The Bible has a lot to say about being judgmental. Jesus and the apostles understood clearly the human tendency to put down others. Among Christians, this even takes the form of questioning another’s spiritual condition. Keep in mind that all Old Testament passages and Jesus teachings are before the sending of the Holy Spirit to us to, as Jesus said, John 4: 26 But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you.
The LORD doesn’t make decisions the way we do! We tend to judge by outward appearance, mannerisms and through our own filters, but the LORD looks at a person’s thoughts and intentions. 1 Samuel 16:7 But the Lord said to Samuel, Look not on his appearance or at the height of his stature, for I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.
We must stop evaluating others by how the world thinks about them. We mistakenly think of each other in the Body of Christ as merely human beings and not regenerated persons through Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. We are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:16 Consequently, from now on we estimate and regard no one from a [purely] human point of view [in terms of natural standards of value]. [No] even though we once did estimate Christ from a human viewpoint and as a man, yet now [we have such knowledge of Him that] we know Him no longer [in terms of the flesh].
James 5:9 Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you [yourselves] may not be judged.
Romans 2:1-4 THEREFORE YOU have no excuse or defense or justification, O man, whoever you are who judges and condemns another. For in posing as judge and passing sentence on another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge are habitually practicing the very same things [that you censure and denounce]. [But] we know that the judgment (adverse verdict, sentence) of God falls justly and in accordance with truth upon those who practice such things. And do you think or imagine, O man, when you judge and condemn those who practice such things and yet do them yourself, that you will escape God’s judgment and elude His sentence and adverse verdict? Or are you [so blind as to] trifle with and presume upon and despise and underestimate the wealth of His kindness and forbearance and long-suffering patience? Are you unmindful or actually ignorant [of the fact] that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repent (to change your mind and inner man to accept God’s will)?
Matthew 7:1-5 DO NOT judge and criticize and condemn others, so that you may not be judged and criticized and condemned yourselves. For just as you judge and criticize and condemn others, you will be judged and criticized and condemned, and in accordance with the measure you [use to] deal out to others, it will be dealt out again to you. Why do you stare from without at the very small particle that is in your brother’s eye but do not become aware of and consider the beam of timber that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, Let me get the tiny particle out of your eye, when there is the beam of timber in your own eye? You hypocrite, first get the beam of timber out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the tiny particle out of your brother’s eye.
The act of judgment is an act of pride. It involves looking to our own understanding, putting together our perception of a few facts and coming up with some sort of answer or solution to a given observation or situation. Many times it is the wrong solution or answer, but because of pride, we never consider the possibility of error. Proverbs 3:5 Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.
When we judge another, we have taken upon ourselves an awesome responsibility for making the correct judgment, because our judgment is not necessary or usually productive. More importantly, our judgment is admonished against in Luke 6:37 Judge not [neither pronouncing judgment nor subjecting to censure], and you will not be judged; do not condemn and pronounce guilty, and you will not be condemned and pronounced guilty; acquit and forgive and release (give up resentment, let it drop), and you will be acquitted and forgiven and released.
In our daily life, all things, big and small, invite our observation and possible judgment. The condition of the weather, political matters, the taste of your food, a television program – at every moment of the day, something or other is inviting our judgment of it, unconsciously without being aware of the consequences, without taking care of the responsibilities involved. We judge, and then, we believe and take actions based on our judgments. We’ve looked at the apparent evidence and we’ve made a judgment. It must be right or we wouldn’t have come to that conclusion – Right?
What we don’t see, don’t understand, is that our judgment leads to suffering – our own suffering – and, more importantly, the suffering of those we love the most. These judgments may, over time, become ungodly strongholds or ways of thinking. We cannot change another’s behavior by our judgments. Matthew 6:27 And who of you by worrying and being anxious can add one unit of measure (cubit) to his stature or to the span of his life?
Jesus does address a critical and judgmental spirit, one with a sense of moral or intellectual superiority. He commanded us to examine ourselves first for the problems that we so easily see in others. It is when we examine ourselves that we can better see the problem and get help for our own problem first. John 7:24 Be honest in your judgment and do not decide at a glance (superficially and by appearances); but judge fairly and righteously.
We in Christ’s Body must use Spiritual discernment in coming to conclusions on matters of right or wrong or good and evil. Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for full-grown men, for those whose senses and mental faculties are trained by practice to discriminate and distinguish between what is morally good and noble and what is evil and contrary either to divine or human law.
