What Does the Bible Say About Judging Others (Really)?

August 26, 2022

If you’re standing in a bank and someone walks in dressed in all black with a black hoodie over their head, a black trench coat on, and both hands in their pockets, you’re going to start making a judgment. Is this person going to rob the place? That thought is based on a judgment that you’ve made about someone else. I mean, what if that person just likes the color black? What if they’re just really cold?

Yes, you are judging them. But you’re not condemning them or looking down on them. You’re simply going through a thought process and making a decision based on the evidence around you. And God gave you the ability to do that for a reason – so you can make smart decisions.

So Jesus wasn’t saying that we should turn our brains off and stop making judgment calls when it comes to other people. He was saying we have to be careful not to be judgmental.

Being judgmental is when we look down on someone and condemn them. Jesus was saying that we shouldn’t look down on people or condemn them because we’re just as flawed as they are.

What’s interesting is, when Jesus said “judge not lest you be judged” (Matthew 7:1), right after that He said:

“…first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5)

So Jesus wasn’t saying we should never point out other people’s flaws. He said to notice our own flaws first, be humble, and don’t be a hypocrite when we correct someone else.

Not only does the Bible tell Christians it’s okay to make judgments about what they see in other Christians, it also says it’s the job of believers to speak truth to other believers when they see them doing something they shouldn’t be doing (Matthew 18:15-17, Galatians 6:1, Titus 3:10-11, 1 Timothy 5:20).

But for some reason, well-meaning Christian still hold onto the misguided idea that Christ followers are not supposed to judge people.

So, if God is OK with us actually using our brains to make decisions about the people and the world around us, which some people call “judging“, then how should we be judging in a way that’s aligned with God?

#1: Know the details

Anytime we look at a situation and make up our minds about what’s going on without actually knowing the details of the situation, we’re setting ourselves up to pass a false judgment about someone. Proverbs 18:13 says, “Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” 

Tolerating gossip leads you into the trap of being critical and judgmental towards other people. But the more you get to know someone, the better off you are to have a right judgment about them.

#2: Know their heart

Even when people do things that are legitimately wrong, it’s important to first try to understand the why behind the action. That doesn’t make it right, but it can help us to have compassion for people by understanding their motivation.

Knowing the intentions and the heart behind someone’s actions makes it easier for us to make a right judgement about them.

More often than not, when you get the details and get to know the heart of the people involved, there’s usually a deeper issue going on. Trying to understand people’s motives can go a long way toward helping you make a right judgment about someone.

#3: Offer grace

Even if you know all the details of a situation and even if you know that their heart was not in the right place, offering grace is still the best option. After all, we all receive grace we don’t deserve every single day. Why should we not pass that along to other people?

That doesn’t mean you never make a judgment about someone. Forgiveness and trust are two completely different things. You can forgive someone while also making the decision to distance yourself from them because of their actions or their heart.

The key is to make right judgments (John 7:24).

Offer grace, don’t throw stones, then speak the truth in love when the time is right.

And the right time is when you’re one-on-one (John 8:9-11, Matthew 18:15) – not behind their back or on social media (Proverbs 6:16-19 says God hates “a person who stirs up conflict in the community”).

But just know that it’s okay for Christians to judge. Remember, truth is always a judgment, but grace keeps you from being judgmental.

Posted by Mike P. Taylor

Mike P. Taylor is an author, speaker, and consultant who helps people understand God's goodness in a fresh way. He's the author of the book Grounded Faith for Practical People and he writes at mikeptaylor.com where he helps people rethink religion for a new generation. He lives in Nashville, TN with his wife Sydney and their four kids.