Do not judge?

As I studied Ya’aqov (James) chapter 4 last week, Abba led me to spend additional time focusing on the topic of “judging”. It began when I read vs 11:

“Do not speak against one another, brothers. He that speaks against a brother, and is judging a brother, he speaks against law, and judges law. But if you judge law, you are not a doer of law, but a judge.” -Jam 4:11

Do you see the parallelism in which Ya’aqov speaks? He pairs “judging” with “speak evil against” (slander). This synonymous relationship helps to explain the rest of the verse which describes “judging the law” (i.e. slandering the Torah). In doing so, one is essentially stating that their own wisdom is superior to the Torah, making themselves out to be Elohim, the true judge/lawgiver. Ya’aqov repeats himself in the next chapter as to who is the actual Judge, and he again pairs judging with slander:

“Do not murmur against one another, brothers, that you not be condemned. Behold, the Judge stands before the door.” -Jam 5:9

I’ve sensed for a long time that the definition of “judge” must be much more broad than we realize. After searching both the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible, it’s clear that is the case. Below are the combined Hebrew and Greek texts revealing the ten separate definitions I found.


Definitions of “judge” (Hebrew: shafat; Greek: krino):

  1. to separate; to pick out, select, choose:

“He gave his troops the watchword, “Divine Victory,” and with those young men judged best, he attacked the king’s pavilion at night and killed close to two thousand men in the camp and stabbed the lead elephant and its rider to death.” -2Mac 13:15

2. to approve, esteem (one day above another), to prefer:

“One indeed judges a day above another day; and another one judges every day alike . Let each one be fully assured in his own mind.” -Rom 14:5

3. to be of opinion, deem, think:

“For this reason I judgenot to trouble those from the nations turning to Elohim,” -Acts 15:19

4. to determine, resolve:

“But he who stands firm in heart, not having necessity, but has authority as to his own will, and has judged this in his heart, to keep his virginity; he does well.”         -1Cor 7:37

5. to decree:

“And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the need to keep the judgments that had been determined by the apostles and the elders in Yerushalayim.” -Acts 16:4

6. to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong:

“You shall do no unrighteousness in judgment; you shall not respect the person of the poor, nor favor the person of the mighty; but in righteousness you shall judgeyour neighbor.” -Lev 19:15

7. to condemn:

“For if in my lie the truth of Elohim abounded to His glory, why am I yet judgedas a sinner?” -Rom 3:7

8. Elohim judgment of man:

“Yehovah will judge the people. O Yehovah, according to my righteousness, and according to my integrity on me.” -Psa 7:8

9. to rule, govern; to preside over with the power of giving judicial decisions:

“And I commanded your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear between your brothers; and judgewith righteousness between a man and his brother, and his alien.”                -Deu 1:16

“And Yeshua said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, You who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of man sits on the throne of His glory, you also will sit on twelve thrones, judgingthe twelve tribes of Israel.’” -Matt 19:28

10. to contend together; to dispute; to have a suit at law:

“And to him desiring to judge you, and to take your tunic, allow him also to have the coat.” -Matt 5:40


The problem

Can anyone see that we have a problem? In most of the above examples, we are either instructed to judge or judging is spoken of in a positive light. How then do we make sense of the well-known words of our master, Yeshua, in which He says, “Do not judge,”? We hear this statement of Yeshua quoted often, but does it really mean what it’s often used to mean?

As always, lets read the Scripture in context:

“Do not judge, that you may not be judged; for with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured again to you. But why do you look on the twig that is in the eye of your brother, but do not see the log in your eye? Or how will you say to your brother, Allow me to cast out the twig from your eye; and behold, the log is in your eye! Hypocrite, first cast the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to cast the twig out of the eye of your brother.” -Matt 7:1-5

If Yeshua literally means, “do not judge”, what’s the problem with His words in verse 5? Recognition that there is a “twig” in our brother’s eye requires that we “judge”. It becomes clear that Yeshua’s intent was not to be taken literally but rather to warn us of hypocrisy and lack of humility when we do judge. If that wasn’t convincing enough, consider Yeshua’s very next words:

“Do not give that which is holy to the dogs, nor throw your pearls before the pigs, that they should not trample them with their feet, and turning they may tear you.”   -Matt 7:6

Yeshua gives us a specific instruction here, and heeding His warning requires that we judge. We might try to use a less offensive word such as “discern” to describe what we’re doing. But if we’re going to be honest, we must admit that in order to recognize when we are in the presence of those who have the spiritual posture of a dog or pig towards things of the kingdom, we must judge. Of course, the obvious caveat is that a child of the King must rely on Spirit-led wisdom from above to judge such situations lest he be guilty of unrighteous judgment. But the fact remains: we are instructed to judge.

