To judge, or not to judge

How many times have you heard someone gasp, “Oh! But, we’re not supposed to judge people!”

And, they point to Matthew 7:1 to justify their statement.

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
Matthew 7:1-4

This is a favorite passage of worldly Christians who want to pretend that their sin is their sin and doesn’t effect anyone else.


Let’s take a look at the Scripture today to see what God is really saying in the Bible about judging.

The first thing we need to acknowledge is that the Bible is full of admonitions to judge.

  • beware evildoers” … How do we know who the evil doers are? We must judge people to determine if they are evil doers.
  • beware false teachers” … Who are the false teachers? That’s left up to our judgment.
  • but judge righteous judgment” … Here’s an outright commandment to judge.

And on, and on. You can hardly read a chapter of the Bible without coming across something that requires us to exercise judgment concerning ourselves, our fellow Christians, or the world.

In fact, Paul told the church at Corinth to kick out one of their members from the fellowship because of his lifestyle of sin. If we are not to fellowship with sinful Christians, then we must have to judge people to determine if we should fellowship with them or not.

One thing is obvious. If we accept Matthew 7:1 as it is commonly taught today, then the Bible is self-contradictory.

Now, all the time I hear people saying that the Bible is full of contradictions. I’ve been studying it for some 20 years and haven’t found one of those supposed contradictions yet. So, on this subject of “judging”, either we have discovered one of those illusive Bible contradictions, or our understanding of the Scripture is erroneous.

It helps to read one more verse in Matthew 7:1.

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Matthew 7:5

Based on verse 5, we learn that we are expected to “judge” our brothers and sisters. We are expected to help and support each other (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12), to help each other deal with and get beyond sin. But, we must first attend to ourselves. We can’t do a good job at helping others with their sin (and we shouldn’t even try) if our own lives are filled with sin.

That would make Matthew 7:1-5 itself contradictory.

I will proceed on the assumption that Jesus Christ did not contradict himself.

The fact is that these verses are not self-contradictory. The problem is not with the Bible text, but with shallow Bible study.

Pull your Strong’s Concordance off the shelf. If you look up the word “judge” as it appears in Matthew 7:1 you’ll find that the greek behind that word is “kreeno”, meaning to judge, condemn, damn, etc. To get a better idea of its meaning, look at John 3:17:

For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
John 3:17

Look up that word “condemn” in your Strong’s, and you’ll find that it’s the exact same “kreeno” that is used in Matthew 7:1. And that’s the kind of judging God does not want us to do. He does not want us to condemn or damn our brothers and sisters, or even the unsaved. That’s not what Christ came for, and that’s not what he wants of us, either.

If we condemn another person, then we are much like the unjust servant who, being released from an overwhelming debt by his master, straightway had another servant locked up in prison for a $50 debt.

We’re all on a level playing field here. We are all condemned by our own actions and all deserve hell. We are going to Heaven based on someone else’s merit, not our own. Who are we to condemn one another?

God does not want us to judge in terms of being “judgmental”, but He does want us to exercise “good judgment.”

Parents, if a fellow pulled up in a black van with no license plates, had a beer in one hand and a joint of marijuana in the other, and said, “Hey, can your little girl come out and play?” — what would you say?

If we accept the common interpretation of Matthew 7:1, we’d be morally-bound to send our little girl off with this person. After all, who are we to judge them?

But, sending your little girl off with this person would be sin. It would be an example of very poor judgment indeed.

God asks us to judge well, to exercise “righteous judgment.” He doesn’t want us to be judgmental or condemning. Don’t think yourself to be somehow inherently better than that fellow in the van. In fact, you and he are very much alike and you yourself might be behind the wheel of that van had it not been for the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. Remember, it’s the Holy Spirit’s work – His accomplishment – not yours. You have nothing to boast about or to be proud of. Instead, rejoice and share your Savior with everyone you can.

We should examine our pastors and Bible teachers to determine if they are worthwhile to support and listen to.

We should examine the lives of brothers and sisters in Christ to determine what kind of relationship we should have with them. Are they immature and need you to help mentor them? Are they strong and growing Christians who can be your brother and supporter? Are they so exceptionally surrendered to God that it would behoove you to seek to be their student, to learn as much as possible from them, to let them be your mentor?

We should examine the lives of our children’s friends, and their friend’s parents, to determine if we want our children to be influenced by them.

We are to judge, judge, judge. To not judge is sin. But our judging needs to have the connotation of exercising good judgment, not of being judgmental. Being judgmental goes hand in hand with pride and vanity, and God hates those things.

Let’s go out now and do some righteous judging. Let’s begin with ourselves, so that we can become better vessels, better servants, more useful to God and to our brethren.

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