Is it Right to Judge Others?
by M Randall
Today it seems the most often quoted Bible verse is Matthew 7:1, "Judge not, that ye be not judged." Some use it without realizing its true meaning and others, Christian and non Christians, use it to avoid accountability. Hypocrites for example would use it to avoid being challenged in their wrong doing. What does this verse really mean? Does this verse teach that we cannot judge others?
We see Jesus just a few verse later in Matthew 7:6 calling people "Pigs" and "dogs" and in verse 15 "wolves in sheep's clothing." In verse 16 He tells us how to recognize the false prophets, "you will recognize them by their fruits." Jesus would not be telling us how to recognize false prophets if he did not expect us to judge them as being true prophets or false prophets.
Therefore, the answer to our question is that Christians are to judge others. If judging others is unchristian as some charge, we would be unable to have the various levels of government, we would be unable to be a good parent, we would certainly make a poor employer, none of us would be able to sit on a jury and the list goes on.
Jesus does condemn a critical and judgmental spirit, one with a sense of moral superiority. He commanded us to examine ourselves first for the problems that we so easily see in others. It is when we examine ourselves that we can better see the problem and get help for our own problem first. Christians are not only commanded to judge but to judge righteously and not just by appearance. John 7:24, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."
Christians must use spiritual discernment in coming to conclusions on matters of right or wrong or good and evil. Judgment that judges right from wrong and good from evil is always legitimate judgment for Christians. Hebrews states, "But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." Christians can discern both good and evil which according to the Bible is a legitimate judgment.
If a person is doing wrong and I tell them they are doing wrong I am not judging that person but I am judging that persons behavior. God will judge the intent or motivation of man, Romans 2:16, "In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel."
The Greek word for judge is "krino" which means according to W.E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, "to separate, select, and choose, hence, to determine, and so to judge, pronounce judgment." This is spiritual discernment and as we shall see in the following it is required by God. Judgment for punishment or sentencing belongs to God and not to mankind. Romans explains, "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine I will repay, saith the Lord." Hebrews , "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:"
Paul, writing to the Corinthians stated in 1 Corinthians 6:1-2, "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?" The saints, believers, shall judge the world so judging is not only permitted but required. If a Christian has a matter against another Christian he/she is to take it before the saints, believers. This can only be done if Christians can judge the right or wrong of the matter. Therefore, it is not unchristian to judge others when done in a righteous manner.
Now look at the next two verses, 1 Corinthians 6:3-4, "Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church" Not only is mankind held to a standard, this verse implies that angels also have a standard. The saints, or believers, are to judge angels so there must be a standard for them as well as for mankind. Obviously, Christians are to judge the things that pertain to this life.
There is a proper way to judge. Matthew 7:1 states, "Judge not, that ye be not judged." This means that we can judge but we must first judge ourselves confessing our sins and then judge righteously not condemning. 1 Corinthians 11:31-32, "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world."
Some would say, "Hey, I have seen you do the same thing so you cannot judge me for doing it." This is covered in the verse following the "Judge not" verse in Matthew. Matthew 7:4-5, "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? 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."
Before I can judge another I must not have any unconfessed sin in my life. If I have unconfessed sin in my life then I cannot judge. When I come before God in prayer and confess those sins I can then judge properly. Therefore, having done the same thing I can still judge if my sins have been dealt with. If I confess my sins I receive forgiveness.
Don't miss the end of the verse above, "and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." This informs us that we can judge after we have cast the beam out of our own eye. "Judge not," does not mean that we cannot judge but we must first clean up our own act by confessing our sins and we will be forgiven, then we can judge but judge righteously. One must first become a believer to have ones sins forgiven so this makes it impossible for an unbeliever to biblically judge others.
A most important item for Christians is for Christians to first judge themselves. 1 Corinthians 11:31-32, "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." If we as Christians would judge ourselves first and judge others in the same manner we would certainly be more charitable in judging others.
There are many biblical examples that show Christians are required to judge. In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul writes of a church member living in open immorality. This church member's sin was being ignored and when Paul heard of it he judged the immorality of the sin and demanded the member be turned over to Satan for destruction of the flesh. In other words, he was put outside the spiritual protection of the local Church. 1 Corinthians 5:3, "For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed," Therefore, the church, which is an assembly of believers, is to judge members of the assembly.
Further on in Matthew 7:15-16 we are told, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits." If we are to beware of false prophets we must be able to know them and we can only do that by judging. Verse 16 goes on to tell us we shall know them by their fruit so we are to judge them by their fruit. Verse 17 explains further about the fruit, "Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit."
The letter to the Ephesians gives more information about the fruit, Ephesians , "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." To have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness we must be able to judge and not only that we are to reprove them! Many Christians are wrongly judged for judging right or wrong, never mind reproving anyone.
Right after the "Judge not" passage we have a few verses later a command. Matthew 7:6, "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." It is obvious that one must exercise spiritual discernment, judge, to fulfill this command.
What standard are we to use for spiritual discernment? The original question of judgment was the use of the Bible verse of Matthew 7:1 to "Judge not." Since a Bible verse was first used it is the Bible that is to be used as a standard of right and wrong and spiritual discernment. The Bible has the only absolute moral standards but the relativist would respond that there are no absolute standards and those who use them are being arrogant and judgmental. These accusations are unwarranted but the absolutist could respond that the relativist has just made a judgment and is also being arrogant and judgmental.
If a Christian makes a judgment from a sense of moral superiority he/she would be wrong. The proper sense of morality would be that except for the grace of God there go I, rather than a false sense of moral superiority. The Bible requires a Christian to use spiritual discernment to come to the truth of a matter but no where does the Bible address this matter for an unbeliever, possibly because the unbeliever is unable to use spiritual discernment since he/she is spiritually dead Originally published on SearchWarp.com for M Randall Monday, April 18, 2005
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