Judge not, that you be not judged.1 Right out of Jesus’ sermon on the mount and one of the most quoted phrases from scripture. It speaks to the issue of judging others. Jesus’ statement in John is usually uttered when someone is criticizing another’s actions. Specifically, it’s typically used as the first line of defense when someone’s moral character has been called into question. It is also sometimes used to emphasize or highlight the Christian’s responsibility in mercy and compassion as in the following statement:

The Bible is clear that God does not want people to be judgmental. Christianity teaches that people do not have the entire picture as God does. Since human viewpoints are thought to be skewed based upon human limitations, people are not in a position to judge others well. Instead, according to Christians, God calls everyone to have compassion and forgive one another.

The implication or outright conclusion in both of these scenarios is that the Bible teaches that nobody should judge another. Is that really what Jesus meant?

How Scripture answers "Should we be judging others?"

Regarding spiritual matters, including morality, we are to be judging others1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. This is clear even in the very next things Jesus states1 after the oft-quoted prooftext for justifying the opposite. It is of course true that we are making thousands of “judgments” every day3,6 about all kinds of things, and Paul amplifies the great care that’s required among brethren – not being judgmental on matters of opinion4. But concerning spiritual matters, followers of Jesus are called to make judgments of others from the standard of God’s word2,8 – in particular, those with whom they worship locally as a basis of fellowship5,6,7. We must do so while acknowledging our own shortcomings1,4,9 and tempered by the fact that all will come before God in judgment one day1,4,6,10,11.

Yes
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No

1

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

Don’t judge others without recognizing you are subject to the same judgment.  The harshness by which you judge others will be the same by which you are judged.

Stated in the midst of Jesus’ sermon on the mount that covers many aspects of what it means to be a follower of His. Jesus emphasizes the relational aspect required in making sound judgments and continues with a vivid example  (Mt 7:5 – “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.”)

Luke gives a similar account in Luke 6:37-42.

How does it apply here?

We judge others with a humble attitude and while recognizing we are all sinners.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Jesus is not saying “don’t judge others” (otherwise, He would be contradicting himself later in John2).

2

Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.
Don’t judge by appearances but with “right” or “righteous” judgment.
Jesus is teaching in the temple and makes the point that judgment should not only be made by the people but they should be judging based on a “righteous” point-of-view or standard (i.e. Godly).
How does it apply here?

We are not only to judge others’ actions, but judge them according to a Godly standard.

3

And Jesus answering said to him, Simon, I have something to say to you. And he answered, Say it, Teacher. A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more? Simon answered, The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt. And he said to him, You have judged rightly.

In an exchange between Jesus and Simon, Jesus asked him a hypothetical question. When Simon answers, Jesus tells him he has “judged rightly.”

Jesus has been invited by Simon (a Pharisee) to eat at his house (vs 36).  Also, there is a prostitute “of the city” – “a sinner” (vs 37). Simon has just wondered to himself why Jesus would be with this sinner (vs 39).  It is this thought by Simon that Jesus is “answering”.

How does it apply here?

It’s not directly applicable, but does show Jesus actually asking someone to make a judgment.

4

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

Why do you judge your brother and look at him with disdain?  Because we will all stand before the God in judgment, just as God spoke through Isaiah, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess God.”  Since we all will give account to God, let’s not pass judgment on each other any longer, putting obstacles in the way of a brother in Christ.

Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome and a section dealing with disagreements on matters of opinion with those “weak in faith” (vs 1).  He illustrates with things that can be eaten (vs 2) and days that might be celebrated (vs 5).  His point is, “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”

How does it apply here?

Paul says not to judge our brothers, but the context is regarding “matters of opinion” and specifically deals with the relationship between stronger and weaker brother.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

5

Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

Anyone that gets in front of the teaching of Christ does not abide in it and does not have God. You must remain in the teaching to have both the Father and the Son.  If someone comes to you without this teaching, do not honor him with hospitality or acceptance because in so doing you partake in his evil ways.

