The word, “judge” (Gk. krino), means, “express an opinion about” (Gingrich); “as passing a personal judgment on someone’s actions judge, criticize.” (Friberg) It is a present tense—do not keep on judging. Stop judging. Do not get into the habit of judging others.
I’d like to point out what this command, “judge not,” is not. It does not mean that we will no longer judge what is right and wrong. In v. 16, Jesus said we can judge false prophets by their fruits. It means that we can judge true and false teachings. It does not mean that we cannot judge the sin of a brother (Matt. 18:15-17). It does not mean that we cannot discipline sinning church members. In v. 5, Jesus said we can take the speck out our brother’s eye. That requires judgment.
Jesus seems to be against five kinds of judging. There is the blind kind of judgment. Jesus said in v. 3, “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?” You judge others. But you do not notice your own bigger faults.
It is the proud kind of judgment. You are so proud of yourself you easily find fault in others.
One day, Jesus told a parable about self-righteousness. Two men went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, a religious man; and the other, a tax collector, a corrupt government employee, a sinner. In Luke 18:11-13, Jesus said,
11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner”!
It is the self-righteous kind of judgment. You are quick to find fault in others, as if you have no fault in you.
It is also the hypocritical kind of judgment. Jesus said in v. 5, “You hypocrite.” Who is the hypocrite in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount? In Matt. 6:2, Jesus says the hypocrites let everyone know that they give to the needy, that they may be praised by others. The hypocrites are religious people who love to be seen doing good things in public, to be honored by others. Hence, in the hypocritical kind of judging others, you seek to glorify yourself as better than others.
More, it is the unloving kind of judgment. You judge to crucify, not to edify. You judge to destroy, not to build.
Ray Pritchard wrote of the following examples of judging. (Disclaimer: If you do not like what you will read here, please do not shoot the messenger.)
Blowing small things all out of proportion.
Maximizing the sins of others . . .
Coming to quick, hasty, negative conclusions.
Passing along critical stories to others.
Having a strong bias to find others guilty.
Adding aggravating remarks when telling a story.
Taking pleasure in condemning others.
Putting others down in order to make yourself look better. Minimizing your sins while magnifying the sins of others.
Before we judge a brother, may I suggest that we apply the rule of TENS. (1) It is true? If it is not true, we should not bother to say it.
(2) Does it edify? Does it build up the person in his spiritual life? If not, do not announce it.
(3) Is it necessary? If not, please do not mention it.
(4) Will it cause others to stumble? Will it make unbelievers think wrongly about our Christianity? Will it discourage other believers when they hear it? If not, we should not talk about it.
Do not judge others blindly, without looking at yourself first. Do not judge others proudly, lacking humility. Do not judge others self-righteously, as if you have no sin. Do not judge others hypocritically, as if you’re better than others. Do not judge others unfairly.
Our judgments should be loving, not unloving. Our evaluations should be constructive, not destructive. (Blomberg) Our criticisms should be edifying, not crucifying.