Saturday, September 15, 2012

A christians "right" to judge others

The concept of “judging” seems to be one of the biggest topics of dissension among Christians today. On one hand, we see things that are bad and wrong. Someone says to us “Be careful, don’t judge them.” But we look at the situation and say “I don’t know, I kind of think I should be judging this.” Then we have other situations where someone just seems like they are elevating themselves above others. So when do we judge, and when do we not judge? 

Mathew 7:1- “"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

This verse begins talking about judging. Then it turns to wood; planks and specks (I am assuming specks of sawdust) Then it concludes by talking about dogs, pigs, and pearls. Makes perfect sense, right?

What exactly did Jesus mean when He said for us to “not judge?” The word judge, in the original Greek is the word Krino. In the Greek language, there are 3 different ways that the Krino is used.

In Titus 3:12 we have one example of how Krino was used. As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided (krino) to winter there.” This use of the word krino is to decide, to distinguish, to discern. It just means “to make a decision” about something. So let’s take this back to Matthew 7. Is Jesus telling us to not make decisions? Is He saying “Whatever you do, don’t make decisions, because then decisions will be made about you? I think you would agree with me that Jesus is not using that form of the word krino.

In John 18:31 Pilate said, "Take him yourselves and judge (krino) him by your own law." So the second type of use for the word krino is to judge something, as in a courtroom. So, is Jesus saying “Don’t have courts? Because if you do, someone will have courts about you?” Is He saying we should do away with our courts and not worry about laws? No, He isn’t.

The third use for the word Krino, we find in 1 Corinthians 4:5. “Therefore judge (krino) nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.”     It’s the second sentence of the verse that gives us the real meaning behind the use of the word. “He (God) will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts.” So, the third use of the word Krino is described as something that “God” does. It also says that it “exposes” the motives of the heart. So, this is saying that if we are going to judge someone the way God does, then we have to be able to know the motives of that person’s heart. If we don’t truly know the motives of that person’s heart, then we can’t possibly judge them correctly. That is for God to do. And God alone.

Jesus uses Krino in John Chapter 7:24. Jesus uses this third form of krino and he says “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment." What Jesus is saying is stop using the third type of Krino, and use the first type of Krino.

Back to Matthew 7. What Jesus is talking about when He says “Don’t judge others” is about how we critique others. How we evaluate others. He is telling us that we are not to attempt to judge someone’s inner most motives, because we don’t truly know their heart. How can we, as humans, possibly know what a person is really thinking? And how many times do we judge someone and find out that we were wrong? We were wrong because although a person may have done a particular act, that “act” was just a simple action. That “act” doesn’t always “define” who that person is. We don’t always know the context of why someone does something. We don’t understand what led them to that conclusion. When Jesus is saying to not judge people, He is warning us to not to try and do God’s job. What He is saying in John 7:24, is for us to make right judgments. But that’s for us. We can judge in the sense that we can “decide” if something is right for us to do, but we are to be careful about trying to judge somebody’s motives. Again, that is God’s job according to the second sentence of John 7:24.

So what does this mean to Christians? Should we turn a blind eye to the evils of society? No. That’ isn’t what I am saying. What I am saying, is that we need to be very careful about when we judge others. First, do we know why somebody did something? If we don’t know, we should be careful about judging. A single action, does not always define a person. Sometimes, people do things completely out of character for themselves. Do we give them grace, or do we crucify them based on a single action. Second, do we have authority to judge them? Again, if we feel we have authority over someone we have already elevated ourselves above them. I feel that it is ok to judge my wife and my children. Maybe some close family and friends. But that’s about it. And I am very careful about judging them. And I only feel its ok to judge them because there is already a relationship. I know them very well and I have a lot of insight in regards to their character and personhood. I also am open to them judging me. I give them permission to judge me because I want to be accountable to be the person I should be, as a Christian.
I have been judged by several christians, because of things I post on facebook. I am told that I am a false teacher and too permissive in my interpretations of the Bible. I have been told that I will go to hell, because I don’t condemn sinners and those who hate God. The problem is that if you think you know me because of a couple of facebook postings, you are really missing the mark. There is so much about my character and person hood that doesn’t come out in facebook. There is so much more to me than being an outspoken christian who owns a gym.


  1. Thanks, Victor. This New Age person who believes in many "right" paths to a relationship with God and who has done some in-depth study of the Scriptures totally agrees with your cogent analysis here. Thanks in particular for exploring the different uses of the Greek krino. Gives a whole new subtlety to the interpretations.

    1. THanks Joanne,

      I find it very important to understand the original languages, especiually if someone wants to judge another person. SO many words dont translate well into english form Greek and Hebrew.

      Thanks for reading,


  2. It seems to me that a better word for "judge" is "confront". That is, the action we are talking about is calling someone out on their wrong-doing. This kind of "judging" is, as you pointed out, a subset of the uses for the Greek word "krino".
    It seems to me that the decision to confront another person is dependent on motivation. If you think confronting another person on their wrong-doing will enhance their life, then you should do it. If confrontation will just end up hurting everyone, then you shouldn't. Often times this divergence is dependent on weather or not the other person accepts your moral philosophy. If they don't think what they are doing is wrong (ie. an atheist fornicating or a muslim denying girls' education) then confrontation would do little or no good at all. Instead focusing on convincing them of your own moral philosophy (not "judging" them) is the correct course of action.
    For what it's worth, that's my utilitarian point of view.