Does the Bible say we can Judge Others?

Scripture Reading

Judge not, that ye be not judged. 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.

Matt. 7:1-5

Judging and Hypocrisy

This passage of scripture opens with Jesus teaching the people about judging others, but it is the second part that tends to stand out. Judging others may be acceptable depending on the circumstances, but doing the same thing yourself, or worse, while at the same time judging others, is really what jumps off the page. This passage therefore involves not only judging others but also hypocrisy so both will be central themes of this study on whether the Bible says we can judge others. Some digression into other areas of judging and judgment, past and present, will also be explored to help bring a more comprehensive sense of context and understanding of the subject.

Judge not, that ye be not judged.

Matt. 7:1a

Hypocrisy in Scripture

During the period in history of Jesus’ ministry, he often called out the religious rulers, commonly known as the scribes and the Pharisees. He criticized them over their pervasive hypocrisy. On countless occasions as noted in scripture counter accusations took place between Jesus the and religious rulers. It was not uncommon for him to chastise them over a litany of things based on their conduct and behavior toward fellow Jews and their accusations against Jesus.

Consider this brief synopsis compiled from scripture based on Jesus’ comments – they were vainglory in their alms giving, praying and fasting, they were making the commandments of God of none effect, they were not discerning the signs of the times, they were falsely tempting him, they were misleading people on how to get to heaven, they were plundering the houses of widows, they were making a pretence of long prayers, they were making people more bound for hell than heaven, they were omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment and mercy, they were full of extortion and excess, they were unclean inside in their heart, soul and spirit despite looking clean on the outside and they were not taking accountability for being the children of them that killed the prophets.

Is it any wonder Jesus concluded his comments toward them with the highest contempt as recorded, “[Ye] serpents, [ye] generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” [Matt. 23:33] To be clear, hypocrisy is a serious offense before God since it demonstrates duplicity between what someone is doing themselves, while at the same time criticizing someone else for something they may be doing. This was provided in the illustration from Jesus by comparing a mote in someone else’s eye versus a beam in their own eye, or something very small versus something very large.

For what [is] the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul?

Job 27:8

It is a certainty though that hypocrisy has prevailed throughout the ages as described in ancient writings from the Old Testament, “An hypocrite with [his] mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered.” [Prov. 11:9] Perhaps a far more compelling statement was made by one of the Lord’s suffering servants as he said, “For what [is] the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul?” {Job 27:8]

The ancient prophet Isaiah also spoke on the hypocrisy of individuals by likening them to wickedness, “For the vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practice hypocrisy, and to utter error against the LORD, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail.” [Is. 32:6]  Even Solomon in all his godly wisdom made mention of false or unjust condemnation in his writings, “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both [are] abomination to the LORD.” [Prov. 17:15]

Judging in Scripture

In the New Testament, Paul also wrote about how we need to be careful about judging others by stating how inexcusable the conduct of judgmental hypocrisy is in this scripture, “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? ” [Rom. 2:1-3]

The apostle James also highlighted this concern of misjudging others in his letter to believers as he said, “Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of [his] brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” [Jam. 4:11-12]

In another account of the gospel, Jesus spoke of this same concern in tandem with other traits and characteristics befitting of believers, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you.” [Luke 6:37] The comments from Jesus illustrate how each act is emulated upon yourself by God, whether it be judging, condemning, forgiving or giving.

Prudent Judging

With all of this being said, there is hope however for people who fall into the temptation of judgmental hypocrisy. Often this comes first by holding oneself accountable for their own personal actions before condemning others as Paul noted in his letters by saying, “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” [1 Cor. 11:31-32]

Paul wrote further on this to the church in Rome by highlighting the way people were judging and condemning each other even over differences in what people ate, or certain days of the week, which they held in higher esteem. He concluded his discourse on this subject by indicating who people are truly accountable to in the end regarding judgment by saying, “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.” [Rom. 14:10-13]

In turn, Jesus also spoke about the importance of not simply judging by outward appearances, lest it default into hypocrisy, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” [John 7:24] A notable and honorable Pharisee named Nicodemus also spoke on the importance of not making rash decisions or jumping to conclusions without proper assessment of a situation. In this case it involved great dissension with the religious rulers on just who Jesus really was based on his teaching, preaching and healing ministry,  “Doth our law judge [any] man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth? ” [John 7:51]

…for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

Rom. 14:10b

Future Judgement

Let us now briefly digress and look at judging from a few other angles to gain a better perspective on this subject. Jesus stated on one occasion that he did not come into the world to judge people but that people would be judged for rejecting him and his words, “And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” [John 12:47-48]

This tends to parallel with the vision expressed by the apostle John, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.” [Rev. 20:12-13] We are indeed getting to the heart of the question on whether the Bible says we can judge others.

Judgment will indeed take place by Jesus though but this will only occur after a particular moment in people’s lives, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. Luke also made note of this as eyewitnesses of Jesus while he was on earth, affirming his role as the sole judge recorded in Acts 10:41-43, Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, [even] to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God [to be] the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” [Heb. 9:27]

Luke also added a further comment in this regard thus reaffirming the importance of it, “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by [that] man whom he hath ordained; [whereof] he hath given assurance unto all [men,] in that he hath raised him from the dead.” [Acts 17:31] This verse is in reference of course to Jesus Christ. Further to this, Paul wrote of this judgment in his lengthy letter to the church in Rome, “In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” [Rom. 2:16]

wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.

Rom. 2:1b

Compassion in Judging

There is mercy however in the judgment from Jesus upon people as a notable incident took place in this regard. Despite the religious rulers trying to entrap him while indicting a woman to death for adultery, Jesus demonstrated the utmost compassion upon her, “When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” [John 8:10-11]

No Longer Condemned

The greater point to conclude in this study on does the Bible say we can judge others is this – the good news of the gospel of Christ moves from a theme of condemnation to one of merciful redemption through salvation as shown, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” [John 3:17-19]

The vital importance of believing upon Jesus for eternal life is further emphasized by him, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” [John 5:24]  Paul draws upon this contrast by comparing the singular sinful act of Adam which brought condemnation upon all people. This is then contrasted with the singular, sinless and sacrificial act of Jesus which brings justification upon all believers, “Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life.” [Rom. 5:18]

Let us close off this Bible study on whether the Bible says we can judge others. In contemplation of such good news, if there is no longer condemnation upon us as believers in Christ, then this is the example set before us. Let us refrain from such condemnation and hypocrisy upon others as we walk in the Spirit as shared by Paul, “[There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” [Rom. 8:1]

Bible Study Questions

  1. In this study on Does the Bible say we can Judge Others, why do you think it is so common for people to cast judgement upon others?
  2. Define hypocrisy in judging people as explained in this Bible Study on does the Bible say we can judge others.
  3. In the section, Hypocrisy in Scripture, name at least five wrongful actions of the religious rulers.
  4. Is this statement true or false? “And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?” Hint Rom. 2:3
  5. In John 12:47-48, what does it mean when Jesus states that people will be judged by the words that he speaks?
  6. True or false, in Rom. 5:18, judgement and condemnation are contrasted with righteousness and justification?
  7. Think of someone whom you have cast judgement upon but have found yourself doing the same thing. How could you approach the situation more Christ like next time?

WORD GUIDE – * (mete – to distribute by measure) * (mote – a very small speck of something) * (beam – a large or long piece of lumber) * (quick – archaic for the living)

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