“Do not judge… lest ye be judged.”

As Christians, is it okay to judge others? At first glance, there are many who may say that it is not okay to judge others at all; that we need to leave any judgement making up to God. This verse might also be used as an easy out to get out of any confrontation when we see sin in someone else that needs loving correction. Here is the passage that the above verse actually comes from:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  ~Matthew 7:1-5

In this passage above, we are talking about a hypocritical judgement. If we are trying to point out things in another persons life when we practice the same behavior, we are being hypocritical. The Miriam Webster Dictionary defines hypocrisy as “the behavior of people who do things that they tell other people not to do : behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe or feel. The original Greek meaning that is translated here as “speck of sawdust” is probably not quite as tiny as we may picture. It actually literally means a twig, a stalk, or a chip of wood; it is still something quite significant in the life of the brother and probably not as insignificant as we might initially picture.

The message in this passage seems quite clear – we should judge others as long as we can do so with wise and righteous judgement (following moral laws as laid out in God’s word) and in a manner that is loving towards one another-which sometimes means confrontation is necessary! God gives wisdom and expects us to use it properly. Just as a parent judges their children’s behavior to be morally right or wrong, we have the freedom to do the same with each other with some certain guidelines (such as doing so with righteous judgement and wisdom). It may feel uncomfortable to be corrected, but as Proverbs 27:17 instructs: “Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens a friend’s character” (International Standard Version). Note that this passage also seems to imply that there is a relationship between the two people.

So what does the Bible say about judging others? Here are a few passages I found to begin with:

When/how to judge:

  1. When we see an ongoing sinful behavior in another that we can speak to in a loving manner and without being hypocritical: Matt 7:1-5; Romans 2:1-4; Luke 6:37-42
  2. When there are disputes among believers: 1 Cor 6:2
  3. Judge with wisdom: 1 Cor 6:5; 1 Tim 1:9-10; Romans 16:19; 1 Cor 10:15; Acts 17:11
  4. Judge all things “correctly” or with a righteous judgment; looking at the law, and inquiring what its spirit really requires: John 7:24; Luke 7:43; 1 Tim 1:9-10; Acts 17:11

When/how we should not judge:

  1. Do not show favoritism – judging one to be better than another: James 2:1-13
  2. Judging in a manner that is not consistent with God’s law: James 4:11-12
  3. In a hypocritical manner: Romans 2:1-4; Matt 7:1-5
  4. Do not judge another person’s faith – that remains for God to do: Romans 14