In Matthew 7:1-2 and 6, Jesus says,
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you… Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.”
Jesus begins by saying, “Judge not,” though He obviously doesn’t mean we are never meant to judge anyone in any circumstance. If we were never permitted to make any kind of judgment, how would we be able to decide who the “dogs” or “swine” are that Jesus refers to?
Judgement, discernment, and decision-making are obviously required in order for church discipline to be administered.
Jesus says in John 7:24, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” Judge rightly, and not just by appearance.
A famous English preacher named Bishop Potter was once traveling to America on an old transatlantic liner. When he boarded the ship, he found out he was going to have to room with someone else.
He met the other man, and then later went to speak with the ship’s purser, saying, “Would you please put my gold watch and other valuables in a safe? I met the individual I am to room with, and due to his appearance I just do not trust him.”
The purser responded, “Bishop, I would be glad to do it. I will take responsibility for your valuables. After all, the man you are rooming with was here just a little while ago, and he gave me his possessions to hold for the very same reason.” Again, we must use righteous judgment.
Jesus says in Matthew 12:33, “A tree is known by its fruit.” Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5:12 that it is not our job to judge those outside the church, but that it is certainly our job to judge those who are members of God’s church.
The word used for “judge” is actually translated many different ways in the Bible. It has several different shades of meaning, including “to avenge,” “to sue,” “to decide,” “to determine,” “to esteem,” “to sentence,” “to think,” and “to condemn.” In order to understand the meaning, we must look at the context.
When Jesus says, “Judge not,” He is telling us not to censor, condemn, or pass sentence upon another. In Luke’s rendering of this passage, a phrase is added. Jesus says, “Judge not; condemn not.”
We must avoid critical, harsh condemnation of others – where we pass sentence upon their heart. None of us is qualified to judge another’s heart. Only God sees each person’s motives and intentions.
John Wesley once saw a man whom he thought to be wealthy give only a small gift into a good charity when offerings were being received. Wesley publicly criticized that man for being covetous and miserly.
The man later came to Wesley privately and said…
“Sir, I just want you to know: I have been living on parsnips and water for weeks. I ran up all kinds of debts before I came to Christ, so now I spend nothing on myself in order to repay those debts. Christ has made me an honest man; and so with all those debts to pay, I can give only a few offerings above my tithe. I must first settle up with my worldly neighbors and show them what the grace of God can do in the heart of a man who was once so dishonest.”
Wesley immediately apologized to the man and begged his forgiveness.
Again, God alone is qualified to judge a person’s heart.