Let’s look at some other problems with the literal interpretation of “do not judge”:

1. Yehovah Himself raises up judges:

“And Yehovah raised up judges, and they saved them from the hand of their plunderers.” -Judg 2:16

2. We are to declare the difference between sin/righteousness:

“For Yochanan had said to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have the wife of your brother.’” -Mk 6:18

 “Then I solemnly witness before Elohim and the Lord Yeshua Messiah, He being about to judge living and dead at His appearance and His kingdom: preach the Word, be urgent in season, out of season, convict, warn, encourage with all long-suffering and teaching.” -2Tim 4:1-2

3. We are to declare the difference between truth/falsehood:

“For I did not keep back from declaring to you all the counsel of Elohim.” -Acts 20:27

“Therefore, putting off the false, speak trutheach with his neighbor, because we are members of one another (Zec 8:16).” -Eph 4:25

4. We are to recognize false prophets by their fruit:

“But beware of the false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inside they are plundering wolves. From their fruits you shall know them. Do they gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles?” -Matt 7:15-16

“Do not despise prophecies. Test all things, hold fast to the good. Keep back from every appearance of evil.” -1Thes 5:20-22

5. We are to go to brother/sister who is in sin:

“Let the righteous strike me; it is a mercy; and he rebuking me, it is oil of the head, let not my head refuse it; for yet my prayer also shall be against their evils.”               -Psa 141:5

But if your brother sins against you, go and reprove himbetween you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not hear, take one or two more with you, “so that on the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand (Deut. 19:15). But if he fails to hear them, tell it to the church. And if he also fails to hear the church, let him be to you as the nations and the tax collector.” -Matt 18:15-17

6. We are to warn the wicked:

“In My saying to the wicked, ‘Surely you shall die’; and if you do not warn him, and if you do not speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, he, the wicked, shall die in his iniquity. But I will require his blood at your hand. And you, because you have warned the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his way, he, the wicked, shall die in his iniquity. But you have delivered your soul.” -Eze 3:18-19

“But now I wrote to you not to associate intimately; if anyone is called a brother and is either a fornicator, or a covetous one, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a plunderer, with such a one not to eat. For what is it to me also to judge the ones outside? Do you not judge those inside? But God will judge the ones outside. And you shall put out the evil one from you. (Deut. 17:7).” -1Cor 5:12-13

It is important to recognize the distinction the apostle makes to the Corinthians. We are not to judge those outside but we are to judge those inside, meaning: those belonging to the kingdom of Elohim. We are to hold those of the kingdom to the King’s standards (His Law) because it is by their own mouths they have confessed allegiance to Him. When understood from this perspective it becomes perfectly clear why we should not judge those outside: they have made no such confession or given no such allegiance to the King. How then could we hold them to His standard which is largely foreign to them?

These various examples from Scripture make it clear that many times Elohim actually instructs us to make judgments, judging the words and actions of people against the standard of Elohim’s Word. Notice we are to judge people’s actions, not their spirits. The question of whether or not we are to judge has been sufficiently answered. So how are we to understand Yeshua’s instruction: “Do not judge”? The Word made flesh, our Messiah, would not and could not contradict the rest of Scripture. Maybe our literal translation of His words misses His intent. Maybe we need to rethink the question we are asking. Maybe instead of asking “if” we are to judge, we should be asking the more important question of “how” we are to judge.


How are we to judge?

