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How many times have you heard someone say, “Don’t you judge me!” whenever error or immoral behavior is pointed out? Or, perhaps someone has accused you of being “too judgmental” if you try to explain that Christians don’t participate in certain activities which conflict with Biblical principles. It is an all too common response among those who try to justify their sinful lifestyles or ungodly conduct. Sometimes, even an appeal to the Bible itself is used to bolster their argument. They might state, “Matthew 7:1 says, ‘Judge not, that you be not judged,’!” as if that ends all discussion of the matter. But, does that verse condemn ALL judging? Is it true we must never make an assessment or evaluation of others of any kind?
We should first recognize that, indeed, only God is the true judge and He will pass down a verdict upon the unrighteous and wicked of the world (Romans 2:2-3; Hebrews 9:27). But that doesn’t mean that we are never allowed to make a determination about someone’s behavior, words, or other external actions. The truth is, judging is both condemned and commended in the Bible. It is both prohibited and commanded. This is because judging is described in two different senses throughout the Bible. It is not restricted to just one definition. Therefore, not all judging is bad, or unwarranted. It’s what kind, or type, of judging that one does where caution must be exercised.
The kind, or sense, of judging that is condemned in the Bible is the kind that is superficial, hypocritical, or hostile. This kind of judging involves making an assessment about someone based strictly on their race, appearance, financial status, culture, differences, or opinion. Passages such as Luke 15:1-2; Galatians 2:11-14; and James 2:1-10 provide ample instruction that such judging of persons is not right. God does not approve of Christians being judgmental in this sense of the word.
The other kind, or sense, of judging that is commanded in the Bible is the kind that makes discernment according to God’s standard. It is not that we are replacing God as judge, but rather, we are identifying what God’s judgment is, or will be, according to His Word. For example, Jesus commanded us to, “not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment,” (John 7:24). The word “righteous” is referring to the character and the manner of the one who does the judging. The only way to be righteous is through the word of God, so the implication is that we are obligated to make assessment of others, not based upon our opinions, but instead, based upon that which God has outlined in the Scriptures.
Perhaps, a better word to describe it would be “measuring.” In fact, that is exactly what the context of Matthew 7 says, “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you,” (7:2). We have to make a judgment call when we want to know the dimensions of something. We use an authority, a ruler, and lay it alongside the object, then simply repeat what the standard is, “It is six inches.” Righteous judgment means we use an authority, the Scriptures, lay it alongside the life or conduct of a person, and simply repeat what the standard says it is.