What Does the Bible Say About Judging?


I recently read an article about the topic of judgment. It seems as though many people misunderstand what the Bible teaches on this topic. Matthew 7:1 explicitly denounces judgment, as do many other verses throughout the Bible. Suffice to say that these two verses, as examples, give us plenty of reason to constitute judgment-free parameters in our own lives. In fact, even pagans recite those verses as an argument against anything which they feel is Christian hypocrisy.  But let’s be clear here, there is a massive difference between judgment and discernment. Let me explain.

In John 7:24, Jesus excuses a form of judgment called “righteous judgment.” Here He warns us not to judge by appearance. Other times when this form of “judgment” is permitted is in Leviticus 19:15, Deuteronomy 16:18-19 and Isaiah 11:3-4. Each time we hear about “righteous judgment.

The word righteous in Greek, dikaios, means “equitable (in character or act); by implication, innocent, holy (absolutely or relatively).” In Hebrew the word for righteous is tasddiq which means “just, lawful, righteous (man).” By these definitions we can conclude that righteous judgment is by a person who is “innocent, holy, and just.” To be righteous they would need to be found blameless (Proverbs 20:7).

In Matthew 7:1, Jesus made it clear that we should not judge hypocritically. We should not judge others on the same sins that we have as well. By pardoning those sins on ourselves but judging someone else for them, we are being hypocritical. Jesus warned against doing this in Matthew 7:2-5, stating that we will be judged by the same measure with which we judge.

There are many verses of scripture which tell us not only to exercise righteous judgment but warns us against false prophets, witnesses and teachers (1 Timothy 4:1-2, Matthew 7:15, Jeremiah 23:16, Matthew 24:24). We are called to discern between right and wrong and to rebuke our fellow Christians to keep the church pure (James 5:19-20, Matthew 18:15-17, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Galatians 6:1, Luke 17:3-4). Paul writes to the church (in Philippi) in Philippians 1:9-11, where he shares his prayer for them that they will “abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment…”

The Greek word for discernment translates “of moral discernment, the understanding of ethical matters,” From this we know that regardless of the word “righteous” before the word “discernment,” here Paul is talking about morality, just judgment, and certainly not the hypocritical judgment we were previously warned to avoid.

In essence, discernment is defined as righteous judgment, whereas, we are commanded to refrain from hypocritical judgment. There is our difference. A lot of people like to take Matthew 7:1 out of context. Let us be mindful in our judgments so that they are under righteousness, not hypocrisy. That means examining our own sins to be sure they are not conflicting with what we preach to others. Let us be mindful in how we approach fellow believers, speaking truth and love into them for the sake of their soul. And then if someone criticizes you for judging, point them to the texts.

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