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Walking Points

To Judge or Not to Judge?

Your Midweek Devotional Word of Encouragement

A quick word before you get started with today's column. Yesterday I wrote a tribute to my wife for our 30th anniversary. I would love for you to read it. You can do so by CLICKING HERE. On that note, I have some other things I've written at the same website you may be interested in checking out. I'm also hoping to relaunch my podcast soon as well, so make sure to subscribe or check back often. Thanks so much. Here's today's column. Enjoy!

1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 - Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.

Satan’s Advertising Campaign

One of the most successful advertising campaigns perpetrated by Satan in our day is the idea that Christians are forbidden to judge anything or anyone for any reason. Even unbelievers know the Bible verse that teaches, so they think, that Christians are not to judge others in any circumstance. In this twisting of our Lord’s words, Satan has led many down an awfully slippery slope.

But is that what Christ, Paul, and the rest of the Bible teach? No. What Christ and his chosen spokesmen argued and taught against was having a censorious or judgmental spirit or attitude. They taught us to resist the temptation of signing up to serve as God’s official fruit-inspectors. These are the folks who believe it is their spiritual gift to evaluate and criticize everyone else.

Instead, the exhortation of Jesus (Matthew 7:1-5), was for his followers to remove the giant telephone-pole-sized sin in their own lives first. Unfortunately, that’s where unbelievers, and many Christians, stop with Christ’s words. But Jesus had not yet finished his thought.

The Rest of the Story

Jesus actually taught we are to remove the beam or plank from our own eye first, and then (or, so that) we would be able to see clearly enough to remove the speck from our neighbor’s eye. Jesus wasn’t calling for the abolition of judgment, but for a godly attitude while exercising godly and helpful discernment. We know this because less than ten verses later, our Lord said we must watch out for false teachers. Why? Because they are false teachers. Something isn’t right about what they teach or how they live. 

How do you “watch out” for false teachers? By judging the fruit they produce – their works – not their hearts. And yet, according to our Lord, their fruit does tell us something about what’s going on inside them. He says a good tree produces good fruit while a bad tree produces bad fruit. In both cases, being precedes doing. We aren’t privy to all that goes on inside a person’s heart, so our Lord tells us to judge their fruit, whether it be good or bad.

By What Standard?

How can we make such a judgment? How can we know the difference between good and bad? By using the only sure measuring stick we have, God’s Word. 

The Apostle Paul said we are called to test everything. A word like “everything” pretty much says it all. Every idea, suggestion, worldview, moral teaching, value judgment, news story, political platform, attitude, television program, and on and on and on, is to be tested. But how do you test these things?

With Holy Scripture. God’s Word is sufficient to teach, reprove, correct, and train us for all of life (2 Timothy 3:16-17), whether by explicit teaching, command, law, or rule – or by implicit principles and implications.

After you have tested something by God’s Word, you then must judge or discern whether that thing is good or evil. If it’s good you cling to it. If it’s evil, you avoid or shun it. But you have to make a judgment. How else can you pursue holiness instead of sin? How else can you choose the hard and narrow road that leads to life rather than the wide and comfortable road that leads to destruction? You must exercise your faculties of discernment.

The Heart is the Heart of the Matter

Have Christians ever been guilty of having judgmental attitudes? Absolutely. And they should repent for it. But unbelievers have also been guilty of having judgmental attitudes. The difference is that followers of Christ have an objective and binding standard that tells them it’s wrong to have such an attitude. Every time an unbeliever tells a Christian not to be judgmental, they have to borrow from the Christian worldview to say so.

The key point is this: Christians are commanded by Christ to judge good from evil, sin from righteousness, without being judgmental. We are to practice such discernment so we may lovingly correct and/or restore another person. That is why we must first deal with the sin in our own lives. It humbles us, reminds us of what Christ has done on our behalf, and enables us to better see how to help others. It’s a razor’s edge to walk, but we must not give up walking along that edge simply because it’s hard to do. Instead, we must pray for the power and guidance of God’s Spirit, his gifts of discernment, and for his Word to dwell in us richly so we may walk that edge faithfully, consistently, and lovingly.

Walking Points

  • What do you think most people mean when they say you shouldn’t judge others?

  • Why do people dislike being judged?

  • Have you ever been accused of being judgmental?

  • Have you ever judged another person (sinfully)? Have you ever been judged in such a way? How did it make you feel?

  • How does the counsel of Jesus, in Matthew 7:1-5, help us turn from having a judgmental attitude?

  • How does his teaching in these verses enable us to truly be a help to another person?


Great and awesome God, you are the Judge of heaven and earth. You alone are righteous enough to judge without an unrighteous attitude. You alone are wise enough to see all the angles of every situation. And you alone know a person’s heart through and through. Please help me to faithfully discern good fruit from bad. Yet, let me do so with the goal of helping another person who may be struggling with temptation and sin, and not so I may point my finger at them (or talk about them behind their back) with a “holier-than-thou” attitude. Remind me of the giant log of sin in my own eye first. Help me remove it. By doing so I will better be able to approach others with greater humility and I’ll be able to see their situation more clearly. In Christ I pray. Amen.

Dale Tedder

Dale Tedder is a Global Methodist pastor in Jacksonville, Florida. If you would like to keep up with his online ministry or read other things Dale has written, you can check out his website, Walking Points. You can check out his author’s page for books he has written. Finally, Dale’s podcast, Walking Points, can be heard wherever you listen to podcasts.

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