“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Jn 7:1) 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 a first line of defense when someone’s moral character has been called into question. It’s 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 “judgements” 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 judgements of others from the standard of God’s word2,8 – in particular, those with whom they worship locally5,6,7. We must do so while acknowledging our own shortcomings1,4,9 and tempered by the fact that all will come before God in judgement one day1,4,6,10.

the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks
1

Judge not, that you be not judged.

Don’t judge others unless you also want to be 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. Immediately after he makes this statement he qualifies it emphasizing the relational aspect instead of the “don’t” by teaching to make sure you are not judging others without taking account of your own actions first (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.”)

How does it inform?

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

!! study note: context is extra important here !!

Does it apply? Yes

2

Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.

Don’t judge by appearances but with “right” or “righteous” judgement.

Jesus is teaching in the temple and makes the point that judgement 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 inform?

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

Does it apply? Yes

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.”

As he often did, Jesus is using a physical situation or scenario to teach a spiritual lesson (e.g. a parable). In this case, he is asking Simon to choose which debtor loved their lender after the lender forgave both debts – the one who owed a lot or the one that owed a little. Jesus used Simon’s answer (the one that owed a lot) to teach a spiritual lesson.

How does it inform?

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

Does it apply? Not Directly

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 on him with distain?  Because we will all stand before the God in judgement, 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 judgement 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, “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 inform?

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.

!! study note: context is extra important here !!

Does it apply? Yes

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.  He specifically tells them to “watch yourselves” (vs 8).
How does it inform?

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

Does it apply? Yes

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 inform?

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.

Does it apply? Yes

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 inform?

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).

Does it apply? Yes

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 opens letter to the churches of Galatia astonished by their quick turning from the gospel and his own confronting of Peter re: false teaching.
How does it inform?

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.

Does it apply? Yes

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 adultry (vs 3).  They state what the law of Moses says about it, but ask Jesus his judgement on her. 

How does it inform?

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

!! study note: context is extra important here !!

Does it apply? Yes

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 the Romans where he is spending time describing different types of unrighteous individuals and their eventual judgement by God for their deeds of unrighteousness.  

How does it inform?

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.

Does it apply? Yes

Do you agree? If so, share this question and the Bible Study Framework with others.

If you know of some other verses or you have something to add to the verses already listed for this question please leave a comment below! We welcome the public discussion and will incorporate your input into the Framework above. We have nothing to hide and invite your help in considering all that God’s word has to say.

what do you think?

Send Us Your Question