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Judge Not

Published on 04/03/13

by Siera Weber, written for MtTFC 2013

“Judge not, lest thou be judged.”[1] Matthew 7:1 is a popular verse because it seemingly indicates that Christians are to abstain from judging. If this is the case, then we are never to confront another believer who is doing wrong, denounce the wicked practices of the world, or condemn false doctrines. If we dare to speak out against any of those things, we are likely to be bombarded with, “Christians are not supposed to judge.” However, John 7:24 says, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” This supposed contradiction may cause some confusion in us if we do not know what the Bible says about judging. “What can this mean? Are Christians supposed to judge or not?” we may ask.

The answer to the latter question is this: “Yes, Christians are supposed to judge.” Matthew 7:1 is often taken out of context. If we would read down to verse 5, we would discover that Jesus was talking to hypocrites who were condemning sinners for committing the same wrongs as they themselves were committing. Multiple verses in the Bible command Christians to judge. However, there are certain restrictions on what we are to judge and how we are to go about judging.

First, let us define what judgment is. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines judgment as “the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning or comparing.”[2] This definition leads us to ask the following question: “What are we to compare?” In Matthew 7:16-20, we are told to compare the fruits, or actions, of men. In 2 John 1:10 we are warned to be wary of the doctrines that men teach, lest they go against God's Word. The Bereans judged the doctrines Paul taught them and were commended for it in Acts 17:11. This information may lead us to ask, “To what are we to compare these fruits and doctrines?” The Psalmist answered that question when he said, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”[3] We are to shed God's light on all of the fruits of men and the doctrines they teach so that we are not swayed by erroneous teachings. When Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, she let herself be persuaded by the serpent's beguiling lies rather than remain grounded in the command God had given to Adam and her.

We are also to discern between what is righteous and what is wicked. Solomon, a Hebrew king who felt inadequate to rule Israel, beseeched God for wisdom to judge the people of Israel and between goodness and iniquity. God did not berate Solomon for his words, but rather, He blessed Him with riches, wisdom, and honor because he asked for the understanding to judge![4] The prophet Amos instructed the people of Israel to “hate the evil, and love the good.”[5] How can this be done without judging between what is evil and what is good?

Another instance in which judging is necessary is when we see a brother in Christ behaving in a way that we know goes against God's Word. When this happens, we need to admonish him in a spirit of meekness and love.[6] If we refuse to rebuke a sinning brother in Christ because we do not want to offend him, then he may continue down the path of wickedness until he is horribly scarred by his wrongs. There are consequences to sin, some more grievous than we could ever imagine. Did not James say in James 1:15 that “sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death”? Amos the prophet also associated wickedness with death when he said in Amos 5:14 that the Israelites should seek righteousness if they wanted to live. True Christian love is not manifested by allowing a brother in Christ to strain his fellowship with God and to destroy his own life by his unrighteous works. Rather, true Christian love is manifested by warning the believer of danger. Would we let a loved one perish by eating something that we knew was poisonous just because we did not want to offend him? Will we allow our brethren in Christ to consume the poison of sin? Brethren in Christ are not the only believers we need to judge, for we need to judge ourselves as well. We are to be constantly shedding the light of God's Word on our own lives, determining if we are living as God intends.

There are certain things which Christians are not to judge and ways of judging that are prohibited. While we are to judge the fruits of men, we are not to judge men themselves by their outward appearance.[7] Furthermore, we are not to judge the hearts or motives of a person, since only God knows the heart.[8] On that note, we can never make judgments about the eternal soul of a person, since only God knows the final destination of the souls of all mankind. Judging hypocritically is also against the Biblical guidelines of discernment. If we condemn a Christian for doing the same sins as we are doing, then we are being as stiff-necked as the Pharisees Jesus rebuked in Matthew 7:1-5 and the wayward believers Paul admonished in Romans 2:1-4. We must confront ourselves before correcting another believer.

We are not to make legalistic matters, such as dietary habits and the celebration of holidays, issues of doctrine when they are not mentioned in the Bible specifically as right or wrong. The Apostle Paul addressed that very issue in Romans 14:1-14. Always, we are to make judgments about doctrine and the fruits of men based on the Word of God alone, and not the opinions of men.[9] Our own judgment is corrupt, just as we are corrupt. In fact, King Solomon informs us in Proverbs 14:12 that some ways which a man thinks are right really lead to death.

In the end, judging, or discerning, is the responsibility of all believers, no matter what the world may say. We must make sure, however, that all of our judgments are made upon the solid foundation of God's Word. Any judgment not based on this Biblical paradigm is folly and detrimental to the Christian's spiritual welfare and testimony.

If you are ever reprimanded for being too “judgmental,” you should first determine that you are judging in a Biblical way. If you are not, then you ought to correct yourself. However, we must not let the world’s view of “tolerance” dictate our Biblical discernment.

[1]Matthew 7:1.

[2]Merriam-Webster Dictionary, s.v. “Judgment,” accessed February, 20, 2013,

[3]Psalm 119:105.

[4]1 Kings 3:9-11.,/p>

[5]Amos 5:15.

[6]Matthew 18:15-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:13-15; Titus 1:13; Colossians 1:28.

[7]John 7:24.

[8]1 Samuel 16:17.

[9]Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 3:5.