The Bible says “Judge not” – so why do Christians go on so much about what’s right and wrong in people’s lives? Isn’t that judging?
Even among those who have very rarely walked through a church door or opened a Bible, a good number know that Jesus said, “Judge not.” To many people this suggests that if Christians obeyed Jesus then we would not say that anything or anyone is wrong, particularly in the realm of personal relationships and morality. So are Christians who speak about right and wrong in life decisions disobeying Jesus?
When thinking about a Bible verse, the context of what is said is extremely important, and it will help us to understand what is being said. So, here is the command in its context:
In the context of what Jesus says, the phrase “Judge not” or “Do not judge” is a warning that the same standard we use with others will be used against us. So if we look down on others and think we are much better than them, then we had better beware. This same standard will be used against us! So when Jesus gives this command he is instructing his followers that they must not have a self-righteous or judgemental attitude. Instead they must be aware of their own failures and mistakes.
These verses come from part of Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life in what is often called The Sermon on the Mount. In it Jesus teaches his disciples and the crowds, and he instructs them about what is right and wrong in many areas of life. He speaks of right and wrong in our relationships with others, in our relationship with God, and even in our inner thoughts and attitudes. Jesus clearly says some things are right and others wrong. If we listen to Jesus then we can never say that it does not matter how we live, or that right and wrong all depend on what different people think. For Jesus speaks from God, and reveals what is good and what is not in God’s sight.
Sometimes Christians can come across as judgemental or self-righteous – but we should never be like this! As we read the Bible, every Christian believer must surely recognise that we have frequently failed to live as God commands. No Christian has any grounds for confidence in ourselves and our own goodness. We cannot be self-righteous.
However, Christians must still speak of right and wrong, as the Bible says these things really matter. In particular, it is our attitude to Jesus that is crucial. We cannot come to God on the basis of our goodness. Yet wonderfully Jesus provides a way for us to be counted right in God’s sight through his death. This way is open to all who trust in Jesus.
A few verses after the ones above, Jesus says this:
Jesus says that there are two paths: one is right and one is wrong. One path leads to eternal death, but the other to life forever through trusting in Jesus. You can judge for yourself which is best!