Judging sinfully usually means looking down on others as if one was better (though this may not always be involved). That is a terrible sin in and of itself and best avoided at all costs. However, there tend to be misunderstandings on this topic. It is not uncommon to hear many people say, “don’t judge,” or “don’t judge me.” That isn’t necessarily wrong, nor is it necessarily correct. This issue depends on certain factors. We Christians must judge both good and bad things biblically. We are supposed to evaluate situations, circumstances, beliefs, teachings, and even people. Jesus said, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead, judge correctly” (John 7:24). Believers have to make judgment calls all the time because many situations requiring us to choose the right course of action demand discernment and proper perception. These are good things that we should never discourage people from exercising as long as they go about it properly with pure motives.
Let us be clear that we should never intentionally look for opportunities to judge because those chances will come independently. We should never go on a “witch hunt” and try to find fault in people purposefully because we should only judge when we need to. Our time here on earth is too short for us to go sticking our noses into other matters or, worse yet, other people’s business when we shouldn’t. That is sinful (1 Timothy 5:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:11). The time to make a proper call will become apparent when we exercise discernment and walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:25; Philippians 1:9-10). Therefore, righteous judgment must entail all we have mentioned below, most of which correspond with the fruits of the spirit.
If we judge, what we speak must be true. It must be based on facts, not an opinion (even though we may have opinions) that is not entirely sure of itself or correct
15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
If we judge, we must do so with love and through pure motives
See Ephesians 4:15 above ^.
If we judge, we must do so without hypocrisy
“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
There are many areas of application in the Christian life where choices will differ. We must not be legalistic and condemn others for doing perfectly fine things. Nor should we judge those for doing something fine but wrong to them in their conscience. Examples of situations like these are found in the passages below.
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
For more information on the above, please see Christian Liberty.
With all the above said, what is the judgment referred to in Matthew 7:1?
“Judge not, that you be not judged.
The bad type of judgment above stems from an exaggerated view of oneself as better and more important than others (hence we mentioned judging with pure motives and attitude earlier). This mentality is not the way of love and constitutes a terrible sin which God will repay, whether at the judgment seat for believers or the great white throne for unbelievers. We will explain verses three and five to close.
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
The interpretation of these final three verses is relatively simple. First, we should constantly evaluate ourselves to ensure we have taken care of our own problems through spiritual growth to help others with what we used to struggle with in times past. You can’t help someone else if you need help yourself. The blind cannot lead the blind (Matthew 15:14).
It is most unfortunate that so many in the church have taken two extremes in this area of Christian application. First, you have some who don’t want to be accountable for themselves to continue to do whatever they want wherever they wish. They may act hypocritically by calling others “judgmental” and “legalistic” when what those people are doing is the right and biblical thing for them to do. A righteous judgement spoken in love should never be criticized (assuming it is true).
On the other hand, some falsely and legalistically judge others. They would be doing the opposite of good and righteous regarding everything we have listed above. We must do unto others as we would have them do unto us (Luke 6:31). Therefore, let us all strive to judge as our Lord would have us. Let us put Him first in our thoughts, words, and actions toward everyone (Titus 3:1-11).