This is possibly the most misquoted verse in the Bible. Too often we have heard poor, misinformed heretics and sinners say, “I don’t want to judge anybody, but…” Ironically enough, the one who screams "judge not" is often the one passing judgment!
What does the Bible really teach about judging?
In clear and concise language, our Blessed Lord tells us that when a man speaks evil, we may know his heart is evil because what he speaks comes from his heart:
Psalms 36:30: “The mouth of the just shall meditate wisdom: and his tongue shall speak judgment.”
Psalms 118:13: “With my lips I have pronounced all the judgments of thy mouth.”
St. Luke 7:43: “And he (Jesus) said to him (Simon): Thou hast judged rightly.”
St. Luke 12:57: “And why even of yourselves, do you not judge that which is just?”
1 Corinthians 2:15: “But the spiritual man judgeth all things; and he himself is judged of no man.”
1 Corinthians 6:2-3: “Know you not that the saints shall judge this world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know you not that we shall judge angels? how much more things of this world?”
There are many other passages and verses in the Bible about judging. While God is our ultimate Judge, He has also commanded us to judge according to the His Truth. According to the Webster’s Dictionary, to judge means "to discern, to distinguish, to form an opinion, to compare facts or ideas, and perceive their agreement or disagreement, and thus to distinguish truth from falsehood." Therefore, when you say that your neighbor is a nice person, you are passing a judgment (forming an opinion) just as much as when you say that a thief is a bad person.
If it were forbidden judge:
You should marry anyone that asked. You shouldn’t worry about his or her character or beliefs. What if he beats you up? What if she runs around on you? You shouldn’t get so mad because "thou shalt not judge".
You could not discipline your children and teach them not to steal, lie, do drugs, or give in to peer pressure, since discerning these things involve judgments. You should leave your children with anyone who said he or she is qualified to be a baby-sitter. You should not bother to check his or her background. Later, you should not be upset if this baby-sitter turned out to be a child-molester, because “thou shalt not judge”.
All the prisons would be empty and thieves, serial killers, drug dealers, rapists, and murderers would be loose in your neighborhood. Any time you see someone breaking the law, you should keep your mouth closed because “thou shalt not judge”.
And worst of all, you could not judge any false doctrine and would have to believe anything anyone tells you, because “thou shalt not judge”.
Hopefully the folly of such a silly false doctrine is clear by now. The devil has been successful to push the Church further and further into a corner, while everyone else comes out of the closet with his or her sins or heresies. Most often, those who tell you "not to judge" them do so because they are either hiding some sin or want to continue doing it openly without reaping negative effects for it.
A caring and sincere Catholic will judge all situations according to the Word of God, as contained in Scripture and Tradition, and admonish sinners, calling them to repentance and conversion, yet all too many people nowadays commonly say that we shouldn’t judge fornicators, drunkards, liars, homosexuals, heretics, idolaters or anyone at all. However, they fail to realize that sin harms them and their neighbors.
Why would the command to judge be so vehemently attacked in society? Obviously, if we stop judging and using common sense, we will no longer be able to distinguish good from evil. We will buy into the politically correct idea of moral relativism (what’s good for you may not be good for me), and we will bow down to the devil’s wishes to deceive us, and sure enough this is what we are seeing everywhere, in all parts of society.
Now let’s take a look at the famous verse that is so misquoted today and put it in its PROPER context. If we are intellectually honest when looking at this passage, we will find that it is actually teaching us to judge, not to refrain from judging (comments in quotations are added)!
St. Matthew 7:1-5: “Judge not, that you may not be judged, (do not judge others, if you do not want to be judged by others; everyone will be judged by God) For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged : and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again (if you judge others, they will judge you by the same standard and with equal severity). And why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye; and seest not the beam that is in thy own eye? Or how sayest thou to thy brother: Let me cast the mote out of thy eye; and behold a beam is in thy own eye (how can you judge someone for such and such a fault when you are guilty of the same)? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam in thy own eye (first judge yourself and clean up your own life), and then shalt thou see to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye (after you straighten your own life out, you will be able to discern clearly, whereupon our Lord instructs us to help clean our brother's eye!)."
Other misquoted Scriptures:
Romans 14:3-10 is about dietary preferences, things that are not essential to salvation. Romans 2:1-3. presents the same scenario of St. Matthew 7, i.e. that we should not judge others if we are guilty of the same things. We must first clean up our own lives through repentance, piety and conversion, then we are qualified to judge others. St. James 4:11 says that we are not to speak evil of other brethren, those who are obediently doing the will of God (St. Matthew 12:50). This does not mean we should keep secret the evil of those living in willful sin or heresy.
How Are We to Judge?
St. John 7:24: “Judge not according to appearances, but judge just judgment.”
We are to judge righteously, according to justice, as Jesus commands in the previous verse. Judge by the principles of God’s Truth, not by someone’s skin color, whether they are tall or short, rich or poor, intelligent or simple, etc.
Romans 2:3: “And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them who do such things, and dost the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?”
We are to judge without hypocrisy, judge ourselves first to see if we are guilty of the fault in question. This is an obvious and clear theme in the Scriptures. We must live what we preach. Only after we get our own lives cleaned up by turning from our sins and converting to the true Faith of Jesus Christ, can we judge (and admonish) others with justice, doing so with charity in the hope of their conversion and salvation.
1 St. Peter 3:15-16: “But sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you. But with modesty and fear, having a good conscience: that whereas they speak evil of you, they may be ashamed who falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.”
Nevertheless, for the sake of charity, we should admonish others when they commit sins, even that we ourselves are guilty of (God forbid that we should ever seem to tacitly condone sin!). Nevertheless, to avoid hypocrisy, we ought to first condemn our own sins, and beg God's grace to help ourselves and those we admonish to cease from sinning.