Who Is to Judge?
The topic of judging others leads us into sensitive territory. Discussing this subject tends to unveil misunderstanding, hurt feelings, defensiveness, and a host of other negative reactions in us. It seems that most people harbor strong ideas of what they mean by judging, how and when to “judge,” who is to be judged, and so on.
Bible verses are quoted to bolster each viewpoint. In order to settle arguments and arrive at some practical solutions, it is wise to consider the original Greek word that was used and translated into the English word “judge”. I consulted Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance to examine the Greek word used by the authors and translated into English as “judge”. Most New Testament passages using the verb “judge” are translated from the Greek (Strong’s number 2919. krino), and include, but are not limited to, the following passages:
Matt 7:1 “Judge not lest ye be judged…”
Luke 6:37 “Judge not and ye shall not be judged…”
John 7:24 Do not judge by appearance, but judge with right judgment.”
According to Strong’s, the Greek word krino means “to distinguish”. Implied meanings include: to try, condemn, punish. It can also mean avenge, conclude, condemn, damn, decree, determine, esteem, judge, go to (sue at the) law, ordain, call in question, sentence to, think.
When krino is used in the New Testament, it is generally used in passages that discourage believers from judging. Although Ephesians 4:25 reminds us to “speak truth to our neighbor,” there is no mention of judging our neighbor. Galatians 6:1 tells us to restore transgressors in a spirit of gentleness. We are also admonished to “keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” We are living in the kingdom of darkness and are still vulnerable to sin to some degree or another. We are in no position to judge each other, but we are encouraged to assist each other in living according to YHVH’s ways. If we judge others who sin, then we will be judged in the same way, because we too have our moments of weakness. We may concoct our own “levels” of sin, and conclude that our sins aren’t as bad as those of our neighbor, but beware. All sin is an abomination to YHVH.
Some may argue that in 1 Cor 5:12, Paul is telling us that we are to judge believers. Let us look at the context. There was a person in the congregation at Corinth who was openly engaging in sinful behavior. Paul was advising that the person be removed from the congregation so that he would not lead other believers to follow his corrupt behavior. If the person was removed from the congregation, it was in the hopes that he would come to his senses and realize the danger of his poor choices. There was no need for the others to place him into Satan’s hands; the sinner was already doing that. Whenever any of us turn from YHVH, we automatically open the door to Satan.
James 4:11-12 explains why we are not to judge.
“Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law, but if thou judge the law, thou are not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?”
The “lawgiver” is YHVH and the “law” or “Word” is Yeshua. Yet, not even Yeshua judged others when He came to earth the first time, so it is not our place to judge others either (John 12:46-48). When Yeshua returns, He will judge others (2 Tim 4:1). Those who return with Yeshua to reign with Him will also judge the world (2 Cor. 6:2). While we are still in our imperfect state, we are not to judge, for we, too, are still weak enough to succumb to temptation. Therefore, we are to love and encourage each other and to gently admonish one another when necessary, but it is not our job to judge each other.