1. We are to judge in meekness and love with pure intention of restoration

“Brothers, if a man is taken in some fault, you, the spiritual ones, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering yourself, that you not also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Messiah.” -Gal 6:1-2

“But we, the strong ones, ought to bear the weaknesses of those not strong, and not to please ourselves. For let each one of us please his neighbor for good, to building up. For also Messiah did not please Himself, but even as it has been written, “The curses of those cursing You fell on Me (Psa 69:9).” -Rom 15:1-3

“But speaking the truth in love, we may grow up into Him in all things, who is the head, the Messiah, from whom all the body, having been fitted and compacted together through every assisting bond, according to the effectual working of one measure in each part, produces the growth of the body to the building up of itself in love.” -Eph 4:15-16

2. We are not to judge by appearances, but with righteous judgment:

“Do not judge according to sight, but judge righteous judgment.” -Jn 7:24

“You shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in measures and weights, or in quantity.” -Lev 19:35

“A false witness shall not be acquitted; a breather of lies shall not escape.”                   -Prov 19:5

3. We are not to judge harshly:

“So speak and so do as being about to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be without mercy to the one not doing mercy. And mercy rejoices over judgment.” -Jam 2:12-13

“So says Yehovah of hosts, saying, ‘Judge true judgment, and practice kindness and pity, each man with his brother.’” -Zec 7:9

4. We are not to judge hypocritically (Matt 7:1-5) or we judge ourselves:

“Therefore, O man, you are without excuse, everyone who judges, for in that in which you judge the other, you condemn yourself; for you, those judging, practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of Elohim is according to truth on those that practice such things. And, O man, the one judging those practicing such things, and doing them, do you think that you will escape the judgment of Elohim?” -Rom 2:1-3

5. We are not to judge in trivial matters about which Elohim does not judge:

“The one eating, do not despise the one not eating. And the one not eating, do not judge the one eating, for Elohim received him… But why do you judge your brother? Or why also do you despise your brother? For all shall stand before the judgment seat of Messiah. For it has been written, ‘As I live, says Yehovah, that every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue confess to Elohim.’ (Isa. 49:18; 45:23). So then each one of us will give account concerning himself to Elohim. Then let us no longer judge one another, but rather judge this, not to put a stumbling-block or an offense toward a brother.” -Rom 14:3,10-13

6. We are not to judge men’s hearts, accusing or excusing:

“Then do not judge anything before time, until Yehovah comes, who will both shed light on the hidden things of darkness and will reveal the counsels of the hearts. And then praise will be to each one from Elohim.” -1Cor 4:5

“For when nations not having Law do by nature the things of the Torah, they not having Torah are a law to themselves, who show the work of the Torah written in their hearts, their conscience witnessing with them, and the thoughts between one another accusing or even excusing, in a day when Elohim judges the hidden things of men, according to my gospel, through Yeshua Messiah.” -Rom 2:14-16

When we are feeling led to “judge” a brother or a sister’s words or actions, are we sure the primary motive of our heart is restoration? Or is our motive self-centeredness, insecurity, pride, jealousy, bitterness, etc? What if we took a minute to ask the Lord to search our own hearts and remove any of these unrighteous motives? What if we weren’t hasty in judging by appearances, harsh, hypocritical, trivial, or presume to see into men’s hearts. How different would our approach be? What if we remembered Him before whom we all shall stand and fall and to whom we will all answer for whatever we have done on this earth, including judging others? What if we remembered who the true Judge is:


There is a Judge over us all

1. Elohim is the ultimate Judge:

The Judge of all the earth, shall He not do right?” -Gen 18:25

2. Elohim will be the one to judge the earth:

“Rise, O Elohim, judge the earth; for You shall inherit in all the nations.” -Psa 82:8

“A roaring will go to the ends of the earth, for Yehovah has a controversy with the nations. He will enter into judgment with all flesh; He will give the wicked to the sword, says Yehovah.” -Jer 25:31

3. Elohim will judge us and the world righteously:

“Oh let the evil of the wicked come to an end; and You will establish the just; for the righteous Elohim is a trier of hearts and reins.” -Psa 7:9

4. Elohim will judge the unseen:

“For Elohim shall bring every work into judgment, with all that is hidden, whether it is good, or whether it is evil.” -Ecc 12:14

5. Elohim will pass judgment:

“For by fire and by His sword Yehovah will execute judgment with all flesh; and the slain of Yehovah shall be many.” -Isa 66:16

“But when the Son of man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. And before Him shall be gathered all the nations; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” -Matt 25:31-32

Ultimately, judgment belongs to Elohim. Being created in His likeness, filled with His Spirit, and seeking wisdom from above, we are given the instruction to judge the words and actions of the world around us. We are not given the authority, however to judge the consciences of men’s hearts. These are unseen and judgment of such has been given to our Messiah, Yeshua, the righteous Judge. And how does our Messiah judge?


