Healthy Living – Judging Others

Many people believe that Christians aren’t supposed to judge. They’ll even quote Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:1 “
Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”
But does Jesus mean that we are to never judge? I don’t think so.
In the first five verses Jesus warned us against how easy it is to become blind to our own faults and how easy it is to see the faults of others. Then in verse 6 He showed us that it is sometimes necessary to judge. He said, “

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces


To differentiate between those who would trample pearls and those who wouldn’t requires discerning judgment. So, when do we judge and when don’t we judge? Let’s let the Bible be the judge on that as we consider what Scripture has to say on the matter.

Tell of a time when you either misjudged someone or you yourself were misjudged:


What has your experience taught you about judging others before having all the facts?


Using Matthew 7:1-5 and Luke 6:37-42 answer the following:

Why do you believe that some people are so willing to point out the faults of others?


What questions does Jesus’ admonition to not judge raise for you?


Why do you think we often overlook our own faults?


What does Jesus say we should do instead of condemning our brother?


What does Jesus mean by “first take the plank out of your own eye?”


How could removing the plank from our own eye help us to remove the speck from our brother’s eye?


In our effort to “help others” we can often do more harm than good. What negative consequences have you seen from a well-intentioned Christian pointing out the splinter in a brother’s eye?


Instead of judging someone who’s caught up in a sin, what does Galatians 6:1 teach us to do?


When and how should we judge? (Use 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, 12-13, and 6:1-6 to supplement your answer)


(Regarding discipline in the church, judgment is commanded. Immoral acts by professed believers were certainly to be judged. A simple reading of the above passages where the word “judgment” is used shows that some things are to be judged and some things are not to be judged. The motive of our judgment is important. Too often we judge things that we neither need to judge nor know enough about to judge. However, judgments are as necessary to life as breathing. Let’s be sure that we judge righteously, for all such actions will be reviewed when God brings all the hidden things to light and judges all things by His righteousness.)

What are some mistakes people make when judging others? (2 Corinthians 10:12)


What is the difference between condemning sin and condemning the sinner? (1 Corinthians 5:1-5)


How does Jesus want us to treat those who have fallen into sin? (John 8:3-11)


How can we avoid developing a self-righteous attitude?


(In his book, 
Life Together,
 Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “If my sinfulness appears to me to be in any way smaller or less detestable in comparison with the sins of others, I am still not recognizing my sinfulness at all.”)

What does God say about passing judgment in civil matters and matters of law? (Use Deuteronomy 16:18-20, 1:16-17, Exodus 23:6-7, and Leviticus 19:15 to supplement your answer)


What happens to our witness when we mishandle matters that require discernment and proper judgment? (2 Corinthians 6:1-6)


Why do you suppose we are to judge those inside the church but not those outside the church? (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)


Read Matthew 7:15-20, 2 Corinthians 11:12-15, and Philippians 3:2 and comment on what they have to say about judging the ministry of teachers of the gospel:


When we judge the ministry of others we need to be careful that we are using God’s Word as the standard and not our own opinion or preference. Consider what Larry Carter has to say on this subject.

It is unlikely we would choose to emulate Ernesto “Che” Guevera, but some in the church could claim him as their patron saint. Guevera was the Argentine-born communist revolutionary who eventually became the right-hand of Fidel Castro. His transformation from a bon vivant world traveler to an ardent Marxist was remarkable. As he transformed into a true believer in the cause of man in general, he became less concerned about the rights of man in specific.

He wrote to his mother, “Anyone who doesn’t believe in the struggle of the worker and the upheaval of society as we know it should be exterminated.” The more he believed in his cause the narrower his world became until anyone who didn’t see things his way needed to be eliminated from the ranks of the family of man.

Similarly, sometimes Christians can become so focused on their cause they feel that anyone who disagrees with them needs to be eliminated from the ranks of the family of God. Whether the topic is ecclesiology or eschatology, somehow they feel their stance qualifies them to determine who is a part of the true brotherhood of Christ. (Larry Carter)

What does the story of the woman caught in adultery teach us about judging others? (John 8:3-11)


Read the following verses and comment on their connection to passing judgment:

Luke 12:13-14


John 7:24


John 8:15-16


Romans 2:1-3


Romans 14:1-13


James 2:1-4


Inspecting earthly fruit without judging eternal destinies

(by Bob Russell)

Do not judge, and you will not be judged

(Luke 6:37).

