If you asked the typical man or woman on the street if they know a single Bible verse, what do you think it would be?

Everyone, Christian or not, would shout out:  Judge not, lest you be judged!  And they would probably jab it at you as if to stop your agenda cold before you could even protest that you have no agenda.

Judging is a funny word – it’s one of those equivocal terms. That is to say, the term refers to more than one concept and the concepts are VERY different.

So when someone asserts that we are NOT to judge, we must gently ask them to which verse they are referring.  Then we must inquire of its context as well as what they think the scripture writers meant by ‘judge’.  For starters, what’s wrong with BEING judged?

Here’s the verse that they probably have in mind.  It comes from Jesus’ instructions about the Law taught on that famous mountain (Matthew, chapter 7, verses 1 to 5):   

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Now that’s funny.  Apparently it’s OKAY to judge once you have first dealt with your own sin. And the idealized judging is actually ‘life-enhancing’ to the other person, for who wants to walk around with eye specks?  They hurt!

But I mentioned that judging is an equivocal term.  Obviously it can mean to “put down or belittle in order to mock or hurt someone”. But the other concept it refers to is a type of righteous evaluation that promotes welfare of both the community and the one being inspected.   Here are a few verses where we encounter THAT kind of judgment:

  • Proverbs 31:9 Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
  • 1 Cor 2:15 – The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.
  • Gal 6:1 – 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.
  • 1 Cor 6 : 1-6 – When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, …
  • Lev 19:15 – You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.
  • 1 Cor 5:12-13 – For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?  God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
  • John 7:24 – Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.

So, next time someone tries to Bible-bash you to induce you to change your opinion, take a deep breath and gently ask your interlocutor some gentle but thought-provoking questions.   As Christians, we ARE called to judge.  And there is a correct way to do so.