“How dare you! You can’t judge me! That’s what’s wrong with church people…you all think you’re so perfect! But nobody is perfect!”
“You have no right and should just mind your own business and stay out of mine!”
Sound familiar? Variations of the above are proclaimed far and wide by both saints and sinners. Have you been hearing it too?
Don’t Judge Me!
A church my family was at years ago seemed to be consistently flooded with such comments. Up until that time, I had really only heard “don’t judge me!” from those outside the church who were assuming all Christians were automatically judging them. It was probably being said in the church back then too and I just didn’t pay attention.
Since I became aware of this happening in the church, I have noticed two distinct ways of thinking about judging. There are those who are confused and won’t speak up for fear of public backlash (yes, even backlash from their church brothers and sisters).
They seem to become so worried that they will be considered offensive that they hide God’s Word in their hearts and rarely let it out. I fell into this category. I am a recovering people-pleaser who didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Then there are those who seem to be hyper-focused on what everyone else is doing while excusing and justifying their own behavior. We’ve all probably been in this category at one time or another too. I know I have.
Are They Right?
But it’s not just the church that is unsure about judging. The world is just as confused. If we simply disagree with someone, we are called judgemental, hypocritical, self-righteous, and a host of other harsh adjectives.
Because it is my standard for truth, I turned to Scripture to see what God had to say about this hot button topic.
What Does The Bible Say About Judging?
When you dig into the concordance, you will see that there are a few different ways the Bible talks about judging. To name just a few, you will find judging to condemn, to rebuke, to help, and judging that only God can do.
We won’t cover them all in this post but we will do our best to obtain a better understanding of what judging is, who we are to judge and who we are not to judge.
What Is Judging?
According to Merriam-Webster, to judge is to form an opinion about something or someone through careful weighing of evidence, testing or evaluation.
As Christians, we might call it testing, judging, or discerning. In essence, they all mean the same thing.
However, righteous (godly) judging is carefully weighing the evidence (comparing) of someone’s fruit (their actions) to God’s Word. If their actions reflect God’s character, you can determine their fruit to be godly, even if you don’t agree with it. As you can see, when we judge something or someone, it is far more than simply disagreeing.
For Additional Reading: Using the Bible To Test Everything You Hear
What Judging (testing, discerning) Is Not
Righteous (godly) judging is not knit-picking someone else’s life while you ignore or justify your own issues. It is not a harsh, critical spirit. Godly judging is not done in anger, with unkindness, or to humiliate.
Unrighteous (ungodly) judging is based on feelings and worldly attitudes that contradict what the Word of God says. When the Word of God is contradicted, it tears down the church. We are called to build up the body of Christ, not tear each other down. God does not approve of unrighteous judging.
Since Judging Causes Issues, Is It Even Appropriate?
Absolutely! There are many, many examples of righteous judging throughout the entire Bible. It is wise of us not to skim over those examples but to pay careful, close attention. God didn’t give them to us simply to fill a book. Each word of every sentence has a purpose and is used to work together for our ultimate good (even when it doesn’t feel like it at the time).
Don’t Judge Or You Will Be Judged!
All too often, those who feel defensive are quick to quote a sentence or two from Matthew chapter 7 (even if they have no clue that is where their quote is from). What they don’t realize is that in this chapter Jesus is actually teaching us how to judge. He isn’t saying don’t judge. We get stuck on “Don’t judge or you will be judged” (Matthew 7:1) and don’t read the rest of what Jesus had to say.
That is called taking a verse out of context and is always, always wrong. It is the equivalent of you sharing a story and someone overhearing one sentence. They then take that one sentence and jump to conclusions that might be sort of right but usually aren’t. That is what happens when we take God’s words out of context. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t appreciate it happening to him any more than we appreciate it happening to us.
If you have not read the entire chapter (Matthew 7), I highly encourage you to take a moment to pray then read it slowly. It is eye-opening to see God’s truths instead of the enemies half-truths!
Why Should We Put Ourselves Out There And Judge?
In Matthew 7:15-20 we see one critical reason that we are to test all things. False prophets (someone who declares publicly about God) will come as fellow sheep to the congregation. You can detect them by the way they act, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit (Matthew 7:16).
The Bible doesn’t say these people will only come as ministry leaders but as members of the flock.
That could mean the person preaching, teaching, leading children’s church, joining you for Bible study, sitting next to you in the sanctuary, going to that Christian ladies conference with you…it could be anyone. Unfortunately, they won’t be wearing a “Hello! I’m a false sheep” name tag.