The apostle John is warning brethren (likely a local church – vs 1) about false teachers (as was much of his first epistle referring to “antichrists” having come).  He specifically tells them to “watch yourselves” (vs 8).

How does it apply here?

John instructs the brethren to make a judgment about associating with those that do not “abide in the teaching of Christ”.

6

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
And it’s my prayer that your love may continue to increase with knowledge and good judgement in order to accept what is excellent, and so be innocent for the day of Christ, filled with righteous good works that come through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

In Paul’s introduction to the church at Philippi, he commends the for their “partnership in the gospel” (vs 5) leading to this prayer that he has for them.

How does it apply here?

Paul’s prayer is that Christians grow in knowledge [of God’s word] in order to better judge [discern] those things that are good/righteous.

7

For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. Purge the evil person from among you.
For how can I [Paul] judge outsiders? Is it not your own members that you are to judge? God judges those outside [the local congregation]. Purge the sinner from among your congregation.

In Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, he is specifically dealing here with a problem of very public (Paul found out about it) and unrepentant sin of a member.

How does it apply here?

Paul is explicitly calling for the church in Corinth to judge each other in order that they might remove any sinner from their midst (not have fellowship with them any longer).

8

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

I [Paul] am amazed that you are listening to a different gospel and so refusing the gift of Christ to which you were called by God.  Not that there is a “different gospel” – there is only one – but some do you harm by distorting Christ’s call.  Even if an angel were to come from heaven to preach something contrary to what we have preached and you have heard, they should be doomed to destruction.  We have said this before but will say it again, if anyone contradicts the gospel of Christ that you have obeyed, let them be doomed to destruction.

Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia – churches that he had established not too long ago on his first missionary journey (Acts 13-14).  He is astonished by their quick turning from the gospel due to, in particular, “Judaizing teachers” that required Gentiles to be circumcised (affectively, accepting Judaism) before becoming, or in order to become, a Christian.

This was a significant issue throughout first-century Christianity and almost immediately becomes a problem after Paul’s first journey to Galatia (Acts 15).  Apparently, there was a “stigma” cast on Christians that had not been Jews first – or not part of the “circumcision party” (2:12), and even Peter is somewhat affected by this teaching (2:11-14).

How does it apply here?

Paul’s instruction to the churches of Galatia implies that they must judge all (even the apostles or angels) on the basis of, or against the standard of the gospel of Christ.

9

And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

As they continued to ask him, he stood up and said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

The scribes and Pharisees are again testing Jesus (vs 6) by bringing a woman that was supposedly caught in an act of adultery (vs 3).  They state what the law of Moses says about it, but ask Jesus for his judgment on her.
How does it apply here?

Jesus isn’t necessarily condemning their judgment of her. His statement and lesson are directed at their self-righteousness and arrogant self-interest in testing him (rather than concern for the woman).

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

10

Therefore you are without excuse, whoever you are, when you judge someone else. For on whatever grounds you judge another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge practice the same things.
You have no excuse, for whatever basis you judge someone else while doing the very thing yourself, you are condemning yourself.

Paul’s opening to his letter to the Romans where he is spending time describing different types of unrighteous individuals and their eventual judgment by God for their deeds of unrighteousness.

How does it apply here?

Paul is effectively making the same point that Jesus made1. His warning is for those that judge others while engaging in the same thing themselves. He says that God will be their ultimate judge for their deeds.

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  1. Robert Petty at - Reply

    In the immediate context of Matt. 7, verse 6 specifically, Jesus gives a direct statement where judgement is REQUIRED on our part. “Do no give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” It should be obvious that Jesus is not referring to literal dogs and pigs here, but rather is using them as a metaphor for people, who from a character standpoint, are dogs or pigs. Whatever the “pearls” are in this passage, we know they are something precious and valuable, and He is warning us not to offer them to people who display the character of dogs or pigs. In order for us to ascertain a person’s character, we would have to make a judgement. Therefore, to the heart of the question “Should we be judging others?”, the answer is a qualified “yes”. “Qualified” based on the guidelines given in God’s word, regarding righteous judgement.