Many people today believe that Christians aren’t suppose to judge sinful behavior in the church — especially the sinful behavior of religious leaders and celebrities in the church.
This belief is expressed in popular sayings like “Only God can judge!” “Who are you to judge!?” “Jesus said not to judge!”
Although this belief is very common and believed to come from Scripture, it actually contradicts what the Scriptures teach about judging. Therefore, it is a false belief and a false teaching.
Some people might point out that Jesus said “Do not judge so that you will not be judged” in Matthew 7:1.
The problem with quoting Matthew 7:1 to support the belief that “Christians aren’t suppose to judge” is that the Lord’s instruction on judging did not stop in verse 1. It continued into verse 5. Not only that, but there are many more Scriptures about judging.
How can you get a complete picture of God’s word on judging, if you only know one verse in the Bible?
Are you aware that the word “judge” in its various forms appears in Scripture over 700 times? Yet the only verse that people seem to know is Matthew 7:1. This shows that many people have not studied what the Scriptures teach about judging.
“Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
It’s never a good idea to base your beliefs about judging or any other subject, on one verse in the Bible.
It’s always best to study related passages (passages that speak to the same subject) to see what the full counsel of Scripture teaches on a given subject.
It’s also not a good idea to cherry-pluck one sentence out of Jesus’ mouth and ignore everything else that He said in that very same context.
Let’s read Jesus’ full statement about judging in Matthew 7:1-5 to see what the Lord actually said:
“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5)
Notice: Nowhere in this passage did Jesus say or imply that “only God can judge.” We know that Jesus was not saying that, because God placed judges over the nation of Israel during the Old Covenant.
Notice: Nowhere in this passage did Jesus say or imply that Christians aren’t allowed to judge sinful behavior in the church. We know that Jesus was not saying that, because the apostles judged sinful behavior in the church in their letters.
Jesus was not forbidding His disciples from making righteous and accurate judgments. He was forbidding a wrong kind of judging: judging in hypocrisy, which is pointing out the sins of others while being guilty of practicing the same sin or worse.
Notice that Jesus said one person has a log in their eye and the other person has a speck of dust in their eye. A log is MUCH BIGGER than a speck of dust. So the person with the log in their eye has a bigger problem than the person with a speck of dust in their eye.
A log also creates more damage than a speck of dust. So the person with the log in their eye is in worse condition than the person with a speck of dust in their eye. As such, they have no right to judge the minor errors of others.
Jesus considers this type of judging wrong and hypocritical, and this is what He was speaking against in Matthew 7:1-5.
The Lord said to first get rid of the log in your own eye, and then you will see clear enough to deal with the speck of dust in your friend’s eye. In other words, we are to correct ourselves first before we attempt to correct others.
We are not allowed to judge others if we are guilty of practicing the same sin or something worse. This is called “the pot calling the kettle black” (speaking against something that you are guilty of).
Paul the apostle spoke against judging in hypocrisy in Romans 2:1-4.
“You [Believers] may think you can condemn such people [unbelievers], but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things.” (verse 1)
Judging Isn’t Wrong
Many people have been taught that “it’s wrong to judge” and that it’s “condemning” and “unloving” to say that someone or something is sinful, wrong, evil, false, or ungodly. This is not true. Judging in and of itself is not wrong when it’s done righteously.
We need to strip away this “evil connotation” from the word “judging.” All judging means is “to form an opinion, estimation, or evaluation of after careful consideration; to infer, think, or hold as an opinion; to conclude about or assess; to form a judgment of; decide upon critically”
The full counsel of Scripture teaches that we are to form an opinion on spiritual matters. We are to carefully evaluate all things to determine whether someone or something is good or evil, true or false, authentic or counterfeit, and according to God’s will.
“But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22)
“Beloved, 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.” (1 John 4:1)
In the same chapter where Jesus said “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged,” He instructed us to judge the fruit of religious leaders to discern false prophets (wolves in sheep’s clothing) from authentic men and women of God.
“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” (Matthew 7:15-20)
In John 7:24, Jesus said to “Look beneath the surface and make a righteous judgment.”
Righteous judgment means to judge rightly or correctly — based on the word of God and the Spirit of God. Not based on our feelings, human wisdom, popular trends, human traditions, and man-made rules.
An example of righteous judgment would be if someone asked me if I support “gay marriage,” and I told them no, because God is the authority on marriage, — not the government or the court system — and God defined marriage from the beginning as a strictly heterosexual union. Therefore, there is no such thing as “gay marriage.” Two people of the same-sex can like each other, fornicate, date, live together and pretend that they are married. But they cannot get married in reality, because marriage is a heterosexual union by nature.
My response was a righteous judgment. I evaluated the question and decided (based upon the word of God and the Spirit of God) that I do not support the concept of “gay marriage” because it is false, wrong, and contrary to the heterosexual nature of marriage.
Refusing To Judge Righteously Is Wrong
In 1st Corinthians chapter 5, Paul was shocked and appalled that some Believers in the city of Corinth failed to judge a man in their congregation who was fornicating with his stepmother.
Paul said that even though he was not physically present with them, he had already passed judgment on that man.
He told them to call a meeting and come together in the name of Jesus to put that man out of their fellowship and give him over to Satan so that he might repent and be saved.
