Judgment is patient and filled with God’s Word (II Timothy 4:2), while slander is filled with anger and jealousy (II Corinthians 12:20). Judgment is against the sin, not the sinner (Romans 2:1,3). Many think they are helping others, but their feedback is really an insult if it’s forced (II Timothy 2:25) or focuses on the fault (I Thessalonians 5:11).


GotQuestions recognizes a difference between rebuking and slandering. Craig Groeschel of Life Church believes strongly in a high-feedback culture, winning Glassdoor’s “Best Place to Work” award.


How to Judge

Judge sin.

We must judge sin using the Bible as the source of truth (John 7:24). The only way to purify oneself and those around you is not by tolerating sin (I Corinthians 5:1), but by avoiding it. This is only possible if you make a judgment call (I Corinthians 5:11).

Do not judge sinners.

We should not be so arrogant in our opinions (Romans 14:1) that we despise others (Romans 14:3). If they call themselves a Christian, let our Master judge them (Romans 14:4,10). If we judge, it will only make it harder for them to find God (Romans 14:13). More than that, by judging a person, it’s like putting ourselves in the place of the one true Judge (James 4:11), and who are you to become that (James 4:12)? We can’t judge sinners because we sin the same way (Romans 2:1), and by judging others, we will be condemned instead (Romans 2:3). If we judge people instead of their sin, we’ll be thrown in hell instead unless we repent (Romans 2:5).

Judge from a place of strength.

If you don’t want to be judged by others, don’t judge yourself (Matthew 7:1; Luke 6:37) because whether you are right or wrong, the same intensity of judgment you proclaim will come back to you (Matthew 7:2). The best example of this is Jesus. He came to judge sin (John 7:7), and He did it to such a perfect intensity that He was judged extremely harshly without evidence (Matthew 27:23). While sometimes it’s easier not to judge sin to keep ourselves from being hurt, God commands us to judge sin and be hated by the world (John 15:19).

Don’t judge hypocritically.

You cannot tell someone they shouldn’t sin if you are doing that same sin to a worse degree (Matthew 7:3-5). We can still judge a particular sin if we let the other person know we struggle with it, too (James 5:16).

Judge with other Christians.

Oftentimes when we want to judge someone, we go alone, to nonbelievers, or even to the court system, but the best way to get correct judgment is in a body of strong believers (I Corinthians 6:1,4-6).

Judgment vs Slander

Judgment is gentle; slander is forced.

What turns criticism into slander is not respecting the other person’s desire to not hear your negative opinions (Proverbs 17:4). Insulters think that others are required to hear their opinions (Proverbs 12:15), but God tells us that we don’t have to listen to those we deem are wicked (Proverbs 29:12). Slanderers are like bullies, who verbally poison the confidence in others (James 3:8). Criticism, though, is always given like a gentle grandmother (Galatians 6:1; II Timothy 2:25). The definition of gentleness is to not force anything, to only give when the other person wants (I Corinthians 4:21).

Judgment is built on trust; slander is by enemies.

When we correct someone, they need to be like a close brother, not a stranger on the internet or a political adversary (Matthew 18:15). They need to be like a friend, not an enemy (Proverbs 27:5-6). This is because friends and brothers are trusted to be doing it out of love (Proverbs 17:17), not a desire to condemn (James 4:11-12). Criticism can also come from church or governmental authority (Titus 2:15) because God gave them their power (Romans 13:1). Evil enemies, on the other hand, take enjoyment from mocking you (Matthew 5:39).

Judgment builds up; slander destroys.

Only among brothers is there a foundation to bear each other’s burdens, the goal of criticism (Galatians 6:1-2). We shouldn’t criticize someone and walk away; if we criticize, we must also help them overcome their sin (Romans 15:1-2). We must be like Christ and take their reproach on ourselves as if we did that sin (Romans 15:3). Slander, on the other hand, is from the devil, who wishes to destroy us (John 10:10). We think we are justified in speaking evil of others, but if they don’t want to hear it, we are actually not judging their character (Matthew 7:5) but hypocritically condemning their soul (James 4:11). Only God has the right to condemn someone who doesn’t want to hear it (James 4:12).

Judgment focuses on growth; slander focuses on fault.

Slanderers focus on fault because they want to blame and condemn (James 4:11-12). While Christians must find fault with themselves in repentance (Luke 5:32), building each other up is about love that grows the person (Ephesians 4:16). It encourages positive behavior for the future (I Thessalonians 5:11). Focusing on fault can be pointless when neither side can know the truth (I Corinthians 8:2; I Corinthians 13:12). The goal is to figure out a solution that works for both parties, because unity starts not with agreement but with patience (Ephesians 4:2-3). 

