So what exactly does the Bible say about judging others? In short, Christians are commanded throughout the Bible to judge others in some ways and not in other ways. In the Bible, the words judgment and discernment can be used synonymously at times. There are essentially three root words in the Greek of the New Testament:
Anakrino - Essentially means "to distinguish" and we are always to do this, for example 1 Corinthians 2:14:
"But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned [anakrino]."
Dokimazo - Essentially means "to test or prove, which is also appropriate. An example is Luke 12:56:
"Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern [dokimazo] this time?"
We are also told to test the spirits (1 John 4:1) and judge prophecy (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Krino - This word means to judge/to condemn, and this is for God to do. An example is Matthew 7:1-2:
"Judge [krino] not, that you be not judged [krino]. For with what judgment you judge [krino], you will be judged [krino]; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you."
We need to remember the words of Jesus, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24).
We go through life constantly judging everything, including every person we have a thought about. When we meet someone, we make a judment based on our impression of them. Are they short? tall? skinny? fat? cute? The Bible says God looks at the heart and so should we, but we will still make these general judgments. "The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment... (1 Corinthians 2:15)."
So does "all things" include the actions of others? Well, the Bible has a lot to say about this. We are clearly commanded in the Bible to judge other believers, which is the whole idea the Bible calls "fruit."
Later in Mt. 7:3-5 we see that we are encouraged not to be hipocrites when we "take the speck out of your neighbor's eye." It doesn't say we are not supposed to, only to do it to ourselves first so we can "see clearly." Later in the chapter, we are commanded to judge, "...by their fruits you shall know them" (Mat. 7:20)
It could be summarized this way:
1. We are to judge sin among believers (cf. Matt. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 5:3,12,13; 2 Thess. 3:14).
2. We are to exercise judgment regarding false doctrine and unbelievers (cf. Matt. 7:15-20; Gal. 1:8,9; 1 John 4:1; 2 John 1:10).
1 Corinthians 5:11 - "But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person."
1 Corinthians 5:12-13 - "For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore "put away from yourselves the evil person."
There are some things we are not to judge other believers on. For example, Colossians 2:16- 17 which states, "So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ."
Paul also alludes to this in 1 Corinthians 4:5, "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God."
Matthew 18:15-20 gives us the steps on how to address a believer who has sinned against us.
Any judging must come from a place of love. It is the same when we discipline. It also must be done in love (according to the nature of Christ) or it will be hard for the Holy Spirit to use it.
I know I am constantly being judged based on my website and writings. I am going to constantly be misunderstood. As soon as you start to explain something abstract or spiritual like God or salvation, people can very easily criticize what you say and try to label you. We all naturally try to figure out what someone saying as soon as possible. We want to identify (label) what they are saying. We want to agree of disagree, and make judgments. A key question to ask is how are we doing this? Are we doing this out of pride? Are we cold or wanting to show them to be wrong?
So is there anything we are not to judge? Doesn't the Bible say "don't judge, lest you be judged?" Yes, we are not to judge another person's soul and that is what that verse is clearly referring to. Judging their soul is God's job.
© Todd Tyszka
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