Judge not, that ye be not judged. (Matthew 7:1)
This verse is one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible, and is often used by critics to intimidate Christians from making any kind of moral judgment on just about any given situation. But did Jesus really mean that His followers are to put their brains on the shelf and withhold any comment about the wrongs they observe?
The word translated “judge” in most translations of the Bible is the Greek word “krino,” which implies to condemn and not simply to distinguish between good and evil. The Amplified Bible probably renders it best as, “Do not judge and criticize and condemn others.” In this case, God is the ultimate judge, “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man [Jesus] whom he hath ordained” (Acts 17:31). Anyone who judges another in a condemning way usurps the place of God. We cannot judge as God judges. “The LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). “I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart” (1 Chronicles 29:17); “he knoweth the secrets of the heart” (Psalm 44:21). We are incapable of judging the heart; therefore Jesus warns, “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged” (Matthew 7:2).
This does not mean, however, that we are exempted from using proper discernment. Just a few verses later Jesus says not to give “that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6). Judgment is required to discern “that which is holy” and the value of “pearls.” One also needs to be able to recognize “the dogs” and the “swine.” We must also “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15). We must be able to judge between sheep and wolves and between true and false prophets. “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (v. 16). And what are these fruits? “[L]ove, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, [m]eekness, temperance” (Galatians5:22-23); these all require sound judgment to discern. We are not called to be judges, but we are to be fruit inspectors!