It is difficult to think of verse that is more misused than this one. How many times it has been used to censor Godly reproofs would be impossible to number. If you are in the habit of reading the Word of God and upholding Godly standards on moral conduct, then you have most likely had this verse thrown your way while commenting on some behavior or trend of which God does not approve. This verse, to many people, means that no one is ever allowed reprove or correct someone’s behavior. If you are to speak, even in love, against homosexual activity or drunkenness, then according to these people, you have become a judgmental Pharisee. Now, of course, this is a judgment which they are making upon another person, which means, if their interpretation of this verse is correct, then what they are doing is wrong. After all, they are saying that telling people they are wrong is wrong, so they should stop telling judgmental people it is wrong to judge.
With only a small amount of studying the context of these passages we will see that Christ is not saying that it is never appropriate to reprove someone with the word of God. In fact, this is something we are commanded to do, and is something for which the Word of God is intended. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” So what then is Christ telling us? He is telling us of a difference between those who think they are somehow above the standard of morality and those who see themselves under the same standard of morality as the one they are correcting. What this passage is illuminating is that we must never correct someone as if we are somehow above the standard of conduct with which we correct someone else. This is seen in the following verses when Christ tells us to make sure that we check the plank in our own eye before looking at someone else’s speck.
There are a few different ways we can approach someone who is in sin. First we could act as if we don’t know if anything is wrong, and not correct anyone except those who correct people. Second, we can act as if the moral law does not apply to us but condemn anyone who violates it. Or finally, we could look at our own short comings under the moral law and approach the one who is erring by saying, there is a standard by which God wants us to follow because of His love for us, and neither of us are above that standard. Along with both of us being under this standard together, we both fall short so let’s work on our shortcomings together. After all His standards are an expression of His love.
This is also why when we think of a judgmental person we think of their attitude as much as we think of their actions. The first person, the one who thinks that it is always wrong to reprove, usually ends up with a judgmental attitude, because as they reprove they are acting as if they are allowed to reprove when the person they are reproving is not. Hence, they act as if they are above the standard they preach. The second person also tends to succumb to a judgmental attitude because they too think they have no guilt of their own in these matters, and both will have tendencies toward harshness. Only the third person, the one who believes in God’s moral standards, that they can be known, that they to are not above the struggles with sin themselves, and believes that we should correct each other in love, will be able to avoid the judging that Christ is speaking of in this passage.
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. 2 Tim. 2:24 – 26