“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1) Have you noticed that most people are familiar with this scripture (Christian or not) and quote it if they feel they are being judged? Many people conclude that making judgments on anyone—especially coming from Christians—is wrong based upon the “judge not” verse.
When it comes to judging others, opportunities are readily available. One serving on a jury is expected to impartially judge the culpability of the defendant on trial. During elections, we compare by judging, each candidate’s qualifications and integrity. I think you see where I’m going here. We make judgments all the time. It is human nature.
The question is…
DOES THE BIBLE TELL CHRISTIANS TO JUDGE?
Jesus knew we would struggle with judging. Let’s take a look at the verses after verse one above.
“For you will be treated as you treat others.The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” (Matthew 7:2-5)
These verses do not mean we should never make judgments. Jesus is cautioning us not to make judgments in a hypocritical way. The Bible’s command that we not judge others does not mean we cannot show discernment or use common sense. When Jesus says, “The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged,” He is basically cautioning us to “judge at our own risk.”
Immediately after Jesus says, “Do not judge,” He says, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs” (Matthew 7:6). A little later in the same sermon, He says, “Watch out for false prophets. . . . By their fruit, you will recognize them” (verses 15–16). How are we to discern who are the “dogs” and “pigs” and “false prophets” unless we have the ability to make a judgment?
Jesus is giving us permission to judge right from wrong.
Common sense suggests that if no one ever judged, holding people accountable for their actions within a community, that community would not last for long.
When one judges they also form an opinion. The trouble is, opinions can be influenced by many things such as our fears, pride, or ignorance. If all we had were human opinions, we might agree with those who say we should never judge. But as Christians, we are not to judge based on our opinion, but the moral teachings of Scripture and through Spirit-informed prayer and discernment. Any lazy or biased fool can have opinions. But making biblical judgments is the hard work of responsible and compassionate people.
Elsewhere, Jesus gives a direct command to judge:
“Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” (John 7:24)
Jesus tells us there are correct and incorrect ways to make judgments.
Ways the Bible says we should NOT judge
- Superficial judgment: Passing judgment based solely on appearances is sinful. A fool jumps to conclusions before investigating the facts. (John 7:24, Proverbs 18:3)
- Hypocritical judgment: when we point out the sin of others while we ourselves commit the same sin, we condemn ourselves. Jesus warns about hypocritical judging. (Matthew 7:1; 3-5, Romans 2:1)
- Harsh, unforgiving judgment: we are to be gentle and merciful (Titus 3:2, Matthew 5:7) Jesus warned, “In the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:20).
- Self-righteous judgment: we are called to humility and God opposes the proud. (James 4:6, Luke 18:9-14)
- Untrue judgment: the Bible forbids false witness (Proverbs 19:5, Exodus 20:16).
- Judgment with human limitations: we are called to seek God’s word and authority. Only God’s judgments are flawless (John 8:15-16, Psalm 7:11, Isaiah 33:2)
Ways the Bible says we SHOULD judge
Let’s talk about biblical judging as it relates to the believer and the unbeliever. The methods are different when dealing with the two groups, but the goal is always the same: REPENTANCE AND RECONCILIATION.
Unbelievers need to know Christ and be reconciled to Him. Believers need to grow in Christ and be reconciled to each other in unity and love.
Judgment in relation to unbelievers
The Bible clearly declares that all people are sinners, have fallen short of the glory of God, and are in need of redemption from their sins (Romans 3:23). This is a judgment made by God. When a Christian gently, lovingly, and humbly presents the gospel to unbelievers, a judgment is made regarding their standing with God. This judgment is not made by the opinion of the one sharing, but rather by what the Bible clearly states.
To think that the unbeliever is somehow immune from criticism or being held accountable for his actions would mean that we never share that another person is in need of salvation. If we are not able to declare immoral acts sinful, then evangelism as Jesus designed it in Matthew 28:19 is worthless and Christianity is diluted to a feel-good group rather than the truth of the ages.
Judgment in Relation to Believers
Scripture provides many examples of how God’s people can be in error and sin, dating back to (and before) the kings of Israel and Judah. As believers, we are not to ignore sin. If a believer sees another believer sinning, he is instructed to confront the person in a respectful and loving way.
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”(Matthew 18: 15-17)
God commands believers to point out the truth with Christ-like compassion, bringing repentance and restoration to the sinner (James 5:20). “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2)
Why get involved?
Depending on our personalities, we are either prone to confront or we shy away from confrontation. No matter what our tendencies are, we must follow God’s Word. True love cares if someone is caught in the trap of sin. We can literally save a life or a marriage, or a world of pain (James 5:19-20). Here are the reasons God calls us to be involved:
- It follows the example of Jesus (Matthew 7:1-5; 15-16, Matthew 18:15-17).
- Godly love demands it (1 Corinthians 13:6).
- It produces growth in people’s lives (Ephesians 4:15).
- Because of what is at stake in the lives of people we care about (James 5:19-20).
Before getting involved
- Check your motivation
- Check your heart and your own life
- Ask the following questions: Is the issue unbiblical? Unwise? Or possibly unimportant?
I’d like to share a person caution. If you are fired up to confront someone with an issue you see as sin, STOP. I mean it. Stop and take some time alone with the Lord. Judgment is a serious issue and must be done with godly discernment, wisdom, and most of all LOVE. “The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”
Remember the ultimate goal of confronting the person is to bring repentance, not condemnation! In this sense, we are called to judge sin—always with the goal of repentance and reconciliation.
Whew! This is a tough issue. I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments below.