“Stop judging me!!”
“You’re not my judge!”
“Who are you to judge me!?”
Have you ever heard people say things like this? If so, then you know that people can sometimes respond this way if they’re questioned or confronted over something that they’ve said or done. You see, if someone becomes uncomfortable when confronted, that person may want to take the focus away from their own words and actions and shift it towards the person confronting them and their right to question or “judge” them. When this happens, you may start to hear responses like the ones we see above.
Actually, these responses seem pretty good at first glance, don’t they? After all, no one is perfect, so what right does anyone have to question or “judge” someone else? So is it ever really right to “judge” another person? Well, the straight answer to that question is an absolute, definite… maybe.
Ok, that’s not very much of an answer is it? Let’s see if we can do a little better by first looking at the word “judge” and seeing what it really means.
When used outside a court of law, the word “judge” can mean to form an opinion or evaluation. It can also refer to one who makes estimates as to worth, quality, or fitness. (1) In the Bible, the word “judge” can mean to distinguish, to decide. (2) It can also mean to be of an opinion, to deem, to think (3).
Now if you think about those definitions for a moment, you should quickly realize that people make judgments upon other people every day. In fact, you can hear all sorts of judgments made on radio, television, across the Internet and in real-life situations all the time.
For example, how often have you heard words like idiot, moron or loser being used to describe other people? How about smart, strong or winner? These terms (and others like them) are all types of judgments. The same is true of the opinions we hold and the decisions that we make concerning others- each one is a type of judgment.
So when you think about it, people make a lot more judgments than you may realize. This means that the question is really not, “is it right to judge?” The question really is “what kind of judgments are right?”
As Christians we should be very careful in our judgments, especially in our judgments of others. For example, Jesus once warned, “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” (Matthew 7:1-2 NIV). Jesus also said, “And I tell you this, that you must give account on Judgment Day for every idle word you speak. Your words now reflect your fate then: either you will be justified by them or you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37). So if you want to be able to give a good account then, you should watch what you say now.
But there’s another side to this “judgment” thing. As we said earlier, people may sometimes say “stop judging me” if confronted over something they’ve said or done. But if Jesus Himself said, “Do not judge…” does it mean that we shouldn’t make any judgments between right and wrong? Does it mean that we should avoid judging the ideas and opinions of others and accept each one, even if those ideas and opinions are evil, unfair or unjust? Does it mean that we should never tell people the truth about their actions because to do so would mean “judging” them?
The Doctor doesn’t think so. Here’s why:
1.) Jesus Himself often judged between right and wrong (if you’d like to see an example, check out Matthew 23:13-36 where Jesus brings a heavy-duty judgment against the religious leaders of His day).
2.) The Bible tells us that Christians are supposed to judge others, at least within the church…
“It isn’t our job to judge outsiders. But it certainly is our job to judge and deal strongly with those who are members of the church and who are sinning in these ways. God alone is the Judge of those on the outside. But you yourselves must deal with this man and put him out of your church” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13).
This idea of making the right kind of judgments is also spoken of in John 7:24 where we’re told to “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (NIV). This Scripture from John 7:24 also gives us a better idea of what Jesus was talking about when He said, “Do not judge…”
You see, the “judgment” that Jesus warns against is the self-righteous, hypocritical and condemning type of judgment engaged in by the religious elite of His day and also by some people today. It’s this “do as I say, not as I do” type of judgmental attitude that Jesus was speaking out against. This type of judgment is also warned about in the book of Romans…
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things… So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” (Romans 2:1,3 NIV).
Another type of wrong judgment occurs when we look down on someone who is of a different social class or has less money or material things than we do. The book of James warns us about this type of judgment…
“Dear brothers, how can you claim that you belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, if you show favoritism to rich people and look down on poor people? If a man comes into your church dressed in expensive clothes and with valuable gold rings on his fingers, and at the same moment another man comes in who is poor and dressed in threadbare clothes, and you make a lot of fuss over the rich man and give him the best seat in the house and say to the poor man, “You can stand over there if you like or else sit on the floor”– well, judging a man by his wealth shows that you are guided by wrong motives” (James 2:1-4).
A third kind of wrong judgment has to do with “secondary issues” of Christian living. This would include areas where two God-honoring people have very different ideas concerning what’s right and wrong. A good example of this from Biblical times involved the question of whether it was OK to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols. People were judging each other over this question and the Apostle Paul responded by writing this in a letter that we know today as the book of Romans…
“Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters… Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand… You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat… Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way” (Romans 14:1,4,10,13 NIV).
These are all examples of the type of judgment that the Bible warns us against. However, these examples are very different from seeing someone doing something harmful and then “judging” or confronting them on it. If done with the right motivation in a spirit of humility and concern, this type of “judgment” just might save someone else from serious harm!
So we see that it’s right for us to make certain types of judgments. In fact, the Bible tells us that we should go so far as to pass judgment on ourselves…
“But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment” (1 Corinthian 11:31 NIV).
Wherever possible it’s often best to show love, support and encouragement whenever you can. But if it becomes absolutely necessary to confront and “judge” someone, it should be done with an attitude of concern, humility and mercy. Remember that it’s not right to be hypocritical or condemning in our judgments- God hasn’t called Christians to be hypocritical judges of condemnation but to be representatives of His love and concern for people through Jesus.
(1) The American Heritage Dictionary third edition
(2) New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. © 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.
(3) The Online Bible Thayer’s Greek Lexicon and Brown Driver & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, Copyright © 1993, Woodside Bible Fellowship, Ontario, Canada. Licensed from the Institute for Creation Research.