Have you ever had somebody say to you, “Don’t judge me”? When I first became a Christian and attended public high school, I heard that phrase a lot. I would offer them the Gospel and the response consistently was, “Don’t judge me.” And even if people don’t say it with their words, their attitudes and actions may still scream, “DON’T JUDGE ME BRO.”
Personally, I have been called a bigot, liar, judger, racist, etc. just for simply sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. Nothing triggers defense mechanisms in people like when they are confronted with their sin. Friends and family members have shut down conversations, stormed out of the room, and even thrown things at me because I shared the Gospel with them – all in the name of defending their nature.
Christians Are Not to Judge
The world begs not to be judged. Sinners do not want to come face to face with their own sin. To justify this notion, Jesus’ own words are used against Christians so they won’t judge other people. Note Matthew 7:1-5,
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. 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. (Emphasis added).
As we see from Jesus’ own words, Christians are not supposed to judge. But is that it then? Does that mean Christians can’t address sin? Can they not preach the Gospel? Are Christians really not allowed to judge other people?
Christians Are to Judge
It is clear from Matthew 7:1-5 that Christians are not supposed to judge others. At the same time, there are other places in Scripture where Christians ARE told to judge others. Take note of the following verses.
John 7:24, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (emphasis added).
1 Corinthians 11:13, “Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered” (emphasis added).
Acts 16:15, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay” (emphasis added).
To Judge or Not to Judge?
Although Jesus was clear that we are not to judge, He also says that Christians are to judge with righteous judgment: He even commands it. So if Jesus is saying to judge and not to judge, then what are we supposed to do? Is Jesus contradicting Himself? What should Christians do? Is the world right in saying we should not judge them?
By no means is Jesus contradicting Himself. What God’s word reveals is that there is a certain type of judging that Christians are to engage in, and other types of judging that are prohibited to Christians. Not judging does not mean not thinking. However, there are certain ways of judging others that are forbidden in the Christian life.
Judgment of Disobedience
When we see biblically the commands not to judge fall under 2 categories: outward and inward judgment. God is clear in condemning both forms of judgments against others.
Looking at Jesus’ phrase, “do not judge,” He is using a verb in particular that means, “to pass judgment upon (and thereby seek to influence) the lives and actions of other people.” This is the type of judgment that speaks against others – not a judgment that excuses sin. We should not be seeking to tear down others because of appearances or any external features. That is absolutely not our place. Seeking to negatively influence someone based simply on how God created them shames the image of God and God Himself.
Yet just as much as God condemns against the judgment of outward appearance is the slander that accompanies this judgment. James 4:11-12,
Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brothers, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?”
Christians are not to judge by replacing the role of God as Judge. These are people who slander, gossip, and carelessly criticize other people. Such judgment that tears down others and promotes self-image is not promoted in God’s kingdom – it is prohibited. Instead, people who influence others in this way will receive that same level of judgment when they meet God face to face.
The prohibited judgment for Christians goes beyond judging outward appearance and confronts the condemnation of inward motivations. It is not honoring to God to condemn, be angry, or be bitter toward someone for perceiving if they did something or not. This should not be a characteristic of believers’ interactions with one another. The person judged can become angry, resist, bitter, and hurt. As John MacArthur has said, “To judge another person’s motives or to curse to condemnation is to play God.”
In addition to Matthew 7:1-5 speaking to the heart of this issue, the New Testament also speaks about this kind of judgment.
1 Corinthians 4:5, “Therefore do not go on passing judgment [judging anything], before the time [appointed time of judgment].”
Romans 2:1-2, “Therefore you have no excuse, every one of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.”
The context of these verses refer to Christians who are judging in a hypocritical and self-righteous manner. Christians are to cease and desist on judging someone outwardly and inwardly so that they do not curse judgment upon others and upon themselves.
Ultimately, judging can take many forms. It could be questioning somebody’s spirituality or integrity based on someone’s motives or outward appearance. Judging could take form in gossip, complaining, bitterness, anger, and discontentment. It can become a pattern in your life, which is why Jesus is so clear in guarding from this form of judgment.
Judgment of Discernment
Obviously a judgment that leads to condemnation is not what God wants from His people. Yet this does not mean He doesn’t want God’s people to think, to discern, and to confront others with their sin. Ironically, the very passage used by the world to say, “Don’t judge me!” actually encourages the confrontation of sin. Notice Matthew 7:5 again, “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.”
What Jesus is saying in Matthew 7:1-5 is for believers to stop sinfully judging (vss. 1-2), self-examine their own sin (vss. 3-4), and help remove sin in the lives of others (vs. 5). Jesus does not say, “You hypocrite, take the log out of your own eye and don’t judge your brother ever again.” Rather, once a proper self-examination has occurred, Jesus encourages believers to “take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Christ does not desire His people to live in sin and will use believers as a means to encourage other brothers into holiness and sanctity. Matthew 18:15, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” (Galatians 6:1-5). It is amazing that although people use Matthew 7 to not judge them on their sin, Jesus is telling us essentially to judge and discern sin in other people! This is the approved judgment and discernment God expects of His people.
Judge for Yourself
Are Christians not supposed to judge others? Yes. Are Christians supposed to judge others? Yes. Believers are to be discerning saints who, with a humble spirit, self-examine their own lives, confront the sin of others, and help remove that sin. In doing so, they are to guard themselves for pronouncing condemnation and negatively influencing others with a judgment that is focused on outward appearance and inward motivations. Such judgment is hypocritical, self-righteous, empty, conceited, and slanderous.
So where do you stand? I will let you be the judge! Think through some of the questions below and discern for yourself how you have been judging others. How can you overcome judging in a disobedient manner? How can you be a better discerner of sin and help others?