So what is Jesus saying here?
“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, ESV1. It doesn't mean we can never tell someone they are wrong, never hold other Christians accountable, never observe church discipline, or identify destructive false teaching. Just a few verses down from "Judge not," Jesus talks about taking the log out of your own eye and THEN removing the speck from your brother's eye! And just a few verses after that, he talks about knowing people by their fruit. So this verse is clearly not talking about throwing discernment out the window and never saying, "you are wrong." (In fact, I noticed just this morning in my daily Bible reading where Jesus told the Sadducees, "You are quite wrong" [Mark 12:27]).
2. Jesus is teaching us not to be a hypocritical, fault-finding person. It is more about the heart. The text literally reads, "Stop judging... Stop condemning" (ESV Study Bible notes). Think of a vulture, always looking for something stinky and dead. This is a negative, overly critical person who never points out the good or praises what is right, but is vocal only about the negative. Jesus is talking about being self-righteous and proud, blind to your own sin while pointing out the sins of others (in this very context he tells a parable about the blind leading the blind, and the guy with the log in his eye).
3. Jesus doesn't just tell us what NOT to do, but what to do. Beyond avoiding a judgmental hypocrisy, Jesus wants us to be compassionate and loving to others with whom we disagree. On one side he tells us to stop judging and condemning, but in these very same verses he tells us to forgive them and to be generous ("give and it shall be given unto you"). Love your enemies! Don't just avoid constant criticism, but love the person who is in the wrong; bless them, forgive them, be generous to them, pray for them. Paul tells the church in First Thessalonians 5:11 to encourage each other and build each other up.
What would local churches look like if every believer came to every gathering ready to encourage and build up at least one person? What if we prayed all week about who we could bless and encourage and strengthen...that God would give us words to say and Scriptures to share and gifts to enrich and edify the specific people in our local church community? It would be...Christ-like!
4. God rewards and blesses our good deeds, but gives us the consequences of our hypocrisy. On one hand, we are to treat others as God has treated us. On the other side, God will treat us the way we treat others. Jesus clearly tells us that if we are judgmental, God will judge us. If we are condemning others, we will be condemned. But if we forgive them, God will forgive us. If we give to them, God will give to us. "For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you." This is not just karma. This is a God who blesses and rewards the good fruit of his children. And to those who prove themselves not really his (hypocrites), who show by their fruit that they are not new creations being changed into the character of Christ, God will withhold blessing and punish their sin.
This reminds us that salvation by faith instead of works does not mean that our works are unimportant. We are saved by faith in Christ, who took at the cross the punishment for the sins of all who will believe. But we are saved "for good works" (Eph 2:8-10) and our works show whether or not we are real (Luke 6:43-45). We are justified by faith, but rewarded on the basis of works.
5. How can loving judgments be made? It is clear that Scripture teaches us to judge. We must show discernment (Philippians 1:9), go to our brother when we are wronged, which may lead to expulsion from the church in love (Matthew 18; 1 Corinthians 5), and even point out those whose life and teaching may be destructive to the church (Paul calls people out by name - 1 Tim 1:20; 2 Tim 2:17). Paul even says that we are to judge those inside the church and leave those outside for God to judge (1 Cor 5:12-13). But loving accountability can be done only in gentleness (Galatians 6:1) by someone who is dealing with their own sins (Luke 6:39; 41-42). What Jesus is forbidding is the overly critical, self-righteous judgmentalism shown by hypocrites.
How about you? Are you overly critical? Do you give more words that tear down than words of love and praise and upbuilding?
Apply this to all areas of life. How do you speak to your spouse? To your children? To brothers and sisters in the church? To unbelievers? Co-workers?
"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Ephesians 4:29).
May Christ be glorified in our hearts and mouths!