Should we Judge Others
Jesus’ words about judging may be the most-often-misquoted text from the Bible.
Let’s first look at some of the scriptures about judging. Notice that some scriptures says not to judge and some says to judge. Let’s take a look and see what Jesus is telling us. These scriptures are from the NIV bible and much of the research on this has come from different commentaries.
Mat_7:1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
Mat_7:2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Mat 18:15 "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.
Mat 18:16 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.'
Mat 18:17 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.
Luk_6:37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Rom_2:1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
Let’s start with Mat 7:1-2. This one is kind of lengthy because I used several commentaries to show how they all agree with what these scriptures are saying.
• Mat_7:1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
• Mat_7:2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
(Life Application Commentary) 7:1-2 The command “Stop judging others” does not refer to judging in a court of law, nor is it a blanket statement against critical thinking. Believers should be discerning and make certain judgments. For example, Jesus said to expose false teachers (Mat_7:15-23) and to admonish others in order to help them (Mat_18:15). Paul taught that we should exercise church discipline (1Co_5:1-5). But followers of Christ should not be critical or condemning in their attitudes toward others. A judgmental, critical spirit differs radically from love. Believers’ special position with Christ does not give them license to take God’s place as judge. Those who judge in that manner will find themselves judged likewise by God. As God will have mercy on the merciful (Mat_5:7) and forgive those who forgive (Mat_6:14-15), he will condemn those who condemn: “Whatever measure you use in judging others, it will be used to measure how you are judged.” Jesus said it was unacceptable to excuse personal sin while holding others accountable for similar behavior. When you perceive a fault in others, your first impulse may be to confront or reject that person. But ask yourself first if your awareness of the failure mirrors your own life. Your effort to help will be in vain if the person can point out the same fault in you. Practice your own remedy before you ask them to do it.
(Utley’s Commentary) "judge" This Greek word is the etymological source for our English word "critic." Another form of this same root in Mat_7:5 is translated "hypocrite." It seems to imply a critical, judgmental, self-righteous spirit which judges others more severely than it does itself. It emphasizes one set of sins over another set of sins. It excuses one's own faults, but will not excuse the faults of others.
(F.B. Meyer Commentary) Beware of basing your judgment on idle stories and gossip. In any case, do not utter it, if it be adverse, unless you have first prayed about it and sought to turn the sinner from the error of his ways. Let God search you, before you search another.
(Nelson’s Commentary) This restriction does not mean that a disciple never judges. After all, some kind of judgment is required in order to obey the command in v. Mat_7:6. The point of this verse is that a Christian should not have a spirit of carping criticism and fault-finding.
(The People’s New Testament Commentary) The term "judge" is used in more than one sense, but Christ's meaning is plain. 1. He does not prohibit the civil judgment of the courts upon evil doers, for this is approved throughout the whole Bible. 2. He does not prohibit the judgment of the church, through its officers, upon those who walk disorderly, for both he and the apostles have enjoined this. 3. He does not forbid those private judgments that we are compelled to form the wrong-doers, for he himself tells us that we are to judge men by their fruits. (See Mat_7:15-20.) What he designs to prohibit is rash, uncharitable judgments, a fault-finding spirit, a disposition to condemn without examination of charges.
• Mat 18:15 "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.
(Life Application Commentary) These are Jesus’ guidelines for dealing with those who sin against us. These guidelines were meant for Christians and for discipline and conflict resolution in the context of the church. These steps are designed to reconcile church members who disagree, so that the church body can live in harmony.
Jesus explained that the person who has been offended must first go privately and point out the fault. A personal confrontation, carried out in love, will allow the sinning member the opportunity to correct himself. However, the person doing the confronting ought to be very certain of his accusation and that he is doing this out of true humility with a view to restoration of the other (see Gal_6:1-4). Many misunderstandings and hurt feelings can be solved at this stage, but this is not a license for a frontal attack on every person who hurts or slights us. Personal action saves church leaders from getting involved in everyone’s personal concerns. Personal confrontation also keeps believers from gossiping with one another. Instead, believers are to be mature enough to go directly to the source and deal with the problem at that level.
• Mat 18:16 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.'
(Life Application Commentary) If the personal confrontation yields nothing, then the confronter is to proceed to step two. In this step, he takes one or two others along. This is backed up by Old Testament Law (see Deu_19:15). These “others” also ought to help in reconciliation at this second meeting, hoping to settle the matter privately. An erring person might be willing to listen to the wise counsel of these others. In addition, they serve as witnesses to this meeting.
• Mat 18:17 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.
(Life Application Commentary) If the additional witnesses can accomplish no reconciliation and the person still refuses to listen, then the third step is to take the case to the church. The objective at this point still is not disciplinary action but helping the sinning person to see his or her fault, repent, and be restored. But even the law of love has its limit. The fourth and last step is to disassociate with that person. The goal, even through this difficult act, is to help the person see his or her sin and repent. Paul recommended such action to the church in Corinth (see 1Co_5:1-13; 2Co_2:5-11; 2Th_3:14-15).
If this person refuses to listen to those whom God sends to help. In the church, believers are to teach, challenge, encourage, admonish, help, and love each other. But there can be no true fellowship with a believer who commits sin and refuses the loving guidance of his or her fellow church members.
• Luk_6:37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
This is similar to Mat 7 but I’ve listed just two commentaries so that it’s not to long.