Dictionary Definition of discernment:
1 : the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure : skill in discerning. Synonyms: discernment, discrimination, perception, penetration, insight, acumen mean a power to see what is not evident to the average mind. discernment stresses accuracy (as in reading character or motives) discrimination stresses the power to distinguish and select what is true or appropriate or excellent perception implies quick and often sympathetic discernment (as of shades of feeling) penetration implies a searching mind that goes beyond what is obvious or superficial insight suggests depth of discernment coupled with understanding sympathy acumen implies characteristic penetration combined with keen practical judgment
If a person is doing wrong (bad fruit) and we advise them they are doing wrong, we are not judging the heart (spirit) or motives of that person but we are addressing that person’s behavior. God will judge the intent or motivation of man, Romans 2:16, On that day when, as my Gospel proclaims, God by Jesus Christ will judge men in regard to the things which they conceal (their hidden thoughts).
The real question we must answer is “Are we discerning in the spirit via the counsel of the Holy Spirit, or are we judging in the flesh via the counsel of our own understanding, paradigms or emotions??” To help answer this question, our Heavenly Father gave us Spiritual gifts to give us “revelation and wisdom”. 1 Cor. 12:7-8 But to each one is given the manifestation of the [Holy] Spirit [the evidence, the spiritual illumination of the Spirit] for good and profit. To one is given in and through the [Holy] Spirit [the power to speak] a message of wisdom, and to another [the power to express] a word of knowledge and understanding according to the same [Holy] Spirit;
The Greek word for judge is “krino” or “krima” meaning according Strong’s Greek Dictionary:
Strong’s G2919 – krinō
1) to separate, put asunder, to pick out, select, choose 2) to approve, esteem, to prefer 3) to be of opinion, deem, think, to be of opinion 4) to determine, resolve, decree 5) to judge a) to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong 1) to be judged, i.e. summoned to trial that one’s case may be examined and judgment passed upon it b) to pronounce judgment, to subject to censure 1) of those who act the part of judges or arbiters in matters of common life, or pass judgment on the deeds and words of others 6) to rule, govern a) to preside over with the power of giving judicial decisions, because it was the prerogative of kings and rulers to pass judgment 7) to contend together, of warriors and combatants a) to dispute b) in a forensic sense
Strong’s G2917 – krima
1) a decree, judgments 2) judgment a) condemnation of wrong, the decision (whether severe or mild) which one passes on the faults of others b) in a forensic sense 1) the sentence of a judge 2) the punishment with which one is sentenced 3) condemnatory sentence, penal judgment, sentence 4) a matter to be judicially decided, a lawsuit, a case in court
Strong’s G2632 – katakrinō
1) to give judgment against, to judge worthy of punishment a) to condemn b) by one’s good example to render another’s wickedness the more evident and censurable
Matthew 7:1 DO NOT judge and criticize and condemn others, so that you may not be judged and criticized and condemned yourselves.
1 Corinthians 11:31-32 For if we searchingly examined ourselves [detecting our shortcomings and recognizing our own condition], we should not be judged and penalty decreed [by the divine judgment]. But when we [fall short and] are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined and chastened, so that we may not [finally] be condemned [to eternal punishment along] with the world.
Ps. 139:23-24 Search me [thoroughly], O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Further on we are told in Matthew 7:15-17 Beware of false prophets, who come to you, dressed as sheep, but inside they, are devouring wolves. You will fully recognize them by their fruits. Do people pick grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? Even so, every healthy (sound) tree bears good fruit [worthy of admiration], but the sickly (decaying, worthless) tree bears bad (worthless) fruit. If we are to beware of false prophets we must be able to know them and we can only do that with Spiritual discernment.
The letter to the Ephesians gives more information about the fruit, Ephesians 5:11 Take no part in and have no fellowship with the fruitless deeds and enterprises of darkness, but instead [let your lives be so in contrast as to] expose and reprove and convict them.
What standard are we to use for Spiritual discernment? The original question of judgment was the use of the Bible verse of Matthew 7:1 to “Judge not.” Since a Bible verse was first used it is the Bible that is to be used as a standard of right and wrong and Spiritual discernment. The Bible has the only absolute moral standards.
If we as Christians make a judgment from a sense of moral superiority we would be wrong. The proper sense of morality would be that except for the grace of God there go I, rather than a false sense of superiority. The Bible requires us as Christians to use Spiritual discernment to come to the truth of a matter. Col. 1:9 For this reason we also, from the day we heard of it, have not ceased to pray and make [special] request for you, [asking] that you may be filled with the full (deep and clear) knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom [in comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God] and in understanding and discernment of spiritual things—
It is interesting that nowhere does the Bible address this matter for an unbeliever, possibly because the unbeliever is unable to use Spiritual discernment since he/she is spiritually dead.