We are told these fake sheep are identified by the kind of fruit that is produced in their life. Jesus doesn’t say these people won’t produce fruit but it is the kind of fruit we need to look at.
Jesus goes on to say that not all who sound religious are really godly even if they call him their Lord (Matthew 7:21-23). It is their fruit we look at (judge) to tell the difference. Are they obeying God’s Word or do their actions contradict the character of God? Are they using scripture for personal gain?
These type of questions can only be answered by seeking the Holy Spirit and carefully judging a person’s fruit.
Be Gently Aware
While on this earth we are walking among these wolves. That doesn’t imply we will be able to look at someone and instantly see a wolf instead of a lamb (unless you are blessed with the spiritual gift of discernment). Therefore, we are to be as wary as snakes but as harmless as doves; aware and cautious, not blindly accepting whatever we are fed as being manna from heaven (Matthew 10:16-17).
Because God doesn’t want us at the mercy of these ravenous wolves, he has not only commanded us to watchful awareness but also to judge (test, discern) fruit. This is God’s gift to us, a way for us to protect ourselves and each other.
We see this principle in action in 1 Corinthians 5:3 when Paul judged someone’s fruits in the church at Corinth. Paul had been to this church, knew the people and had received reports from within the church after his ministry moved on. In this instance, Paul found out someone was behaving so poorly that even sinners would be surprised. Paul didn’t excuse their bad behavior but called this person on it.
In 2 Thessalonians chapter 3, Paul tells the church to avoid those who are living their lives in an ungodly way (idleness, wasting time meddling in other people’s business, lazy, won’t work, etc.) The list Paul gives shows us we are to pay attention to ongoing behaviors or actions we observe (discern or test) in the lives of others. That is being gently aware and judging fruit.
What About Judging The Heart?
It is really popular among church folks to say something to the effect of
“It doesn’t matter what I say or do, God knows my heart! He will take whatever I say or do and only allow others to hear and see his goodness in my heart!”
Friend, that may make you feel better to say that but it’s simply not biblical. If that were the case, why would God put so much in the Bible about the importance of our speech? The words we say (not just our actions) are addressed throughout the entire Bible. (Proverbs 18:21, James 3:6, 1 Peter 3:10, Colossians 4:6, Ephesians 4:29, Proverbs 15:4, Psalm 34:13)
That said, we are to discern fruit (actions), not the heart or someone’s eternal destiny (Romans 2:16). Only God knows what someone is thinking or why they do things and what will happen to them as a result.
The Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.1 Samuel 16:7
Romans 14:10 is another verse often taken out of context. Again, please take a moment to read the entire chapter. You might be surprised at what it says when taken as a whole and not bite-sized pieces.
“So why do you condemn another Christian? Why do you look down on another Christian? Remember, each of us will stand personally before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, ” ‘ As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow to me and every tongue will confess allegiance to God.’ ” Yes, each of us will have to give a personal account to God. So don’t condemn each other anymore. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not put an obstacle in another Christian’s path.”Romans 14:10-13 (NLT)
The use of the word condemn in the above verse is the Greek word krino (2919). It means to judicially decide for punishment; to damn, to call into question.
To put it into the simplest terms possible, telling someone, “You had an abortion (or whatever sin catches your attention), you’re going to hell! God will NEVER forgive you!!” is simply wrong.
Leave the accusations to Satan; it’s his job and he does it quite well without our being his vessel. God can forgive their sin just as he can forgive your sin. In fact, he may have already done so…you don’t know and have no business trying to judge their eternal reward.
When you use ungodly judgment, you create an obstacle in that person’s path. What if you treated them so harshly and they believe you are speaking for God himself in a “thus sayeth the Lord” sort of way? What if they believe you and turn from God because they now believe that he can never forgive them? Remember, each of us will give a personal account of what we have said and done.
There is a reason someone’s actions (fruit) are the only thing to be judged by us. Judging the heart for eternal reward is for God in his wisdom and love to judge.
For Additional Reading: The Bible Study that changed my Life, A look at Bible translations.
Who Should We Judge?
Before we judge anyone else’s actions, we need to judge ourselves and deal with the things in our life that are stumbling blocks to our own growth and knowledge of God.
In Matthew 7:5, we are commanded to not be hypocrites but to first remove the log from our own eye so that we can see well enough to deal with the speck in someone else’s eye. Notice it doesn’t say to ignore the speck in someone else’s eye; it says to deal with your own business first then you can help the other person.
