“Judge not, that you be not judged.
Jesus uses an important literary technique of hyperbole in order to emphasize his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Hyperbole is exaggerations (sometimes extreme exaggerations) that are meant to underscore a point. They are not necessarily to be understood as doctrinal truth but they illustrate and demonstrate didactic truth. Christ uses hyperbole in this passage that we need to identify so that we can understand the truth being taught here.
Matthew 7:1 is the world’s favorite Bible verse. Many interpret this verse to mean that Christians are never to offer any judgement about matters of right or wrong and matters of morality or immorality. But is this honestly what Jesus means?
No. In Scripture, we are commanded to test the spirits, (1 John 4:1) to be wise as serpents, (Matthew 10:16) and to be on the alert for the lies of the devil. (1 Peter 5:8) In other words we are called to make judgements about truth and about lies. That can’t be what Jesus is saying.
Instead, let’s understand that Jesus uses hyperbole here to remind us to be careful about judging others. If we judge, we will be judged in return. When we judge, we will be judged by the same standard that we use for others.
We must make judgements and evaluations about right and wrong from time to time. We should be very careful about judging the hearts and minds of others because we don’t always know the whole story and we are sinners ourselves.
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