Jesus admonished us in Matthew 7:1, Judge not, that ye be not judged.  This is one of the most recited verses in all of Scripture. Yet it’s one of the most misunderstood, misapplied, and abused. The verse is most-commonly evoked in cases of sin, doctrinal error, or morality. And it is thus quoted to authoritatively and unequivocally declare that Christians have no right to judge others—including other Christians—who are involved in sin or error. It is perhaps a well-intentioned plea for Christians to just shut up, leave people alone, and let God do the judging.

I am not an advocate for judgmentalism. I detest that spirit and the aura of self-righteousness that goes with it when I see it manifest in Christians.

Christ prohibits us from judging other people and I believe we all need to give heed to our Lord and quit judging people. Let God do the judging and let us do the praying. We serve the cause of Christ best by befriending people and extending a helping hand instead of cutting them down and making them feel like dirt. The Word of God that we share in kindness and love, and the Spirit of Christ that we manifest with all meekness and gentleness, will minister conviction, life, and the hope of change. Judging them will not.

What I am against, however, is the thoughtless or flagrant use of Matthew 7:1 that produces a silence about sin where there ought to be none; and the use of our Lord’s prohibition to foster the accommodation, tolerance, and acceptance of sin among God’s people. Sin’s killing us. And our silence has resulted in a tragic and lamentable lowering of the righteous morality that Christ wants His followers to have.

What I’d like to do in these blog posts is provide balance to the prohibition by bringing out the whole counsel of Scripture.

In my last blog post in this series we saw that there are times when it isn’t wrong for us to judge one another. This said, the prohibition against judging in Matthew 7:1 tells us that there are times when it is indeed wrong for us to judge others. Let’s look at one of these times when judging is inappropriate and is an act of disobedience to God.


Jesus commanded us in John 7:24, Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. Jesus plainly tells us here that THE PROHIBITION AGAINST JUDGING IS NOT A PROHIBITION AGAINST JUDGING PERIOD, BUT A PROHIBITION AGAINST JUDGING A PERSON OUTWARDLY.

Now the word appearance  means what you can see outwardly, what you see with your eyes, what’s visible and seen to the naked eye. When you look at a person based on their stature or body size, their skin color, their clothes, their looks, their tats and piercings, their facial expressions or body language; when you make conclusions about them based on what you see or observe about them, you’re making a judgment, you’re passing judgment based on appearance, and this is the kind of judgment that God forbids.

What does it mean to judge outwardly or by appearance? It means that you’re judging by the facts and evidence that you have; you’re judging what you’ve seen or what others told you they saw. Your judgment is based strictly and entirely on what you heard and saw or on what the eyewitnesses told you they heard and saw.

But the thing that Jesus wants so desperately to warn us about is APPEARANCES CAN BE MISLEADING AND DECEIVING. THEY CAN FOOL YOU. The facts or the evidence, the hard cold proof, are true. They’re real. The gun in the guy’s hand, the sister walking out of the bar, the pastor seen with a hooker on Hooker Street; are all real. They’re true. BUT THE CONCLUSIONS THAT YOU DRAW BASED ON WHAT YOU SAW CAN BE MISLEADING. YOUR THINKING OR JUDGMENT BASED ON WHAT YOU HEARD CAN BE FALSE AND WRONG.

  • The guy with the gun in his hand picked it up after the real murderer ran past him and dropped it. And he dropped it just so that the innocent bystander will pick it up and people will think he was the murderer.
  • The sister who walked out of the bar went in there to call her husband and tell him the car broke down. The choice of using the bar’s telephone to make the call can be questioned. But if it was the closest business to the car, if it was the “safest” place for her to be in and not as dangerous as on the street, then that was her call. But the fact is, yes, she was in the bar. But your conclusion and accusation that she’s a drinker, she’s been drinking, she’s a drunk, is plainly wrong. What you saw was true. What you thought or decided wasn’t. The facts are true. The judgments or interpretations of the fact are what can be wrong.
  • The same thing can be said about the pastor with the hooker. In our day and age, yes, it’s possible that the pastor was playing spiritual hooky with the hooker. But, it’s just as possible he was witnessing to her. He wasn’t out looking for sex: he was looking for lost sheep. So before you pass judgment on what you saw, you’ve got to get the facts straight and get the whole truth.

WHEN YOU’RE JUDGING BY APPEARANCES YOU’RE JUDGING WITHOUT HAVING ALL THE FACTS. You’re not hearing both sides of the story. You’re not giving the accused or the defendant the chance to speak for herself; you’re judging the brother and condemning him without giving him an opportunity to explain or defend himself.

THERE’S A REASON OR EXPLANATION FOR EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS, FOR EVERYTHING A PERSON DOES. You saw what happened; you saw what she did; you heard what she said. And what you saw and heard was real and true. But what you don’t know is why she did that or said that. There are other factors, reasons, or motivations involved that you don’t know about and these are the details, facts, or necessary pieces of information that you need in order to judge righteous judgment.

APPEARANCES CAN FOOL YOU. THEY CAN LOOK RIGHT, UNMISTAKABLE, AND TRUE TO YOU. THE FACTS MAY BE TRUE, BUT IT’S YOUR CONCLUSIONS OR JUDGMENTS THAT MAY NOT BEJudgment based on appearances is bound to be wrong and that’s why God doesn’t want you to judge like that. If you’re going to judge, then judge righteously or not at all.

How do you judge righteously? TO JUDGE RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT YOU’VE GOT TO HAVE ALL THE FACTS, NOT JUST SOME OF THE FACTS. We often make the mistake of thinking we have all the facts. We hear one side of the story and we think we know it all, we have it all. But a part of the story is just that—a part. It’s never the whole story. Unless you talk to the actual person involved, you don’t have all the facts. And NOT HAVING ALL THE FACTS IS WHAT DISQUALIFIES YOU FROM JUDGING. IT’S WHAT PREVENTS YOU FROM JUDGING RIGHTEOUSLY. And this is the kind of judgment that God forbids.

Coming up in my next blog post in this series, a second kind of judging that God doesn’t want us to do. It’s a real eye-opener. So if you want to see clearly, drop on by and let the Master Ophthalmologist fix you right up.

1 Comment

  1. Jan Bucher said,

    August 13, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    wonderful word..when we do this..God cannot use us in situation, or tell us wisdom..when we have a mind made up of what we think..very good teaching

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