Judging! What a hot potato topic. In one corner some almost literally scream, “You don’t have a right to ever judge!” while in the other corner others claim we don’t judge enough. Even the Scriptures may seem to send mixed messages. We are clearly told “judge not” (Matthew 7:1) but then again Christ said, “judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” (John 7:24). Contradiction? Little wonder some can be confused.
But we don’t have to be. Rest assured the Bible is not contradicting itself and “judging” can be understood. If put in context and viewed objectively without the cloud of emotion the Scripture’s message can be known.
First, we are given a biblical right to make some judgments, (after all, we will in some way take part in judging the world – 1 Corinthians 6:2). In John 7:24 Jesus spoke to the hypocritical, judgmental Pharisees in a situation where they misunderstood Christ’s ministry. He told them, “Judge not according to appearance but judge righteous judgment.” This “righteous judgment” is one based on known facts, not assumptions, speculations or emotions. It is made properly with proper motives and with the spirit of Christ. It takes all things into consideration and is weighed against the word of God. It is fair, just and considerate. It is not made quickly, harshly, or in reaction or anger. The Pharisees did none of the above. We must be careful as well, for improper judgments do a great deal of damage.
Such is the case of Matthew 7:1-6 and Romans 2:1-16. Both texts warn us of the danger of judging improperly or of passing judgment on others harshly. These are judgmental attitudes that not only hurt others but is sinful. This is when conclusions are drawn, judgments are made, and words of condemnation are spoken in absence of all the facts. This attitude usually stems from anger, self-righteousness, and immaturity. Improper motives are almost always behind this attitude (remember the Pharisee’s agenda). So to all of this Paul said, “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whosoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.” (Romans 2:1). Paul spoke to Jews who judged the Gentiles in this context, but the application still fits today. Some reasons why we should not judge in this manner are –
- 1.We set ourselves up to face the same type of judgment. Continuing in Matthew 7 Jesus stated, “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Matthew 7:2). If we expect fair, honest, grace-filled judgment from God then we should (indeed, must) give the same to others. Judge harshly, with little grace and mercy and that is what shall return to you. This should make us think the next time we’re tempted to be judge, jury and executioner. Practice the golden rule –“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12).
- 2.We run the risk of being hypocritical. In Romans 2:1 Paul taught not to pass judgment because, “. . . in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself: for you who judge practice the same things,” In Matthew Jesus used the familiar beam and speck illustration. No one is perfect and if, before we become judgmental, we would take stock of our own weaknesses we might see things differently. If we run ahead and pass improper judgments we become hypocritical and we can’t influence anyone.
- 3.We are not God. This is the ultimate reason for us to be careful in our judgments – even righteous judgments. Only God knows the heart of men – we don’t. Only God knows if a person has truly repented (seeing that repentance is a change of mind, that will show itself in a change of life). We can see the fruits of a heart, but only God sees the heart (1 Samuel 16:7; Psalms 139:1-6; Revelation 2:23). When it comes to judgment day, God will get it right! He will judge us fairly, and justly, based on this truth (Romans 2:2) and based on how we have lived before him (2 Corinthians 5:10). Then all will be revealed and made known (Romans 2:16). If by being judgmental we are trying to do his job, what will God do with us (Romans 2:3-4)?
So be careful little heart, how you judge. Always live, act and represent yourselves in the manner of Christ. Judgmental attitudes have turned off and turned away so very many. Religious judgments based on facts and made in love have prompted benevolent actions of reconciliation, repentance and restoration. Which would you rather see? Which would God approve of?
Adapted from Danny Dodd Thyatira Church of Christ 6/12/1994