“I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you—something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother.You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship.Even though I am not with you in person, I am with you in the Spirit. And as though I were there, I have already passed judgment on this man in the name of the Lord Jesus. You must call a meeting of the church. I will be present with you in spirit, and so will the power of our Lord Jesus.Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns.” (1 Corinthians 5:1-5)
“When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people. It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders [unbelievers], but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)
Did you catch that? It isn’t our responsibility to judge outsiders [people who do not profess Christ], but it is our responsibility to judge those inside of the church who are sinning.
Because unrepentant sin in the body of Christ misrepresents the Lord and dishonors His name, it leads unbelievers to blaspheme Him, contradicts the Gospel, damages the witness of the Church, spreads like yeast and ruins entire congregations. False shepherds creep into the flock of God undetected and lead souls astray with false teachings, false ‘gospels,’ and lying signs and wonders as they make merchandise of men and cause The Faith to be evil spoken of by unbelievers. Refusing to judge righteously comes with a great cost.
Righteous judgment is a part of accountability. It assists in the sanctification (spiritual growth) of individual Christians, removes evildoers from the Church, and edifies the body of Christ as a whole, thereby bringing glory to God and shining the light of Jesus Christ in the world.
Many people claim that they don’t judge, but that’s not true. Everybody judges, because judging is natural.
It is something that we are suppose to do, because God gave us a moral conscience so that we would know the difference between right and wrong and be able to make moral judgments.
We judge the moral character of friends, relatives, coworkers, and people that we have not met. We judge the behavior of criminals, politicians, religious figures, athletes, and entertainers.
Judging is mainly associated with saying that someone or something is bad. But we are also judging when we say that someone or something is good. In both cases, an evaluation is made and an opinion is given.
So, whether we are deeming someone or something good or bad, we are making a judgment. The important thing is that our judgments are based upon the word of God and the Spirit of God.
More Scriptures About Judging
In Leviticus 19:15 the LORD said: “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the Lord.”
Moses appointed judges to help him lead Israel and resolve their disputes: “Then I charged your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the cases between your fellow countrymen, and judge righteously between a man and his fellow countryman, or the alien who is with him. You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.” (Deuteronomy 1:16-17)
God gave king Solomon great wisdom to administer righteous judgments in Israel: “When all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had handed down, they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer judgment.” (1 King 3:28)
One day, the saints will judge the world. . . even angels. Surely we should be able to judge simple matters in this life:
“Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can’t you decide even these little things among yourselves? Don’t you realize that we will judge angels? So you should surely be able to resolve ordinary disputes in this life.” (1 Corinthians 6:2-3)
“Then I saw thrones, and the people sitting on them had been given the authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony about Jesus and for proclaiming the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his statue, nor accepted his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They all came to life again, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” (Revelations 20:4)
“The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment.” (Psalm 37:30)
“Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that doeth righteousness at all times” (Psalm 106:3)
“Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments.” (Psalm 119:66)
“To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.” (Proverbs 21:3)
“The robbery of the wicked shall destroy them; because they refuse to do judgment.” (Proverbs 21:7)
“It is joy to the just to do judgment: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.” (Proverbs 21:15)
“Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassion every man to his brother:” (Zechariah 7:9)
“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)
Jesus did not forbid us from judging righteously, but from judging in hypocrisy.
There are a few other forms of judging that are forbidden:
1. Judging one another over disputable matters or matters where Scripture is silent (Romans 14).
There are some things that Scripture does not mention or make judgments on. For example, the day(s) that we should fellowship on. Scripture does not command us to fellowship on any particular day(s). God left it up to us to decide when we will fellowship, so we should respect one another’s liberty to assemble whenever we choose. We have no right to judge anyone over which day(s) they choose to fellowship on. Judging someone based on a personal preference is legalistic.
2. Judging someone’s motives (1 Corinthians 4:5).
There may be times when a person reveals their own motives or God exposes a person’s hidden motives. However, we do not always know what a person’s motives are, because that requires a special ability to see into someone’s heart and only God has that ability.
“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” (Hebrews 4:13)
“But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew all about people. No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person’s heart.” (John 2:24-25)
“Even Death and Destruction hold no secrets from the Lord. How much more does he know the human heart!” (Proverbs 15:11)
In spite of the fact that only God can discern the motives and intents of the heart, many people attempt to judge motives all of the time.
In many cases, their judgments are wrong. This is why we should be careful of judging a person’s motives. We do not always know the motives behind a person’s words and actions.
3. Passing judgments of condemnation and sentencing someone to eternal damnation (Luke 6:37).
We do have authority to judge spiritual matters in the Church, but we do not have authority to condemn anyone by sentencing them to eternal damnation.
Only God, who is the Final Judge, has authority to sentence someone to destruction and the second death.
Passing a sentence of condemnation on a person’s soul is forbidden. People who are lost should be shown grace and mercy, just as we were shown grace and mercy when we were lost in sin.
“Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” (Ephesians 2:1-5)
Before we knew Christ and came to salvation, we were once blind as well. So what right do we have to condemn a sinner to eternal damnation? None.
It is not up to us to tell people where they will end up after they die. We do not have that knowledge. Only God knows the final destination of each and every soul.
“There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.” (James 2:13)
“And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;” (Philippians 1:9)