We are to be a blessing to others but we can’t do that if we don’t deal with ourselves and our relationship with Christ first.
Let me be clear. There is a huge difference between judging the unsaved and the saved.
In 1 Corinthians 5:12, Paul says we are to judge those inside the church, not outside of it. Why? Because the unsaved will act like the sinners that they are (1 John 3:8, Matthew 6:24). Jesus didn’t approve of their sin but he also didn’t condemn them for acting like sinners. Although you are to show the unsaved God’s love and teach of Him, you aren’t to expect anything else from them or be surprised when they act ungodly (1 John 4:5).
We are to hold our brothers and sisters accountable to a higher standard…God’s standard. Not accountable to us, but accountable to God’s standards.
Because God wants us to have discernment, judging the fruit of our brothers and sisters is not an option. As we were looking at 1 Corinthians 5, you might have noticed that Paul got on the church at Corinth for not judging and taking care of bad fruit (immoral behavior) in a godly way.
In case your still on the fence about this judging stuff, here are a few more examples:
- Zechariah 7:9…We are to judge fairly, honestly, show mercy and kindness to each other.
- 1 John 4:1… Here we have another warning to examine and judge to see if someone is false sheep.
- Jude 1:4…And yet again, we are to judge because godless people worm their way in among us and pretend to be Christians when they are not. When God says something we should pay attention. When he brings it up multiple times as he does with testing fruit, we best sit up quickly and obey without question.
- Acts 18:27-28…Apollos refuted those in Achaia by listening to them then comparing what they said against God’s Word. He tested what was said.
- Acts 16:2…Timothy was well thought of by the other believers. Why would he be well thought of if they didn’t judge his speech and behavior (his fruits)?
In my own life, I had a young lady ask to be mentored for ladies ministry leadership. She said God told her this was the area of ministry he called her into. When someone says that, you can’t dispute it. But you can be watchfully aware, pray, and make judgments based on their fruit.
I began by talking on the phone and texting with her. We progressed to having coffee and chatting. I liked this young lady. Her behavior appeared godly. The majority of things she said sounded right and true. But something didn’t feel right.
Sure enough, I began to notice inconsistencies and a double-mindedness with sin. Eventually, God allowed me to see a side of this lady that was far from godly or even repentant. She had been playing me for personal gain believing that Christians are as gullible as they are generous.
It’s All About Relationship, Not Religion
Let’s face it, nobody likes to be judged. It’s uncomfortable for both parties.
Before judging the fruit of a brother or sister, we need to be a part of their life in some way. In the example above from my own life, I might not have caught onto what this young lady was doing or been able to talk openly with her about it if I had not taken the time to build a relationship with her.
People are great at hiding things when you only see them for a few hours once a week. A polite smile and light chit-chat can cover many things. But when you build a relationship with them, you can see if they have developed an ongoing sinful behavior or if they are simply having an off-day.
A relationship is crucial for two reasons: fruit growth takes time to develop and God is all about relationships. (1 John 4:20-21)
Everyone has a bad day and you need to extend grace, love, and prayer to them just as you would want them to do for you. If you discern that their bad day has turned into a bad season and sin is ongoing, God allows us to gently and humbly step in and love our brothers and sisters back to him (Galatians 6:1-3, James 5:19-20).
This is impossible to do without God’s love flowing through you.
Looking for more information about how the Holy Spirit teaches and empowers us? My friend Cindy wrote an excellent article about this very subject over on her blog. Be sure to check it out! https://womenstabletopfriendship.com/2018/12/15/holy-spirit-powerful-force-in-the-church/
It is a lie of the devil that we shouldn’t judge (discern, test). To reach people for Jesus and be the church God created it to be, we have to learn to separate the worlds thinking from God’s thinking (1 Corinthians 3:18-19).
As Christians, we cannot let the world dictate our actions. That would be like allowing a fox to shepherd the chicks and not expecting it to act like a fox. Refusing to righteously judge the fruits of our brothers and sisters for fear of being ridiculed, called judgemental or narrow-minded does nothing to bless and edify but actually cripples God’s church.
Regardless of whether you call it testing, judging, or discerning, we are to operate in righteous (godly) judging by carefully weighing the evidence of someone’s actions against God’s Word.
The key to godly judging is being careful who we judge, how we judge and why we are judging them. When we judge biblically with pure motives and godly wisdom, it is an act of love that is pleasing to our heavenly Father!
Life Questions: What about you? Have you felt judged and wrongly condemned? What did you do about it? Have you been guilty of jumping to conclusions and wrongly judging others?