Many people believe the Bible condemns judging others, but is this true? The Bible has much to say on this subject, and often in a positive light.
In a practical sense, we judge every day. Every one of us.
Who decides if a rapist is wrong? A murderer? Is it wrong to make an informed judgment about whether a person should care for your children, have a key to your home, or be alone with your spouse? Is it wrong to judge whether a person who consistently lies should be trusted? How about a pedophile who does what they do because they, “love children”? These are all judgments.
Judging is a very necessary part of life. It’s vital for protection and preservation. Jesus had harsh criticism of the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, purged the temple from the money-changers who, “turned the house of prayer into a den of thieves”, and gave volumes of instruction on behavior. So, we see that judging is what gives definition to how we act or respond, and gives others a metric whereby they can alter their actions to become better.
Judging coupled with love can be the very conduit through which mercy flows and correction comes. It shouldn’t be avoided, it should be embraced.
What the Bible says
The Bible gives a tremendous amount of instruction for us to judge, and not to be silent.
- “The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment.” (Psa 37:30)
- “With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth.” (Psa 119:13)
- “Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” (Prov 31:9)
- Jesus commended Simon, “Thou hast rightly judged.” (Luke 7:43)
- “Now, thou son of man, wilt thou judge, wilt thou judge the bloody city? yea, thou shalt show her all her abominations.” (Ezek 22:2)
- “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” (1 Cor 2:15)
- “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” (1 Cor 6:2)
- “Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?” (1 Cor 6:3)
This is enough evidence that judging is important to the Christian life, but what about, “thou shalt not judge”?
The most often cited (and often misquoted) objection to judging is Jesus’ words in Matthew chapter 7. “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
But he didn’t stop there. He continued to say, “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” (Matt 7:1-2) What’s important to note here is that Jesus wasn’t calling for an absence of judgment. Rather, he was speaking to the hypocritical judgment of one guilty person condemning another guilty person. He was warning the hypocrite that God would also judge them with the same measure they judged their neighbor. It was critical judgment as opposed to constructive judgment.
Jesus used an example in this passage of a man with a beam stuck in his eye trying to remove the speck from another man’s eye (v. 4). But Jesus here wasn’t against judging, just unjust judgment. In fact, in the next verse he actually gives permission to judge by saying, “First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brotherʼs eye” (v. 5 – emphasis added). Approach is everything.
The Bible is replete with “instructive judgments”, and specifically states that the Word of God should be used for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”.
But perhaps the most important instruction is the manner and spirit with which we make judgments. The Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:15 to, “Speak the truth in love”. Remember the admonishment of Jesus, “…the measure you use will be the measure you receive.” (Matthew 7:2 NET)
Paul gave some salient advice when approaching another person in judgment. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if a man thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” Galatians 6:1-3 (KJV)
For those who are standing for righteousness, and judging justly with a righteous and humble heart, I applaud you. I commend you. I salute you. This is how one should judge.
For those however who are casting harsh, unjust or hypocritical judgement, I’ll pray for you… I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes.