What does the Bible say word for word about judging others?
One Sunday morning a man started complaining that “we cannot judge others.” He was disturbed that anyone would evaluate another person for leadership or “judge” someone’s walk with God. He was right, but he was also wrong. It depends on what we mean by judging others.
Judging – Correctly
A familiar New Testament passage that is often quoted to prove that one should not “judge another” is Matthew 7:1-2.
Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. (NASB) Matthew 7:1-2
But this passage does not mean that we cannot draw an honest, righteous conclusion about another person. It says that we cannot make judgmental, condemning, and hateful statements about another person. The Sermon on the Mount study on judging explains this passage. In fact, Jesus has told us that we can evaluate others if we do it righteously after listening and knowing the truth.
Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment. Our Law does not judge a man, unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it? (NASB) John 7:24, 51
Judging – Wrongly
There are at least three types of judging: 1) correct evaluations from a heart of love, 2) correct evaluations with a negative attitude, and 3) incorrect evaluations but of other people. Jesus was talking about the first type in John 7:24, 51. But we typically practice the second and third types. James describes one type of judgment that is wrong. It is called slander.
Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother, or judges his brother, speaks against the law, and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge of it. (NASB) James 4:11
The key Greek word, KATALALEO, in James 4:11 is translated “speak against.” It has the idea of “evil speaking” or someone being slanderous. Another key verse is found in Romans.
But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. (NASB) Rom. 14:10
The verse occurs in a passage which is talking about people who were angry with what others were eating. The apostle Paul says there is nothing wrong with eating or not eating (Rom. 7:6-8). Their disagreement was not about right or wrong. So he says do not judge one another. He is simply talking about eating food.
Judging – When We Must
Our judgments or our conclusions about others must not slander them, must be true and must protect their reputations. Yet, there are times we must evaluate another person’s actions, attitudes and conduct. We do this when we vote for men and women for elective offices, as leaders in a church, or when we identify false teachers. The twenty-fifth study on the Sermon on the Mount provides a long list of verses that tell us when we must “judge” others.
There are two key times when we must judge others: when we see another Christian committing sin (Matt. 18:15-17; Gal. 6:1) and when we evaluate a person to be a leader in a church (1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1:7-9). We are also to evaluate false teachers. Otherwise, how do we know to avoid them (2 John 10)? May our evaluations be righteous, objective, prayerful and with a heart of love.