19-20). Christians are responsible – and obligated by love – to actively weed out sin in our brothers, and in the church.

So, what are we to hear and do with this saying? For starters, we must recognize that Jesus is addressing related, but different, subjects. The fact that a publisher decided to group them in the same paragraph does not mean they are the same thing. Judging another is not the same as removing planks and specks.

There is a second important thing that is not being said in this passage (but has been assumed by many). This passage is not saying – it cannot be saying – that we will not be judged. In the end, all will stand before the judgment set of Jesus Christ (Romans 14:10; 2Corinthians 5:10). The truth of this saying requires our digging deeper (as most treasures do). For that we turn to the meaning of “judge” – from the Outline of Biblical Understanding, found on


  1. to separate, put asunder, to pick out, select, choose
  2. to approve, esteem, to prefer
  3. to be of opinion, deem, think, to be of opinion
  4. to determine, resolve, decree
  5. to judge
    1. to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong
      1. to be judged, i.e. summoned to trial that one’s case may be examined and judgment passed upon it
    2. to pronounce judgment, to subject to censure
      1. of those who act the part of judges or arbiters in matters of common life, or pass judgment on the deeds and words of others
  6. to rule, govern
    1. to preside over with the power of giving judicial decisions, because it was the prerogative of kings and rulers to pass judgment
  7. to contend together, of warriors and combatants
    1. to dispute
    2. in a forensic sense
      1. to go to law, have suit at law

The first thing we notice is that krinō means more than “to judge”. This is not unusual. Greek words often carry a richer and more varied meaning than the English word chosen by the translators. For the seeker of truth, this is an exciting find. The broader meaning invariably adds to our understanding.

For example, the primary meaning of krinō is “to separate, put asunder”. Perhaps the judging that Jesus is prohibiting is that which separates the body of Christ; judging that involves contending together, as warriors and combatants. This aligns with Jesus’ prayer for our unity, in John 17:20-23; as well as Paul’s strong words against one brother taking another to court (1Corinthians 6:1-7).

So what is the judging that creates enmity and division in the body of Christ? Looking back at krinō, we find an interesting contrast in the two meanings of “to judge”. The first is “to pronounce an opinion”; basically, to say what one thinks about a person or situation. The second, “to pronounce judgment”, is the final act of judging; including the pronouncement of penalty. This is the heart of the matter.

Jesus goes on to say something very important for our understanding: “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Again, searching out the meaning of the words that Jesus chose to use brings clarity to our understanding.

The Greek word for judgment is krima (the noun form of krinō): A decree, judgment, condemnation of wrong, the decision (whether severe or mild) which one passes on the faults of others; the sentence of a judge, the punishment with which one is sentenced, condemnatory sentence, penal judgment, sentence (from Outline of Biblical Understanding,

As you can see, krima is the final phase of krinō (the final judgment). The judging that we are not to do is that which has been reserved for God Himself: The final judgment, sentence and punishment for our sin, and our sins. Circling back, this does not excuse us from the loving removal of sin in our brothers, and the church. In fact, it is the first step in that process (something we will explore in our next These Sayings of Mine article.

For now, it is enough that we examine ourselves and the way we respond to the sin in our spheres of influence. I can testify from personal experience that a judgmental spirit (or nature) is destructive to both self and relationships. You might think this is obvious. The sobering truth is that I was unaware of it for many years. It took God’s revelation through others to open my eyes.

Humbly yours and forever His,