“Judge not, lest you be judged” (Matthew 7:1). How many people today take that one verse from the Bible and apply it wrongly? They will tell others that no one can tell them that what they are doing is wrong, because that would be judging them. Then they throw out the verse where Jesus said “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. And since we are all sinners, then that means that no one can tell anyone that what they are doing is sinful.
Let’s take a look at this strange philosophy and dissect it. First off, “to judge”, as it is used in “Judge not, lest you be judged”, means to condemn someone on moral grounds, and then to pass judgment. Only God can condemn and pass judgment. “To judge” as it is used here does not mean that people cannot discern that an act is sinful, nor does it mean we can’t tell the sinner that he or she is sinning. If that were so, then parents could not ever tell their child that it is wrong to lie, to cheat, or to steal. And if the child were caught in the act, then no parent could tell him or her that they were wrong. And they could certainly not ever punish the child, because there could never be any wrongdoing. How dumb is that? Carried to its logical conclusion, no one could ever tell anyone that anything is sinful or wrong, including fornication, adultery, stealing, murder, taking the Lord’s name in vain, etc. And we would have to fire every judge in every courtroom worldwide. St. John the Baptist, the greatest man born of woman, according to Jesus, certainly told Herod that it was wrong for him to have married his own brother's wife. And John the Baptist was certainly not judging Herod himself, but rather, he was judging his action as sinful. BIG difference.
In today’s society, someone caught fornicating or getting drunk all of the time will tell his or her accuser, “Who are you to judge me?” And the accused sinner will then feel morally superior to his accuser for having pointed out to him that he is not God, and how dare he, with all of his sins, “judge me”? But this action flies in the face of the spiritual work of mercy that commands Christians to admonish the sinner. To admonish the sinner means to caution him or her about a particular sin they are committing. This is the job of all Christians, to warn others about sin and where it will lead them.
And St. James says that correcting a sinner has many spiritual benefits, not only for the sinner, but also for us:
James 5:20: let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.And whether we want to admit it or not, we are indeed our brother's keeper:
Genesis 4:9: Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?"
Secular society today does not want to hear any of this, because it believes that this world is all there is, and that we will not come to a supernatural end in heaven or hell. So, the hedonists in charge of government and media today belittle Christians for having the audacity to even mention to others about the wages of sin (which is death). GK Chesterton once said that only dead bodies float downstream with the current; it takes live ones to go against the flow. And this is so true in society today. How many people just go with the flow of pornography, fornication, adultery, homosexual marriage, abortion, assisted suicide, etc., and never speak out against these evils because they don’t want to be belittled by the so-called “mainstream media”? A lot. The devil only has one commandment, “Do as you will”. So many people in the world today follow that demonic philosophy, and they really hate it when Christians bring up the fact that sin exists.
To sum up, judging the actions of a person as being sinful is NOT condemning a person and passing judgment. It would be wrong to say to a person, “You are an adulterer, and you are going to hell”. It would not be wrong to tell a person “You are committing adultery, and that is sinful. You need to repent of it, go to confession, and never do it again, because it breaks one of the Ten Commandments”. The former is passing judgment; the latter admonishes the sinner. Big difference. A judge passes sentence; discernment of people’s sinful actions does not. A good rule of thumb to follow is that we humans do all of the praying, and we let God do all of the judging of people. That in no way stops us from discerning that a person's actions are wrong and sinful.
Here are some excellent scripture verses on judging:
Leviticus 19:15: "You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.
Proverbs 31:9: Open your mouth, judge righteously; maintain the rights of the poor and needy.
Matthew 7:2: For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.
Luke 6:37: "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;
(**NOTE—Here we see the link between judging and condemning)
Matthew 18:15: "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
(**NOTE – Here is a prime case of Jesus telling us all to admonish the sinner).
Luke 7:40-43: And Jesus answering said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." And he answered, "What is it, Teacher?" "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon answered, "The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more." And he said to him, "You have judged rightly."
(**NOTE – Here we see the use of the term “judged” in the context of judging someone’s actions, rather than personal condemnation).
Luke 12:57: "And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?
(**NOTE – Once again, we see the use of the term “judge” in the context of judging actions, not condemning people and passing judgment).
John 7:24: Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment."
(**NOTE – Here Jesus commands us to judge people’s actions and deeds with “right judgment”.)
Acts 4:19: But Peter and John answered them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge;
(**NOTE – Another case of judging people’s actions, rather than the person).
1 Corinthians 2:15: The spiritual man judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.
1 Corinthians 6:2-3: Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, matters pertaining to this life!
(**Note – No wonder satan hates Christians so much – we will be judging him one day!)
Hebrews 10:30: For we know him who said, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge his people."
(**NOTE – Here we see that the Lord judges people. That in no way precludes us from judging whether or not people’s actions are sinful or not.)
James 4:12: There is one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you that you judge your neighbor?
(**NOTE – James says that we should not judge our neighbor. Once again, this does not stop us from judging whether or not our neighbor’s actions (killing his wife, stealing money, etc.) is sinful. Note how this differs from James 5:20 above, where James talks about bringing a sinner back from the error of his ways (sinfulness)).