Context is vastly important to our understanding of Scripture; to read a passage without understanding the surrounding verses can lead men astray and away from the truth of the Word.
What does that say? Right there, without any other information, you’d be hard pressed to know exactly what the meaning is, but let’s have a go at it anyway for a moment. “Judge not” – well, that part, at least, is pretty straightforward, right? Dont judge someone else – don’t, you know, condemn someone based on their actions.
Right, that part’s done, easy enough. Now onto the next. “Lest you be judged.” Alright, that’s a little more difficult to put together, but it seems on the surface to mean “unless you be condemned yourself.”
That’s the most common view of this little bit of scripture, of course. How many times have you heard someone say “Judge not, lest you be judged!” when someone brings to their attention some unsavory act or habit that they might have? Let’s take a look at the surrounding context of that passage for a minute.
Notice something about that? It’s not suggesting that you should remain mum when someone does something that may or may not be sinful, it’s saying that you need to be careful when bringing something up to a brother or sister in Christ, as the same lens that you viewed them it, will be used to view you, by them. Looking further, in , we see the familiar passages about logs and specks in eyes. The whole meaning of the first verse is dependent upon the context of the later verses!
Remember to check the context!
7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. (ESV)
7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (ESV)
3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (ESV)