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What Did Jesus Mean When He Said, “Judge Not, that You Be Not Judged”?

The statement "Judge not, that you be not judged" is a famous teaching of Jesus found in the Bible, specifically in the Gospel of Matthew 7:1 (Matthew 7:1-5). This teaching has profound moral and ethical implications and is often cited as an admonition against passing judgment on others. Let's explore its meaning:

In Matthew 7:1-5 (NIV), Jesus says:

"1. Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2. For in the same way, you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

  1. 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?

  2. 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?

  3. 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."

Here's the meaning and message behind this teaching:

  1. Avoid Hypocrisy: Jesus is cautioning against hypocritical judgment. He warns against a critical and condemning attitude toward others when one is not willing to examine their own faults and shortcomings. The imagery of a speck in someone else's eye and a plank in your own eye is meant to highlight the absurdity of being overly critical of others while neglecting one's own flaws.

  2. Mercy and Forgiveness: This teaching underscores the importance of showing mercy and forgiveness. Jesus encourages His followers to be compassionate and understanding, recognizing that everyone has imperfections. Rather than harshly judging, He suggests that individuals should focus on self-improvement and extending grace to others.

  3. Accountability: While Jesus discourages hypocritical judgment, He does not advocate ignoring wrongdoing. Instead, He encourages individuals to address their own faults first, so they can better help others. It's about approaching issues with humility and a genuine desire to help, rather than with a self-righteous or condemnatory attitude.

  4. Consequences of Judgment: Jesus also emphasizes the idea that the measure we use to judge others will be applied to us. This highlights the spiritual principle that our actions have consequences, and the way we treat others can come back to affect us.

In summary, when Jesus said, "Judge not, that you be not judged," He was advising His followers to be self-aware, compassionate, and humble in their interactions with others. He cautioned against hypocritical judgment and encouraged a focus on self-improvement and a merciful attitude towards others. This teaching emphasizes the importance of empathy and understanding in our relationships with one another.

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