To Judge Or Not To Judge

May 29, 2017
by Diane Eaton

"Judge carefully" … "Do not judge" … "Judge for yourself" … "Stop judging" – the Bible

Well, is it okay to judge or not? The above texts aren't helpful, are they? It's no wonder: They're extracted from their contexts! Furthermore, words like "judge" or "judgment" convey a wide range of meanings, such as wise discernment, unjust condemnation, or God's cosmic lawsuit against the world.

I raise this topic today out of sheer frustration. I'm distressed by the pervasive misuse of this literary pearl in Scripture — a word that, if used well, could build maturity among God's people.

Consider the following bold defense of self-righteousness: "I have the right to live as I choose, and since the Bible says, 'Do not judge', you have no right to question me. Period!"

That's a door-closer! It suggests that good Christians protect others from the discomfort of conviction. We all too easily assume such a "responsibility" — and then feel guilty for "making" someone feel badly or offended. Our conscience condemns us. We've judged ourselves according to a human law. That's not sound judgment! It's not right judgment! It's self-condemnation!

Do you see why I am so troubled by this exploitation of the word "judge"? It tempts God's people to retreat into silence, out of fear of condemnation. So today, I invite you to consider Scriptures which portray judging as a virtue. You can check the context for yourself. Enjoy exploring these texts, all from the NIV:

  • "Judge carefully, for with the Lord our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery." – Jehoshaphat to the appointed judges (2 Chronicles 19:7b)
  • "Preserve sound judgment and discernment." – Solomon (Proverbs 3:21a)
  • "Fools die for lack of judgment." – Solomon (Proverbs 10:21b)
  • "Teach me knowledge and good judgment." (Psalm 119:66a)
  • "Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment." – Jesus (John 7:24)
  • "First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" – Here Jesus is teaching the proper way to judge. (Matthew 7:5)
  • "By their fruit you will recognize them." – Jesus (Matthew 7:20)
  • "Think of yourself with sober judgment." – Paul (Romans 12:3b)
  • "The spiritual man makes judgments about all things." – Paul (1 Corinthians 2:15a)
  • "Judge for yourselves what I say" – Paul (1 Corinthians 10:15b)
  • "It is time for judgment to begin with the family of God." – Peter (1 Peter 4:17a)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we admit that we easily resort to our own opinions or concede to the false judgment of others. We repent of our slothful habits in this matter. We ask You to awaken our sense of responsibility for gaining and using wise judgment. Amen.

About the author:

Diane Eaton <d.eaton@bmts.com>
Paisley, Ontario, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Good one!


    I’m with you Diane. Good word.


    Thanks Diane for sharing these Scriptures and well stated thoughts with us. Blessings.


    Great Bible lesson.
    I plan to print, and keep.
    Thanks for it.


    Thanks for this message. You have wrestled with the implications of this word we use so readily. You put a lot of effort into making it all make sense to us. Thank you.


    Hello Diane: I have often pondered the matter of judging. I have even thought – why do we have judges in our courts, if we are not supposed to judge. I thank you for giving us a different way of looking at judging.


    Dear Diane, your devotional about the truth on the subject of judging made my day! Way too many times, people will slap your God-given discernment with Matthew 7:1! Of course, in so doing, this verse is being used totally out of context and they feel quite self-righteous about it. There is, as you said, a right time and place to use judgement, making sure, of course, that it is backed with God’s Word.
    Thank you for clarifying this touchy subject with wisdom.
    Grateful to you (and God).


    Thanks for today’s devotional piece Diane. It means a lot to my wife and I to see this on a Presbyterian devotional site.
    Years ago, a while after the sacrament of baptism was performed on our oldest daughter, and acquaintance of ours had her child baptised because her grandmother asked her to, she said.
    When we said we were glad to see her in church, she claimed she was only there “to get her kid done”.
    When we brought this up with the minister and session and said that baptism as a holy sacrament should not be administered to children of non believers, we were told that “we should not judge. that’s what the bible teaches us.” You can imagine that, although we felt we were right at the time, your devotional piece made us feel vindicated.
    Thanks again.


    Hi Diane!
    Thank you for your well-written, scriptural meditation on judgement.
    Since the denomination’s issue with LGBTQ is at the forefront these days, I find my mind applying your words in that arena.
    I can see some, who believe that God translated his Spirit into Hebrew or Greek words and dictated such to scribes to copy inerrantly, taking in your meditation and saying that we have every right to judge LGBTQ lifestyle choices (because they do think that orientation is a choice) as being contrary to several passages in scripture. If we could just get them to see the error of their ways, our denomination would thrive, after a difficult period of adjustment.”
    I can see others, who read the scriptures in context and believe that the Spirit of the Word and His Self-revelation through words is as important as the carefully preserved words on parchment, saying that we need to be more discerning and speak more forthrightly to people about their fruits, about the quality of relationships, not their outward appearance.
    If we were to put our focus there, our denomination would thrive, after a very difficult period of adjustment!”
    In summation, thank you for a sound meditation!


    Greetings
    This is a very helpful insight into a difficult topic. Thanks.


    Good Morning Diane,
    In our very complex world you have “hit the nail” on the head regarding what seems to be a pervading sweep of thought regarding how we should live and whether or not it is appropriate to have one’s own opinions and judgments.


    Diane the whole subject of judging was clarified to me by Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 5:12 & 13.
    This stating that we have a right to judge those within the faith who are outwardly sinning,
    but not those of the world who do not have the Spirit of Christ in their lives.
    Thanks for the meaningful devotional.


    Hi Diane,
    Thank you for your devotional on the 29th. It is so easy to pass judgement isn’ it. There sure are a lot of passages about that very subject.
    Blessings.

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