For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:2)
I used to hear this verse and assume others would judge me in the same way I would judge them. So the advice or guideline was basically to withhold any judgment by which you would not want to be judged. Don’t want to be judged for your weight? Don’t judge others’ weight. Don’t want to be judged for the way you struggle with temptations? Don’t judge others’ struggles with temptations. Don’t want to be judged for the priorities you set in your life, because you have the right to decide what’s important to you? Don’t judge others when their priorities conflict with yours. Don’t want to be judged for your poor life choices? Avoid poor life choices. Oh, wait. That’s a bit impossible to do throughout the entire span of life.
We’ve misapplied this verse a bit. First, there is rarely a direct link to being judged in return of the very thing we’re judging a person for, because sometimes the other person doesn’t even know we’re judging him or her. When they do know, they don’t always care. When they care, they might not judge us by similar standards.
The judgments we make on others comes back to us in a much more direct and dependable way. But before you commit to living life void of all judgment just to avoid being judged, know that all judgments are not bad. We all judge. Even God. Throughout Scripture, God tells us to discern his will and apply his wisdom, and that takes judgment. But there was a huge difference between God-driven and approved judgment and the action that comes along with it and our own judgment. Whether we judge for or against something in our own life or another’s, we are often motivated by the wrong things. We want comfort, and we avoid what makes us squirm. On the other hand, God wants truth and growth. He wants purpose and is willing to make judgments that drive us toward it.
Our judgments, good and bad, don’t determine how we’ll be judged. Our judgments themselves are judged. Our measurements of everything and everyone we deal with in life are measured. Of course, God also mixes in his mercy and forgiveness, but judgment is still involved. He’s not waiting for us to slip up so he can play whack-a-mole with us. That’s not who he is. And it’s not who he wants us to be. Does he want us to be judgmental? Yes, but with his standards and character. He wants us to discern. He wants us to trust him. We wants our judgments to honor him. He wants us to assess the world around us with the filters of his will.
So, as you face decisions today, know that you can’t avoid judgments. They’re an important part of life. Know on what basis you’re making judgments and trust God to guide each decision you make, including how to proceed and respond. Filter each judgment through his judgment, because he knows what he’s doing.