Yeshua, the Righteous Judge

“And a Shoot goes out from the stump of Yishai, and a Branch will bear fruit out of his roots. And the Spirit of Yehovah shall rest on Him; He will have the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and power, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Yehovah. And He is made to breathe in the fear of Yehovah. But He shall not judge by the seeing of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears. But He shall judge the poor in righteousness, and shall decide rightly for the meek of the earth. And He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and He shall slay the wicked with the breath of His lips. And righteousness shall be the encircler of His loins, and faithfulness the encircler of His reins.” -Isa 11:1-5

Some will use such Scriptures as fuel for their campaign of so-called righteous judgment against any and every short-coming of their neighbor, being empowered to carry and execute the rod of His justice. But such a stance is imperfect and dangerous because the understanding of our Messiah is incomplete, and the “how” of judging, if stemming from this incomplete perspective, will quickly fall into the hands of the enemy to be used for harm to the body of Messiah rather than good. The Messianic prophecy also proclaims of Yeshua:

“The Spirit of the Yehovah is upon Me. Because of this He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me ‘to heal the brokenhearted, to preach remission to captives and new sight to the blind, to send away the ones having been crushed in deliverance, to preach an acceptable year of Yehovah (Isa. 61:1, 2).” -Lk 4:18-19

Our Messiah also tells us to whom He submits regarding His judgment:

“I am able to do nothing from Myself; just as I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, for I do not seek My will, but the will of the One sending Me, the Father.”              -Jn 5:30

So the next time you judge for righteousness sake, and following in the steps of the Holy One, you seek to strike the earth with the rod of your mouth, slaying the wicked in righteousness and faithfulness (Isa 11), make sure that in doing so you first submit your judgment to the Judge of all the earth and remember that walking in Yeshua’s footsteps means healing the broken, delivering the captive, giving sight to the blind, saving those being crushed (Lk 4), and pointing them in love toward restored relationship with their Creator. Ask the Ruach Ha-Qodesh (Holy Spirit) to reveal if the motives of your heart are in alignment with how His Word describes righteous judgment:  Faithfulness, Truth, Hearing first, Judging not by appearances, Judging by righteousness, Impartiality, Mercy, Kindness, Pity, Judging without hypocrisy, Judging according to the Word, Not stumbling brother, Judging fruits not consciences, Meekness, Bearing burdens of others.



In summary, be very, very careful! Fear and trembling is appropriate! Like forgiveness, the business of judging comes with great responsibility and great consequences. It is not something to be done lightly since we know that Elohim will judge us the way we judge others:

“Do not judge, that you may not be judged. For with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured again to you.” -Matt 7:2

“Judge not, and in no way be judged. Do not condemn, and in no way you will be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” -Lk 16:10

So, go to your brother if he is in sin, and after first checking your heart for any false motives, bear your brother’s burden and help Him stand that his soul be restored to Yehovah, His Creator:

“If anyone among you goes astray from the truth, brothers, and anyone turns him back, know that the one turning a sinner from the error of his way will save the soul from death, and will hide a multitude of sins.” -Jam 5:19-20

But be sure to do so in mercy and self-sacrifice, that you also may receive mercy:

“With the merciful, You reveal Yourself as merciful; with an upright man, You reveal yourself as upright; with the pure, You reveal Yourself as pure; and with the crooked, You appear perverse” -Psa 18:25-26

Remembering the mercy Yeshua showed you and continues to show you, not turning His back on you despite your frequent stumbling, but rather continuing to reach out to you as one lost:

“For the Son of man came to seek and to save the one being lost.” -Lk 16:10

“but Elohim commends His love to us in this, that we being yet sinners, Messiah died for us.” -Rom 5:8

One comment

  1. There is a great amount of information put into one place. It is good to see the differing categories of how judgement should and should not be implemented. Also to be reminded that YHVH is the Judge. He is merciful but are we? It is not trivial! Thank you, Adam.


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