“Don’t judge me!” This is a common phrase in the world today. No one wants someone telling them how to live their lives. Most people are aware of the fact that the Bible teaches us not to judge others. Jesus clearly taught this throughout His ministry, yet Christianity has a reputation for being a judgmental religion. It’s this conflict that causes a great deal of confusion concerning what the Bible really has to say about judging others.
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“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” – Matthew 7:1-5 (NLT)
Judging the world and its sin is not our job – it’s God’s. Who are we to judge unbelievers for their sins when we were at one time guilty of the same things?
We were all lost in our sin at some point in our lives.
The Bible tells us that if we break even one of God’s laws, we are guilty of breaking them all (James 2:10). It’s easy to look at others and think that somehow your sins aren’t as bad as theirs, but that’s not true according to God’s Word. Sin is sin. Period.
I think the confusion for most believers is that there are times and situations when the Bible actually tells us to use our judgement. Did you notice in the above passage that Jesus never said, “Don’t deal with the speck in your friend’s eye”? On the contrary, He told them to deal with it after they dealt with the junk in their own lives.
In essence, there are two types of judgment: one that leads to condemnation and another that leads to positive change.
There are three instances in the Bible where God calls us to judge others:
- We judge to keep ourselves from falling into sin and temptation.
Sin within the church has a way of spreading. (1 Corinthians 5:3-8) As Paul stated in 1 Corinthians, we can’t avoid the world and its sin; but when someone is living in sin who claims to be a Christian, that’s a completely different kind of temptation – one that is harder to say no to.
When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people. It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. – 1 Corinthians 5:9-12 (NLT)
- We judge when we help a believer sever ties with a sin in their life.
The Bible calls us brothers and sisters in Christ for a reason. We need to make sure we are encouraging one another to grow in our faith, and that includes helping each other stay away from sin. The goal is always to motivate a believer back into right standing with God – not to condemn them.
Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. – Galatians 6:1 (NLT)
- We judge in order to avoid false teaching and distorted truths.
We are called as believers to judge in the case of false prophets and teachers. This is simply for our own protection. We can trust God’s Word to be our ultimate source of truth, and we can use it as a tool in judging the messages we hear.
“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? …Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” – Matthew 7:15-16, 20 (NLT)
It’s important when using our judgement that we check our hearts. What is our motivation? Judgement should always come from a heart of love, and it should always be conducted peacefully. When Paul urges us to not even eat with believers who are living in sin, he doesn’t give us license to start spreading gossip and slander about them.
Our goals should be to avoid temptation as well as to restore our fellow believer to a right relationship with God. In this way, we are judging others the way we would want to be judged.
In the end, it may hurt to be held accountable; but if our hearts truly long to grow in our faith and to please God, we will surround ourselves with others who will “judge” us with the right motivation.
So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God…. Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall. – Romans 14:10, 12-13 (NLT)
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.