Judging others is a serious sin, and most people like to think that they do not judge others – they may criticize, accuse, complain or disagree with someone else but somehow that doesn’t seem so bad as judging others.
There are two issues that need to be understood here. It can happen that someone sins against us, does something specifically wrong – i.e. stole from us, broke or damaged something that belonged to us, injured us or did something that is obviously wrong. In such a case, we could claim justice by going to the police and through the courts, (or as the Bible prefers – for Christians to go to fellow Christians or the church leadership) in order for a judgment to be made and hopefully reconciliation and restitution if necessary.
The judgment that Jesus is referring to in Matthew 7:1 and Luke 6:37 is not the same. This is making a negative decision about someone else when we have no right to do so. Jesus met with situations like this occasionally. Many religious leaders made judgments about Jesus — see for example Luke 6:7-8, Luke 7:36 – 49. People made judgments about what Jesus said, about what He did, and about every aspect of his life. These judgments were not always voiced, but Jesus always knew what they were thinking. He was and will be strict with everyone of us who has attempted to make a judgment about someone or something when we have no right.
The quote in the question is from Luke 6:37. The whole quote reads: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:37-38).
God alone has the right to judge
When we accuse, get angry with others, are not happy when they don’t do what we told them to do, we are acting as if we are God. We are trying to control and we are judging someone because they haven’t done as we pleased, or lived up to our expectations. This behavior needs to change. Instead of judging and condemning we need to forgive, even ask God’s blessing on them.
When we give out judgment, it will be given out to us. We like to think that this verse is about generosity and receiving God’s reward abundantly, but in the context of this verse maybe we need to also realize that when we give out judgment, criticism, accusations etc we may find that the same comes back on us abundantly! When we think about this, it is a sobering thought – and should cause us to completely change our attitude towards others, especially those we don’t like or approve of.