As Christians we are to never judge anyone, right?
If that is true then Paul was a false prophet, so was Peter, we should throw out 2/3 of the New Testament, and Jesus contradicted Himself multiple times! Or maybe, just maybe, there is something more to this…
Context is Key
Mathew 7:1 is probably the single-most misquoted and incorrectly used verse in the Bible, and we can see from the very same chapter in Mathew, in fact just a few verses later, that Jesus isn’t talking about not judging at all… Note Mathew 7:6:“Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.” (NLT)
So is Jesus contradicting Himself? He just said not to judge and now he says not to waste time on wicked people. He goes on to say, in verses 17 and 18 to ‘beware of false prophets’, and that we ‘shall know them by their fruits’. What’s up?
So, can we judge anything then? Remember also what James (Jesus’ half-brother) said:
“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” – James 4:11-12 (ESV)
It seems to me that what Jesus is saying is to not be hypocritical and self-righteous, but to verify and consider things (and people). James wants us to build each other up, not going around spreading gossip or backbiting. Think about the last time you heard someone, perhaps even a Christian, say, “John Doe is some kind of Christian! He’s the biggest hypocrite around, with all that drinking and hanging out with them no-good women!” Wasn’t there a verse or two somewhere in the Bible that talks about Love?
When Not to Judge
When should we withhold judgment? Well, in most cases. God actually does love us quite a bit and has provided a good set of instructions to follow (that’d be the Holy Bible). So, when are we not to judge? When it really doesn’t matter. We are, however, given some specific examples of not judging:
- Eating preferences (Romans 14:1-4)
- Special days such as Sabbath, etc. (Romans 14:5-8)
- Outward appearance (John 7:24)
- Even ugly tattoos, nose rings, crazy clothes and weird hair??? Yes.
- How nice or ugly a person clothes are (James 2:1-4)
- Someone’s service to God (1 Corinthians 4:1-5)
- It would seem that includes pretty much anything else, except for….
When Judging is OK
We are given instructions to judge in some cases:
- Disputes between believers (1 Corinthians 6:1-8)
- Unrepentant sin within the church (1 Corinthians 5:3-5, Matthew 18:15-20). Even to the point of no longer fellowshipping with them (1 Corinthians 5:11-13; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 3:6).
- Teaching (Matthew 7:15-20; Acts 17:10-11; 1 Corinthians 10:15, 1 Corinthians 14:29; Titus 1:10-16; 3:10; Hebrews 13:7; 1 John 4:1; Revelation 2:20-24)
- Church Elders/Deacons/etc. (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9)
- Ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5-7, 1 Corinthians 11:31)
We want to do what we do in love. Judging someone is not to be a ‘gotcha!’ but rather a kind-hearted admonition; we want to save people, not condemn them. We judge according to God’s standards, not ours.
Can Not Judging be a Sin?
Why not just be better safe than sorry? I mean, we’ve had Mathew 7:1 pounded into our heads ever since we were children. What’s the harm in simply looking the other way and letting them deal with their own sin? Hmmm, could that attitude be sinful?
Whether sinful or not, it certainly isn’t showing Christ’s love to let a fellow Christian go about in sin without trying to help them, is it? In fact, we are explicitly told that:“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
– Galatians 6:1 (ESV) “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” – James 5:19-20 (KJV)
Not to help out a fellow believer in Christ and allowing that person to continue in sin could lead them to an eternity away from God. It can also hurt the church, which is what the un-saved world looks at when it considers God. If they see rampant sin inside the church itself, why would they ever bother coming to God?“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
– Jesus Christ, John 7:24 (ESV)