Each tree is recognized by its own fruit

(Luke 6:44).
What’s the difference between being a judge and being a fruit inspector? When Jesus commanded, “

Do not judge

,” he obviously wasn’t prohibiting all discernment. He instructs us to beware of false prophets and not to cast pearls before swine. You can’t distinguish between true and false prophets, sheep and swine, without making proper judgments.
Elsewhere in Scripture, the church at Corinth was commanded to put out of their fellowship a man who was flaunting sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 5:2). The Ephesians were told to “

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness

” (Ephesians 5:11). The Galatians were instructed to restore those who are caught in some sin (Galatians 6:1) and Timothy was taught to publicly rebuke leaders who sin (1 Timothy 5:20). Each of those responses required wise judgments about other people’s behavior.

We have to practice careful discernment about whom we marry, whom we hire, whom we trust with our money, whom we vote for, and whom we allow to babysit our children. While we have to judge character at times, we’re not to consign people to Heaven or Hell—that’s God’s job alone. We’re not to judge others with a measurement we’re not willing to impose on ourselves. That’s hypocritical. We’re not to judge others by a standard other than God’s Word. That’s unjust.

But we are to inspect the fruit of other’s lives so we can determine who are genuine followers of Christ and who are phony. “

Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers

” (Luke 6:44).

A genuine Christian will produce the fruit of evangelism. A healthy tree reproduces itself. Jesus accused the Pharisees of making converts that were twice the children of Hell than they were. Authenticity can be determined by evaluating converts. Are there any new converts? Are they genuinely walking with Christ? Each tree is recognized by its own fruit.

Godly speech is another evidence of genuine Christianity. “

For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). You can tell the nature of a tree by the fruit that bursts forth from its branches. You can discern a great deal about a person’s heart by the way he or she talks. “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name

” (Hebrews 13:15).
A genuine Christian will produce the fruit of increased maturity. No Christian is perfect, but a genuine Christian grows in service to others and deepens in doctrinal understanding. “

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God

” (Colossians 1:10).
It’s been said that nailing apples on a telephone pole doesn’t make it an apple tree. Just tacking good works onto the life of a person whose heart is dead doesn’t make him a Christian. But a genuine Christian will naturally produce fruit that bears testimony to a life that is abiding in the Vine. “

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples

” (John 15:8). Bob Russell


Keeping the Royal Law

(by Murray Mayfield)

James 4:11, 12


As a junior in college, I spent two years serving a small church in Pickens, South Carolina. One Sunday we invited a missionary to present his ministry to our church. I’ll never forget the car he drove up in—an lime green Cadillac. This made me uncomfortable. I was a struggling student driving an unreliable Chevy Vega, and this missionary was driving a Caddy and asking for money. After he presented his ministry and drove away I thought to myself,

If he’d just sell his car, he’d only have to raise half the amount of support he is asking


What was wrong with what I did? Two things. I attempted to do something I was not able to do; I saw evidence of luxurious living, tried to look into his heart, assessed his motives, and condemned him. Second, I violated a foundational command in the Bible. Instead of assuming the best until proven otherwise, I believed the worst scenario.

James wrote, “

Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother, or judges his brother, speaks against the law, and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge of it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and to destroy; but you—who are you to judge your neighbor

?” (James 4:11, 12).
What does it mean to “speak against” a brother? The Greek word


is translated “slander” in other verses, but we can’t limit its meaning to making false statements about someone in order to harm his character. We refrain from that because of the ninth commandment. So what is James forbidding?

Katalaleo is a compound word, from the preposition (kata) that means “down” and a verb (laleo) that means “to speak.” The idea is to verbally degrade or diminish someone by “talking him down.” With certain exceptions, when we say something about a Christian brother that causes a third party’s estimation of that brother to go down, we have just violated this command. “Speaking against a brother” has nothing to do with truth or falsehood. How many times have you heard someone speak an unkind truth about another Christian and then justify it by saying, “I’m just speaking the truth in love”? Using the truth to cause someone to think less of another Christian violates James’ prohibition of “speaking against a brother.”


One reason there is confusion about this matter of judging is that other Scriptures command it. How do we reconcile what James says about not speaking against a brother, and what Jesus says in Matthew 7:1 about not judging, with what Paul says in Galatians 6:1 (New King James Version): “

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness”? Restoring someone certainly involves some measure of passing judgment. And to make things more confusing, Matthew 7:5 (New American Standard Bible) says, “Take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Taking the speck out of your brother’s eye involves some type of judging. And what do we do with Matthew 18 where Jesus says, “If your brother sins, go and reprove him in private

”? Doesn’t identifying sin involve judging?


