Should You Judge Others?
Does the Bible ever tell us to not judge others? The quick answer is no, but with some caveats. But before I dive into those caveats, let’s discuss the word, judge, shall we?
To judge is to hold someone else, or even ourselves, to some sort of standard or law. Olympic sporting events have judges, and these judges are judging the competitors according to a set of standards. A policeman who writes you a speeding ticket is making a judgment as well. And if you don’t like his judgments you can appeal to a higher authority, which would be a judge.
But more likely than not, when you encounter the word it will be referring to negative thoughts supposed by one to be had by another. For example, when I see a young man walking down the street with his pants down around his knees, my thoughts about that young man will be negative. Those negative thoughts would be judging in the current sense of the word. You should also keep in mind that it is considered a sin in the religion of Secular Humanism to have bad thoughts about anyone in general, and certain other people’s behaviors or beliefs in particular. “Don’t judge me,” is simply another way of saying, “Don’t have negative thoughts about me.” This kind of judging is based on the idea that any standards that we have are derived from within, and we must not impose those standards on another person by having negative thoughts about them. Of course, it’s okay if they have negative thoughts about you if they suspect that you may be having negative thoughts about them. If that sounds confusing to you, welcome to moral relativism.
Another thing to consider, as you contemplate the word, is that many times their suspicion of your judgment will be the result of their own self-judgment projected onto you. A man might walk into church, for example, and get the feeling that he’s being judged. But unless that man is a mind-reader, he can’t know what kind of thoughts others are having about him, positive or negative. But being in the presence of others who are trying to live righteously can make him aware deep inside that he is falling way short of the standards in the Bible. And he may feel as though everyone is looking down on him because of that, and so he judges all of them as being judgmental.
If that man would come to his senses he would realize that all the other people there are falling short too, and that the work of the Church is about building up the body of Christ, not deciding who is good and worthy and who is not. Real Christians are conscious of their own sins, and therefore love Jesus for dying for them.
Considering this, let’s look at what I’ve heard is the most often quoted verse in the Bible these days: “Do not judge lest you be judged…” To grasp what Jesus was saying here it’s important to understand that Christians must work with others so that they can help each other overcome their failings. When you are living in relationship with brothers and sisters in Christ in this way you are living in the Body. But, if someone walks into your church daring anyone there to “judge” them, then they are on the outside of the Body looking in. All of us have a tendency to interpret reality using ourselves as a reference point. In so doing though, we often judge others based on what we think we would be thinking if we were them. The mature Christian, however, understands grace, and he extends grace, even to those who may be struggling with self-righteousness.
Here is the passage where we see this command to not judge:
Do not judge so that you will not be judged. “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matt 7:1-5)
A few things to point out here. First, as you can see, the main goal is not to “not judge” but rather to help the brother. Believers have a duty to each other to pick bad stuff out of each other’s eyes so that we might see more clearly and avoid the pit. Can you see how desiring such a thing would build up the Body? Remember that this requires that we must also be open to the idea that we may have a log in our own eye, and not get offended if someone points that fact out.
Second, it’s a loving thing to do to help the brother with the speck in his eye. Our standing before each other is not our goal. It is our sanctification that we are working on. Jesus is not telling us here to get off by ourselves and get the logs out of our eyes so that we can come together as speck pickers. We are to build each other up as a body of believers. Paul aptly points this out here:
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Eph 4:11-16)
How will the Church ever “build itself up” if it turns a blind eye to every sin because it has bought into Secular Humanism’s prohibition against its own notions about “judging?” Secular Humanism is concerned with Man’s standing before Man. Christianity is concerned, at least in part, with sanctification.
Third, it’s always important to determine who it is that Jesus is speaking to as you read His words. In this passage Jesus is speaking to His disciples instructing them how to interact with each other. If every time a brother fell we excommunicated him, our churches would be empty buildings except for those able to hide their sins. When you fall, dear children, first admit it to yourself, then to those close to you. Repent, work toward restoration, and then be willing to work with others who have fallen. Grace and mercy are always the right response to repentant brothers and sisters.
Forth, always look at any passage of scripture in the context of the rest of the Bible. If we take the words “Do not judge” in a wooden sense, removed from its context, we would set it up against the rest of scripture, including Jesus himself in the same sermon when He warns us against bad fruit and false prophets. Would He have us not judge for ourselves that perhaps someone might be a false teacher or prophet?
So, now let’s look at the second, and perhaps the least quoted scripture in these days regarding judging. It comes from 1st Corinthians chapter 5:
I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler — not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES. (1 Cor 5:9-13)
Again, we can see here how the building up of the Body reigns supreme. Paul distinguishes between those who are part of the Body and those who are not. The one who is part of the Body will behave differently than the one who is not, but he is also to be treated differently. We are to expect unrepentant sinners to sin without remorse. But we see our brothers and sisters in light of God’s standard and His grace. The key is repentance. If we sin without blushing and then dare anyone to “judge” us while throwing “do not judge” around like a trump card, then we are unrepentant. Love demands then that one be removed in order to protect the Body, and also in hopes that the unrepentant one will find it in himself to turn from his wicked ways.
Also, be on your guard. There are many false teachers in our day. And it is a favorite thing for them to set Jesus against Paul. This passage would be an example of such wherein some will try to make the case that Jesus and Paul contradict each other. You will hear it said that Jesus “ate with sinners,” implying that all ought to disregard sin, unrepentant and otherwise, in the Body. But the Bible doesn’t tell us to just “kick someone out of the Church” if they sin. There is a Biblical process, and Jesus himself provides it in Matthew chapter 18:
If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. (Matt 18:15-18)
The world hates God and His law. As an ambassador for Christ it will hate you also. Some express that hatred outright. Others try to infiltrate the Body in order to destroy it from within by preaching false doctrines. But as Jesus points out, His sheep know His voice and when a stranger comes they make judgments about his being a thief and robber and so they run the other way.
So, dear children, love your brothers and sisters. Let grace reign in your hearts. But do not be afraid of seeing yourself, as well as others, in the light of God’s law. Such will bring us to love the work that was done on the cross. Live a life of repentance, as you help your brother’s and sisters in Christ do the same. Admit your sin to yourself, and to others. Don’t be afraid to call sin sin, whether it be in yourself or others. Desire rather to restore the repentant brother or sister than to excommunicate, but do not be afraid to live according to God’s plan for the Church either. I pray your success in all these areas. It will not be easy.