It’s not uncommon to get stonewalled with the phrase “Don’t judge!” as a Christian. It’s what some believe is a clever way to use scripture to ward off any negative criticisms of their behavior and escape responsibility for their own actions. But what does the Bible really say about “judging”? Are we as Christians allowed to make judgments about sin, or are we being hypocrites or “judgmental” when we confront another person about sin in their life?
Read the Entire Verse
“Don’t judge” is a half citation of the verse Matthew 7:1, which in its entirety reads: “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged (NLT).” By failing to cite the rest of the verse, those that cry “Don’t judge” when they are confronted about their sin commit proof texting. That’s just a fancy way to say that the verse is taken out of context. When you isolate one verse from the rest of the passage, it’s easy to try to make the scriptures say what you want them to. So let’s take a look at the entire passage to get the true meaning of Matthew 7:1.
“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. 3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4 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? 5 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, NLT)
The Context of Matthew 7:1
Matthew 7:1-5 comes on the back end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, which begins in Matthew 5 and ends in Matthew 7. Throughout His Sermon Christ appeals to his audience not to focus on having an outer appearance of holiness, but to instead focus on pleasing God with sincerity from the inside out. Then He explains to His listeners that the law (the Old Testament) is not simply about keeping God’s rules in an effort to look holy from the outside. Jesus expands the law to help them understand that true holiness is the outflow of a heart that loves God.
Bad Judgment vs. Righteous Judgment
Matthew 7:1-5 continues that thought, urging us ―not to remain from judging sin― but to first walk in obedience to God ourselves before we try to correct someone else (Matt 7:5). This verse is meant to keep Christians from using double-standards, from holding one to a standard that individually we are not keeping. In other words, we are not qualified to correct someone else, if we ourselves need correction. However if that person is walking in obedience to God, then He is free to confront a fellow believer about his or her sin in a spirit of gentleness and love (Gal 6:1).
Jesus commands us to “Look beneath the surface so [we] can judge correctly (Joh 7:24, NLT).” We see a clear example of this shallow judgment in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14.
9 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14, NASB)
When we judge others based on appearances alone, refuse to grapple with our own sin, and pretend to be perfect, we’re like the Pharisee that failed to recognize his own spiritual inadequacy before God and looked down on the Tax Collector. The Bible, as we’ll see, does indeed command us to correct believers when they stray from the truth and walk in sin, but it demands that we ourselves walk in obedience to God’s word before we reach out to remove the speck in our brother’s eye (Matt 7:5).
Scripture that Advocates Righteous “Judgment”
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17, NASB)
“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” (Gal 6:1, NASB)
“My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, 20 you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.” (Jas 5:19-20, NLT)
More cooperate punishment as a church body is also encouraged in both 2 Timothy 4:2 and 1 Timothy 5:20. We also have an entire letter from the Apostle Paul judging the Corinthian church for their sin (1 Corinthians 5:1-13). So contrary to popular opinion, the Bible provides overwhelming support for righteous judgment. So judge anyone who claims to be a Christian and is walking openly in sin! You just might end up saving that wanderer’s life!
Righteous Judgment is Loving
Remember when you judge sin or correct a believer walking in sin, you are being a loving friend. (They won’t always agree on that. Lol) Don’t allow anyone to shame you by calling you “judgmental” based on a misinterpretation of scripture. We don’t want to make anyone comfortable in his or her sin. The cry “don’t judge!” is only a means to get the focus off of their personal sin and onto attacking your character instead. (This is exactly why you must be walking in obedience to God before correcting someone else!) You might even notice that people who usually tell you not to judge, end up flipping the conversation by doing the very thing that they accuse you of― judging. They will probably hint that you are a Bible-thumping bigot, or something along those lines, but don’t take this to heart. Nobody ever said leading people to the truth would be easy. All we can do is what Christ commands us―to make every effort to correct them in love and leave the rest to God in prayer.
Judge sin & live Christ out loud!