There is one type of judging we are forbidden to do, and another type of judging we are commanded to do. When we see something we think is wrong in a brother’s life, how are we supposed to know if we should follow Paul in Galatians 6:1, or James in James 4:11? Here are four questions I ask to help resolve this dilemma.

Do I know the facts?

A church member sees his preacher walking out of a convenience store with a six pack of beer under his arm. Instead of following Proverbs 18:13 (“He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him,” NASB), he immediately draws the worst possible conclusion. Had he known all the facts, he would have learned that this is the preacher’s desperate attempt to control the slug population in his garden! Many times, simply learning the whole story will keep one from being judgmental.

Am I dealing with objective sin

? Is there a Bible verse or clear biblical principle that explicitly deals with the situation? For instance, the Bible says, “Let him who stole steal no longer? (Ephesians 4:28, NKJV). Confronting a brother for stealing is not violating James’ command because God has already judged the person. What about something that is not specifically prohibited but has plenty of scriptural evidence against it, like playing the lottery (Proverbs 28:20)? Rebuking the one “who makes haste to be rich” and warning him that he “will not go unpunished” is not only legitimate but expected if we are to be faithful to God.

If the issue is merely a matter of personal preference, don’t confront. I once knew a deacon who was furious with the chairman of the elders because of the length of the annual congregational meeting. Our church isn’t air-conditioned, it was a beastly hot and humid day in July, and the elder was droning on and on about some of the activities the senior group had enjoyed. I happened to agree with the deacon, but since we weren’t dealing with “sin,” there was no cause for going to the elder.

Am I willing to personally confront the offender? In Matthew 18:15, Jesus says, “if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private.” In Galatians 6:1 (NASB), Paul says, “… if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one

.” Once I met with two teens in my office who were very offended (and quite angry) by some remarks a lady made about the youth program. After I heard the story I told them they should go to the woman who offended them and deal with it. They were quite reluctant to do this, so I told them that if they were genuinely concerned about handling the situation in a godly way, they would go to her. On the other hand, if they were just trying to tarnish this woman’s reputation, they wouldn’t approach her. Two weeks later I asked the woman in question if two of the teens had spoken with her about anything she had said, and she said “no.”

This principle is usually effective in distinguishing the judgmental person from the genuinely concerned person. Judgmental people are rarely willing to talk to the person with whom they have a problem. They seem to enjoy lobbing mortars from a distance.

What is my motive

? Confrontation should focus on restoring the fallen to fellowship with God and the body of Christ. When I was in college, a snow sculpture contest was held following a particularly heavy snowfall. Some of the snow sculptures were so intricate and beautiful that the local newspaper was invited to come and take pictures for a story. The night before the photographer was to come, some students vandalized many of the sculptures. When they were discovered, they were asked to stand in chapel (in front of several thousand) and were publicly humiliated for their actions. Was the vandalism wrong and deserving of confrontation? Absolutely. Did the students deserve to be expelled? Sure. Was the public humiliation necessary? Not at all.

It is possible to confront someone about sin in his life and at the same time violate James’ prohibition. If our motive is wrong, we will confront in anger or malice; not trying to restore, but relishing the opportunity to point out someone else’s sin. Concern for the erring one is what drives us.


Why is it wrong to speak against a brother? James gives us the rationale for this prohibition. “He who speaks against a brother, or judges his brother, speaks against the law, and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge of it” (James 4:11, 12, NASB). This law was summed up by Jesus in Matthew 22:37-39 as “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart … and your neighbor as yourself.” Earlier in his book, James refers to it as the “royal law” (2:8). This is the law we are breaking when we speak against our brothers and sisters in the Lord. We don’t appreciate it when people misjudge our hearts or actions, so we shouldn’t do it to others. We must love others the same way we love ourselves. When we don’t, we have disobeyed God’s law.

It is normal for unsaved people to speak evil of Christians, but Christians should never do this. Some of the most deeply wounded Christians I have dealt with have been hurt in this way.

James 4:12 reminds us that not only is speaking against a brother disobedient, it is arrogant. “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy.” James is making the point that someone does have the capacity to analyze hearts and judge motives, but guess what? It isn’t you! James is talking about God! We simply don’t have the ability to peer into another person’s heart, see his motives, and render a binding judgment.


So what do you think about the green Cadillac incident now? Do you see how wrong it was? What if a generous Christian had loaned that car to the missionary couple so they would have reliable transportation while on furlough? What if his car had broken down and his dad had loaned him his own car for that weekend? Instead of judging my brother, I should have gathered all the facts, determined what Scripture he was violating, and then personally gone to him with a heart of concern. I should have been practicing the royal law.