Judgment gives hope; slander gives despair.

When the Bible commands us to encourage one another (I Thessalonians 5:11), and reproving is a form of encouragement, they want us to encourage with affirmations of truth (Philippians 4:8). A great example is Jesus correcting Thomas. Instead of saying what Thomas did, “Fruitless are those who see to believe” (John 20:25), He says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). This is because thinking about the affirmation of the truth is more powerful than thinking about the negation of a lie because hope is fulfilled in truth (Colossians 1:5). It is ok to speak the truth in the contrapositive (James 1:16), so long as you affirm the truth in the same argument (James 1:17).

Judgment is truth; slander is an opinion.

Judgment is always based on what’s right (John 7:24), and that is only the Bible (John 17:17). Slander tends to be what a person is feeling in the moment (Proverbs 29:11). If you judge someone’s sin without including a Bible verse, there’s a good chance you are wrong (I Corinthians 8:2).


What about God’s judgment?

For information on how God will judge us, refer to our salvation article.

What are some examples of how to judge rightly and wrongly?

  1. Right: I saw you take my money, and God says to not steal.
    1. This is pointing out a fact and judging the sin without judging the sinner (I Corinthians 5:11-13).
  2. Wrong: You stole my money.
    1. Except for governmental authority, God says we can’t judge the sins of others because we do the same things (Romans 2:1), meaning that our judgment would be weakened by hypocrisy (Matthew 7:5).
  3. Wrong: You are going to hell for stealing my money.
    1. This is condemning their soul, which even Jesus wouldn’t do on earth (John 3:17).

What is the difference between all the biblical words used for judgment and slander?

Notice how we are never commanded to fault, blame, or rebuke anyone, as this would be condemning them (James 4:11). Instead, we are commanded to humbly yet confidently exhort, admonish, correct, refute, reprove, teach, and train. All of these words are talking about sin, not the sinner.

  1. Judge (krinete)–to determine if it’s good or evil (John 7:24)
  2. Condemn (katadikazete)–to publicly proclaim and punish as evil (Matthew 12:37)
  3. Slander–various words such as diabolous, dysphēmias, blasphēmian, katalaleisthe, etc.
  4. Blame (mōmēsētai)–faulting a person or group (II Corinthians 8:20)
  5. Fault (memphetai)–something that is wrong (Hebrews 8:8; Romans 9:19)
  6. Rebuke (epitimēson)–to correct and order with authority and control (Luke 4:35); this word is only used once regarding Christians (II Timothy 4:2) and is meant for demons and people you have authority over, not for anyone you disagree with
  7. Harsh Rebuke (epiplēxēs)–rebuking but without gentleness (I Timothy 5:1)
  8. Exhort, Encourage (parakaleson)–to bolster faith with the truth (Hebrews 3:13; I Thessalonians 4:18)
  9. Comfort (paramythoumenoi)–to reduce pain (John 11:31; I Thessalonians 2:12)
  10. Admonish, Warn (noutheteite)–telling of punishment or evil that will happen unless they do what’s right (I Thessalonians 5:14)
  11. Correct (epanorthōsin, yōsêr)–explaining why something was wrong (II Timothy 3:16)
  12. Refute (elenche, elenxon)–give logical arguments for why something was wrong (Titus 1:9; Matthew 18:15)
  13. Reprove, Convict (elegmon, tōwḵaḥaṯ)–give logical arguments (or proof) for why something is right (Proverbs 10:17)
  14. Teach, Instruct, Train (didaskalian)–to explain further about a topic for greater understanding (Romans 15:4)
  15. Discipline, Chasten (paideian, mastigoi, mūsar)–asked to do something painful to learn a lesson (Hebrews 12:5,11; Proverbs 3:11)

How do I correct someone without blaming them?

Read in this FAQ about the different words used for judgment. These verses show us that we should address the logic, not the person. For example, you can “admonish” someone’s actions you deem are lazy (I Thessalonians 5:14) by stating the facts of the sin (Matthew 18:15) and pointing out relevant Bible verses, but you cannot judge them as a lazy person (Romans 2:1; James 4:11). Calling them lazy is “blaming” them or finding fault which only Jesus as the Judge can do because only He knows their heart (James 4:12). We are called to just speak the truth, which is not our opinions of their character. God’s Word is truth (John 17:17; II Timothy 3:16).

Should I give feedback to co-workers or authority?

The Bible only mentions giving feedback if they asked for it (Proverbs 12:15) or if they know you, either personally or as a fellow Christian (Proverbs 27:5-6). You can always have a 1-on-1 to see where they stand on these 2 requirements (Matthew 18:15). Oftentimes, people’s ego will get in the way, especially with nonbelievers, so make a decision if you should stay or leave.