The Bible says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matt. 7:1-2)

But is judging the same as condemning? Judging is used in more than one sense in the New Testament writings. The Greek word ‘krinō’ (or a form of it) is used for judge and judgment.

The Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthian church said: “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. (1 Cor. 5:1-3)

The Apostle concluded by telling them that they had to ‘judge’ this man by the word of God and then act on it! “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you.” (v.12-13)

“For judgment, (krima- condemnation of wrong) I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” (John 9:39)

Jesus said, “As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not ‘judge’ (krinō) him, for I did not come to ‘judge’ the world, but to save it. (John 12:47)

It seems that Jesus contradicts himself until we see how John uses two different Greek words for the word ‘judge’ and examine the context in which they are used.  The judgment in John 9:39 speak of final judgment. In John 12:47 the judgment Jesus said that he came to bring is krinō; i.e.; making a distinction between right and wrong. As in John 7:24: “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” And Luke 12:57: “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?”

What kind of judging does God not forbid?

God does not forbid the judgments of the civil courts, (Rom. 13:1-7) or the judgment of the church upon disorderly members. (1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Thes. 3:6)

Matt. 7:6 tells us: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”  So we must be able to recognize, (make a judgment) who the dogs and pigs are so we will know who not to give that which is sacred to.

And in Matt. 7:15-20 Jesus tells us to: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.”  But how can we fulfill this command if we are not able to judge who is a false teacher and who is not?

James exhort us to help restore those who have wandered from the truth and have been led into sin: Jas. 5:19-20- “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” But unless we can determine (through an examination of the word of God) that a person is in sin (thus making a judgment), we cannot not turn him from the error of his way.

What is the wrong kind of judging?

  • Any judging that is neither positive nor conclusive or anything that is from insufficient evidence or from ill will is prohibited.

Romans 14:1 – “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” Jas. 4:11-12: “Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.”

Sadly, I have experienced this more in group prayers than anywhere else. When asked who needs prayer someone will say something like, “Please pray for ‘Joe Christian’ because he is no longer walking with God and is using drugs again. He has also been seen with underage girls.” This is nothing more than ‘prayer gossip’ and is slander against someone who is not present to defend themselves.

  • Judging others while doing the same thing yourself.

Romans 2:1 –“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”

Matt. 7:1-5 – “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

According to Matt. 7:1-5 we have the responsibility to remove the plank out of our own eye first so we will be able to see (judge) clearly another who needs our help to remove the splinter out of his eye. And sometimes it is a matter of perspective. It is easy to see others’ flaws at a distance; for example, a small speck of dirt in someone’s eye. But place that same speck close to our own eye and it becomes a plank; blocking our view. God did not commission us to be speck inspectors!

Judgment is forbidden when it is harsh, unfounded, hypercritical, malicious, slanderous, or ill-natured because its aim is to hurt, defame, and damage, rather than to encourage and build up. Judgment is only encouraged to settle matters in civil courts, to correct and restore a believer who has wandered from the truth, and to identify false teachers and evil people.

We must remember that forbidden judgment will almost always result in hurt, but godly judgment will almost always result in building up and restoration.

We would do well to live by the words of the Apostle Paul who said, “Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Romans 13:10-14)

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