Jesus’ teachings about religious hypocrisy and self-righteous judgments are very similar to Paul’s. Jesus warned us not to judge so that we wouldn’t be judged (Matthew 7:1). In His life and teachings, Jesus consistently modeled grace-filled life that was free from self-righteous condemnatory judgments. By becoming a human, Jesus was uniquely qualified to be our judge (John 5:27). By becoming a human, Jesus was prepared to sympathize with our weakness (Hebrews 4:15). As our sympathetic judge, His purpose in coming wasn’t to bring a judgment of condemnation; He came to save (John 3:17).
Jesus regularly confronted those who were engaging in self-righteous judgments. One time the scribes and Pharisees brought before Jesus a woman who was caught in the act of adultery (John 8:4). They wanted to stone her (John 8:5). Since the woman was caught in the act, justice would have required that both partners be brought for punishment, not just the woman (Leviticus 20:10). The fact that they only brought the woman demonstrates that the scribes and Pharisees were not genuinely interested in pursuing justice or faithfulness to Moses’ law. They were pursuing their own agenda to discredit Jesus (John 8:6). Jesus’ success in ministry was undermining their role as the religious leaders (John 12:19). They were willing to use a judgment of condemnation to kill a woman to protect their position in society. This perfectly illustrates how humans use the judgment of others to elevate themselves.
Jesus quietly stooped down and wrote in the sand as if He couldn’t hear their accusations (John 8:6). Then He rose and said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7). At these words, the religious leaders scattered like cockroaches when the lights turn on. Jesus didn’t hurl abusive condemnation at them as they had done to the woman. He quietly addressed their sin in a way that brought conviction without humiliation. And to the woman, in place of condemnation Jesus offered her the promise of no condemnation and the opportunity to change direction and pursue a new life not defined by her sin (John 8:11).
Jesus’ well-known warnings against judgment shouldn’t be understood as a denunciation of all evaluative judgments. Rather, Jesus cautions against self-righteous, self-elevating, censorious judgments of condemnation (Luke 6:37). Instead of judgments based on superficial appearances, Jesus encouraged His followers to embrace righteous judgments that accurately evaluate the evidence (John 7:24). It is right to acknowledge the hypocrisy of the religious leaders (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16; 23:1–39). Jesus encourages claims of religious superiority to be evaluated by the fruit displayed in the life (Matthew 7:15–20). Jesus does not condemn these evaluations as He does the self-righteous, condemnatory judgments of the religious leaders.