What is the difference between “judge not” and “judge with righteous judgment”?


By BibleAsk Team

The seemingly paradoxical statements “judge not” and “judge with righteous judgment” found in the teachings of Jesus Christ have sparked discussion within Christian theology and ethics. To explore the difference between these two injunctions, we’ll delve into the biblical context of each statement, examine relevant passages from the Bible, and consider their implications for Christian discipleship and moral discernment.

“Judge Not” – Matthew 7:1-5 (NKJV)

The command “judge not” is perhaps one of the most quoted teachings of Jesus, found in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 7:1-5 (NKJV): “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

In this passage, Jesus warns against hypocritical judgment and emphasizes the importance of self-examination before attempting to correct others. The imagery of a speck and a plank highlights the absurdity of trying to address minor faults in others while ignoring major flaws in oneself.

Understanding “Judge Not”

  1. Avoiding Hypocrisy: Jesus’ primary concern in this passage is hypocrisy. He cautions against the tendency to criticize others while neglecting one’s own faults. Hypocritical judgment not only damages relationships but also reflects a lack of self-awareness and humility.
  2. Exercising Humility: By urging his followers to refrain from judgment, Jesus promotes a spirit of humility and self-reflection. Recognizing one’s own imperfections and limitations fosters empathy and compassion towards others.
  3. Recognizing God’s Sovereignty: Ultimately, Jesus reminds his disciples that God alone is the righteous judge (James 4:12, NKJV). Human judgment is fallible and limited, whereas God’s judgment is just and perfect.

“Judge with Righteous Judgment” – John 7:24 (NKJV)

Contrary to the command “judge not,” Jesus also instructs the religious leaders to exercise discernment and judgment, albeit with a righteous standard:

John 7:24 (NKJV): “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” In John 7:24, Jesus was addressing the religious leaders who were judging Him for making a man whole on the Sabbath day. Jesus told them to pass a righteous judgement. Such judgments, for example, would have led to the conclusion that acts of mercy such as He had performed on the Sabbath were not a violation of Sabbath law.

Understanding “Judge with Righteous Judgment”

  1. Discerning Right from Wrong: Jesus’ call to “judge with righteous judgment” underscores the importance of discerning right from wrong. While superficial judgments based on outward appearances are to be avoided, discernment rooted in righteousness and truth is necessary for moral decision-making.
  2. Exercising Discernment: Discernment involves evaluating actions, attitudes, and motives in light of God’s standards revealed in Scripture. It requires wisdom, spiritual insight, and a commitment to righteousness.
  3. Promoting Justice and Accountability: “Judge with righteous judgment” encourages believers to promote justice, accountability, and righteousness in society. It involves speaking out against injustice, defending the oppressed, and upholding moral principles grounded in God’s Word.

Resolving the Paradox: Context and Application

The apparent tension between “judge not” and “judge with righteous judgment” can be resolved by considering the context and application of each statement:

  1. Heart Attitude: “Judge not” addresses the heart attitude behind judgment, cautioning against pride, hypocrisy, and condemnation. It reminds believers to approach others with humility, grace, and compassion.
  2. Righteous Standard: “Judge with righteous judgment” emphasizes the importance of discerning right from wrong according to God’s standards. It calls for discernment rooted in truth, justice, and righteousness.
  3. Balanced Approach: By balancing these two teachings, believers can navigate the complexities of judgment in a fallen world. They are called to exercise discernment with humility, compassion, and a commitment to righteousness, trusting in God’s wisdom and sovereignty.


In conclusion, the difference between “judge not” and “judge with righteous judgment” lies in their respective emphases on heart attitude and righteous discernment. While Jesus warns against hypocritical judgment and condemnation, he also calls his followers to exercise discernment rooted in truth and righteousness. By embracing humility, grace, and a commitment to God’s standards, believers can navigate the complexities of judgment with wisdom and integrity. As they seek to follow Jesus’ teachings, they are reminded of the ultimate standard of God’s righteous judgment and the importance of aligning their judgments with His perfect wisdom and love.

Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

We'd love your feedback, so leave a comment!

If you feel an answer is not 100% Bible based, then leave a comment, and we'll be sure to review it.
Our aim is to share the Word and be true to it.