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To Judge or Not to Judge - Can Believers Judge?


The answer to this question is not exactly a simple "yes" or "no" answer. But it isn't complicated, either. The Bible has a lot to say about the topic. Many people know that Jesus said "Do not judge," but often do not complete the entire idea.


As with all Scripture, it is important to look at the verses around the quote so that we are careful not to misuse it or take it out of context. Let's look at the entire thought in Matthew 7:1-2. (WEB)

“Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but don’t consider the beam that is in your own eye? Or how will you tell your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ and behold, the beam is in your own eye? You hypocrite! First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Similarly, Luke 6:37 also tells Jesus's message of compassion rather than condemning:

Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Set free, and you will be set free.

When we judge, we are deciding what is right or wrong. That is not a bad thing. But it can become dangerous very quickly. Jesus is giving us a warning. How can we possibly help someone else if we are doing the same thing ourselves - possibly we are worse than the person we are judging! It's humorous, really, to think that a person with a huge log or telephone pole stuck in his eye could have the audacity to try to take a speck of sawdust out of someone else's eye. It's kind of like the pot calling the kettle black. The moral of this story is to check ourselves first. Maybe we need to take our own advice!


Notice that Jesus does not say that we shouldn't help another person pull out a speck in their eye. Part of being a Christian is to have a network of people who care about each other enough to say hard things. But it comes with a grave warning. "Don't be a hypocrite!" After all, isn't that one of the reasons so many people run from churches? As a member of Christ's body, the church, each of us should be so careful to represent Him well.


Jesus makes it clear that when we help others see their own error, we need to first examine our own heart. Our motives. Do we just want to air our own good ideas or show off how good we look? Or do we genuinely care about people and want to see them have a relationship with God?


It's been my experience that Christians will shrink away from speaking truth because we don't want to be "judgy." I am included in this. Even though I genuinely care about people, I worry that they might be offended or accuse me of thinking I am better than they are. I start to think of all the reasons I should not say anything. After all, we are supposed to be peacemakers. But being a peacemaker doesn't mean accepting and even affirming sin. We have to find a balance. The truth is, I absolutely can speak truth and have an obligation to do so - as long as I follow God's instructions and don't allow myself to become a puffed-up hypocrite.


Let's explore some Bible verses. First, we have a warning in 1 John 4:1 about false teachers.

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

We can make a judgment to make sure a church leader or teacher is telling the truth. (And on that note, check out this blog. Don't take my word for it. Does it line up with the truth in the Bible? You have every right to test it!)


And then there's this verse. The Corinthian church had a problem. They accepted incest. They were even proud of it! This isn't God's plan for the church, and it was ruining their reputation. This needed to be corrected. 1 Corinthians 5:11 is what the Apostle Paul told the church to do.

But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outsidethe church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

Paul actually tells us that the purpose for this is to save these people. He explains more about it in the previous verses. If you aren't familiar with 1 Corinthians, you should give it a read!

hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. (NIV) 1 Corinthians 5:5

While this could seem harsh, it isn't. Life is short. This life is only temporary, and what we do for Jesus is what matters. After we pass from this life, we will live eternally, either with Jesus or not. Paul wanted this man to come to his senses and turn away from his sinful behavior.


As for the Corinthian church, they were arrogant. They had no problem with what was going on. Perhaps they were even judging other people. I'm only speculating about that, but this is the exact kind of thing that judgmental people do. They have an arrogance while they are involved in their own sin (that they either don't seem to notice or are proud of). They overlook their own sin while judging others.


Romans 2:1 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?

There are absolutely times when we need to make judgements. This does not mean that we are "judging others" or being judgmental. We can do this with a heart full of love for the other person. When making judgments or instructing others, we have to be careful how we do it. Here's a few things to remember when using this discernment.


1. God is the Final Authority and the Righteous Judge. It isn't our job to decide what people deserve or don't deserve. We can faithfully speak truth, but that truth comes from God's Word - not just our opinions. God also has the ability to look at the hearts of people. We can't.

2.The Gospel (Good News) is that anyone can be forgiven because Jesus died, was buried, and rose again. This plays a huge part in judgment. Anyone who turns to Jesus, looking for forgiveness will receive it. Since we are believers in Jesus, it is important to remember that we have been forgiven by Jesus and are not better than another person. Even if someone else's sin repulses us (or even hurts us), Jesus died for that person, too. Any time we point out an error or correct another, the goal should be that the person turns to Jesus.


3. If we ever have the important opportunity to speak the truth, are we also living it? Children are especially prone to notice hypocrisy... and if you have a child of your own, you already know that. "Do as I say, not as I do" is just not going to cut it when we make judgements. This is exactly what Jesus was talking about when he told us not to judge. We can't live any way we want and then expect others to do differently.


4. We must have hearts of humility. If there is a time when we can help someone else with their problems, it is something we should pray about. We are humans, and we are capable of the exact same problems that another one has. It is by God's grace that we stand. Humility should cause our correction or judgement to be Biblical and full of grace. Ephesians 4:15 tells us to "speak the truth in love."


Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:12-13 (NIV)

Have you ever gotten upset with a friend or spouse because you assumed they did something wrong, but it was actually you? (I'm guilty of this....)


Is there something you need to forgive? Or something you need to speak up about?




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