“Judge not, that ye be not judged.” (Matt. 7:1).

People who know little else about the Bible often know this verse and use it in a most bizarre way. Even when a person is criticized for unspeakable wickedness, they piously gurgle, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” In other words, they use the verse to forbid any condemnation of evil.

The plain fact of the matter is that, while there are areas where we must not judge, there are other areas where judgment is commanded.

Here are some instances where judging is out. We must not judge people’s motives; not being omniscient, we cannot know why they do what they do. We mustn’t sit in judgment on the service of another believer; to his own Master he stands or falls. We mustn’t condemn those who have conscientious scruples about things that are morally neutral; it would be wrong for them to violate their conscience. We mustn’t judge by outward appearances or show respect of persons; it’s what is in the heart that counts. And certainly we should avoid a harsh, critical censorious spirit; a habitual fault-finder is a poor advertisement for the Christian faith.

But there are other areas where we are commanded to judge. We must judge all teaching to see whether it agrees with the Scriptures. In order to avoid unequal yokes, we must judge whether others are true believers. Christians should judge disputes between believers rather than allow them to go to civil courts. The local church must judge in cases of extreme forms of sin and disfellowship the guilty offender. Those in the church must judge which men have the qualifications of elders and of deacons.

God does not expect us to throw away our critical faculty or abandon all moral and spiritual standards. All He asks is that we refrain from judging where it is forbidden and that we judge righteously where it is commanded.