(Life Application Commentary) While the word “judge” can mean to evaluate or analyze, Jesus did not mean his people should refuse to think critically or make decisions, nor was he attempting to abolish the legal system or disciplinary measures. Believers must be discerning and make certain judgments. Jesus was referring to the judgmental attitude that focuses on others’ faults, criticizing and tearing them down.
The believers’ special position with Christ does not give them license to take God’s place as judge. Those who judge in that manner will find themselves judged by God. Neither should they criticize or they will face criticism. The practice of forgiveness leads also to forgiveness by God. Those who refuse to forgive show that they do not understand what God has done for them. God’s children must be ready and willing to forgive, just as God has forgiven them.
(Nelson’s Commentary) Judge not … Condemn not … Forgive: The idea here is not that one should ignore sin or refuse to discuss its consequences (Luk_11:39-52; Gal_6:1-2); rather, one should be gracious and quick to forgive.
• Rom_2:1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
(Life Application Commentary) 2:1 The critic here is Jewish, for Paul is focusing primarily on Jews. Paul had criticized the horrible evil of the Gentiles, their sins of idolatry and homosexuality and their general lifestyle. This Jewish critic nodded in agreement and assumed that he was free from such vices. Many Jews believed that their national heritage would save them; they thought their privilege of birth ensured entrance into God’s Kingdom (Mat_3:8-9). They went to great lengths to separate themselves from “unclean” Gentiles. So when Paul finished his list of characteristics of those whom God will judge (chapter 2), Paul knew that his Jewish listeners would agree that such people are terrible and deserve to be punished. But then Paul says that the Jews have no right to pass judgment, because they are just as bad. They are not guiltless and therefore have no excuse. Their attitude freely condemned others’ sins but somehow overlooked those sins in themselves (see Mat_7:2-3).
How Do We Know When it Is Okay to Judge Someone?
In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul is very clear as he writes to the church about who we are and are not supposed to judge.
“For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders (non-believers)? Do you not judge those who are within the church [to protect the church as the situation requires]? God alone sits in judgment on those who are outside [the faith].” (1 Corinthians 5:12, AMP)
We are not called to judge people who are not self-proclaiming Christians. God is the judge of all and will judge those outside the church. However, we are called to judge the sin of believers inside the church. Just a chapter prior, Paul lays out a clear mandate for what is acceptable to judge in a fellow brother or sister.
1 Corinthians 4:5 states that we must not judge the “hidden…purposes of the heart.” In his article “Judge Not, That You May Judge Well” on Desiring God, Jon Bloom says it this way:
“We must not judge ‘the hidden . . . purposes of the heart’ of other Christians based on their decisions, actions, perspectives, words, or personality that concern us if those things themselves are not explicitly sinful (1 Corinthians 4:5). We must not assume sin if we suspect sin, given how biased our suspicions can be.”
What's the Difference between Holding Someone Accountable and Being Judgmental?
Accountability is holding someone to the standard of Scripture that you know without a reasonable doubt they have broken, and it often comes with permission. Being judgmental is pinpointing, talking about, criticizing, and making assumptions about what is hidden in the heart of a person and their intentions.
Although we are called to right judgment of explicit sin, we must not confuse it with being judgmental. A judgmental spirit is a critical spirit which is in direct contradiction to what the Bible teaches about building up the church. Wrongful judgment can turn into slander, tearing down others, or unnecessary arguments.
We should take careful watch over our mouths and minds as Ephesians 4:29 heeds:
“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.”
Accountability comes in with the intention of grace, restoration, and repentance. Accountability follows the commands of “being slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). The goal of accountability and right judgement is to confess sin (James 5:16), encourage, build up, and point back to the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-2).
What Does Right Judgement Look Like?
Right judgment looks like confronting explicit sin in another believer out of love and for the purpose of repentance and reconciliation. If we know we are not supposed to judge those outside the church, and we aren’t supposed to judge the outward appearance (Leviticus 19:15, Romans 12:16-18), intentions, or hidden purposes of the heart, then what and how are we supposed to judge?
Right judgement looks like restoring the person who is caught in sin (Galatians 6:1-6).
Matthew 7:1-5, is one of the most widely quoted phrases, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Jesus is not commanding us to never judge, but rather, He is challenging our heart as we walk through judgement. Before we seek to call out another sister or brother’s sin, we must check the motives and intentions of our heart. Jesus’ sharp heed here is to keep us from putting our own foot in our mouth. If we are not repentant and humble as we walk through holding someone else accountable, the judgement will fall back on our own heads.
As we seek to judge rightly, we should do so slowly, and with “unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8-12).
Conclusion: Biblical Perspective of “Judge Not”
Those people who call for tolerance and quote “judge not” out of context are not using sound thinking. Their call for tolerance is impossible because as Christians, we are called to judge righteously, and judging between right and wrong is something we do every day—and it should be a part of biblical discernment in every believer’s thinking. But it is God’s Word that makes the judgment on morality and truth, not our own opinions or theories.
What’s the purpose of judging error in a biblical manner? The church is to be built on the foundation of Christ and the authority of His Word (Ephesians 2:20) —and that means believers should examine their own lives regularly and also lovingly challenge Christian brothers and sisters who are in error or commit sin. To do this, believers must be bold for Christ, but they also have to be humble, loving, and kind.