Christians are often criticized for their judgmental attitudes, but the Bible very clearly and explicitly commands believers to not judge others.
- Romans 14:13a – “Let us not therefore judge one another any more.”
- Matthew 7:1 – “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”
We Must have Discernment
Many times, being discerning is confused with being judgmental. The two are not the same. Christian love is not blind. Believers do not walk through life with eyes closed. Believers must be able to discern between right and wrong, between good and evil. Christians are plainly called to be discerning.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 – “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
In exercising discernment a Christian is bound to see the weaknesses, faults, and sins of others.
- Philippians 1:9-10 – “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and [in] all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.”
Paul prayed for the Philippians to have the judgment to be discerning. In the same passage in which Jesus commanded believers not to judge, He also said…
- Matthew 7:6 – “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”
In order to obey this command, one must be able to recognize the difference between the dogs, the hogs, and the sheep. That requires spiritual discernment. It requires a believer to have good judgment. The book of Proverbs often admonishes us to use good judgment in the company that we keep. (Proverbs 1:10-19; 2:10-17; 4:14-19; 5:1-5 are just a few examples.)
Don’t confuse showing good judgment with being judgmental. They are not the same! God commends good judgment. He condemns a judgmental attitude. What then is a judgmental attitude? How may believers obey the commands of Romans 14:13a and Matthew 7:1?
- Luke 6:37 – “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven”
This parallel passage of Matthew 7:1 clearly shows that being judgmental is to condemn others. In other words, a judgmental attitude is an attitude that passes judgment on others. Luke 6:37 also associates being judgmental with being unwilling to forgive.
- John 7:24 – “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”
Jesus instructs believers to not judge based on outward appearances but to righteously judge. The Jews were condemning Jesus for healing on the Sabbath, but they could not – really, they would not – see the righteousness of what He was doing.
Believers must be discerning but not condemning.
We Must Begin with Ourselves
Many people can quote Matthew 7:1 – “Judge not, that ye be not judged” – but they fail to continue reading! The following four verses are important.
Matthew 7:2-5 – “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam [is] in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
You may be sincere in wanting to help your fellow believer overcome his faults, but you must first start with yourself. In order to see clearly how to get a speck out of someone else’s eye, you must first remove the log that is already in your own eye.
Relationships are often broken because we see the changes that another person needs to make and we try to force those changes. Take this fact to the bank: you cannot change another person. The only person that you are able to change is yourself! Once you have changed yourself – through the power of the Holy Spirit – you are freed to be used by the Lord to produce changes in the other person.
We Must Remember that Jesus is Lord
You may be thinking, “Of course that is true, but so what?”
Romans 14:9-13 – “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, [As] I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in [his] brother’s way.” (emphasis mine)
This passage reminds us that ultimately each person must answer, not to one another, not to man, but to the Lord. That is what the “therefore” is there for, and that is the reason why we must not judge each other. Put the judgment into the hands of the all-knowing, all-seeing God, who is perfectly righteous and perfectly loving. He can and will straighten out all the facts and render exact justice, and He will do this in His own timing (1 Corinthians 4:3-5).
We Must have Priorities
In the first century, the disagreements were often between Jews and Gentiles over diets and days. One group thought that certain foods were off-limits and that certain days were to be esteemed above others. The other group felt that a Christian had no dietary restrictions and that there were no differences between one day and another. The two groups were judging, criticizing, and condemning each other. Paul tells them to stop, and reminds them that some things are more important than others.
Romans 14:14-15, 20 – “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that [there is] nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him [it is] unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with [thy] meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed [are] pure; but [it is] evil for that man who eateth with offence.”
Some issues are more important than others. We must distinguish between essential and nonessential doctrines. Essential doctrines are explicitly revealed in the pages of Scripture. Nonessential doctrines are those where personal convictions and preferences are at stake but not a clear teaching of the Bible. The value of a soul and the work of the Lord are a higher priority than one’s personal viewpoint on a fine point of theology.
We Must Be Loving and Patient
Believers must think of others, not just themselves.
- Romans 15:1-2 – “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please [his] neighbour for [his] good to edification.”
Selfishness leads to impatience and a lack of love. The best way to overcome a judgmental attitude is to try and see the situation from the other person’s perspective. That will increase your love and patience.
Romans 14:13a – “Let us not therefore judge one another any more”