Is It Wrong to Judge?

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

“Judge not, that you be not judged”.

I wonder sometimes if this is one of the most well liked passages of scripture? It is certainly one that is quoted often by many. It is important though to take notice of the whole context of this statement for the sake of understanding and accurate interpretation of what is being said with regard to the broader content of scripture on the topic of judgement.

In Matthew 7:1-5  Jesus is not teaching that we are not to judge at all, but is laying out the rules for judging.  We must first judge ourselves (remove the speck from our own eye) before we attempt to judge the behavior of others (so we may see clearly to remove the speck from our brother’s eye).

First, it is important to examine the definition of the word “‘judgment” and I would like to examine the word from a couple angles for clarity. A judge obviously must make judgments or he could not be a judge, right?

judg·ment

noun \ˈjəj-mənt\

: an opinion or decision that is based on careful thought

: the act or process of forming an opinion or making a decision after careful thought : the act of judging something or someone

: the ability to make good decisions about what should be done

1

a: a formal utterance of an authoritative opinion

b: an opinion so pronounced

2

a: a formal decision given by a court

b (1): an obligation (as a debt) created by the decree of a court (2): a certificate evidencing such a decree

3

acapitalized: the final judging of humankind by God

b: a divine sentence or decision; specifically: a calamity held to be sent by God

4

a: the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing

b: an opinion or estimate so formed

5

a: the capacity for judging : discernment

b: the exercise of this capacity

A judge makes assessments based upon the evidence that is presented in a court of law, in other words, he assesses the situation and states his conclusion of the matter; his judgment. He either acquits the person if they are determined to be innocent or he passes sentence according to the measure of their guilt in the matter.

The two definitions that I want to develop are these;

  1. Making character assessments
  2. Imposing sentence 

Making Character Assessments:

Each one of us must make character assessments where others are concerned or we will obviously (by default) make some very bad choices about the types of people we choose to associate with or invite to hang out in our living room. ( The exercise of the capacity of discernment…)

The scriptures show us that Jesus hung out with tax collectors and sinners, and in the proper context it’s not at all inappropriate for us to engage with people who are morally corrupt in their understanding and lifestyle.

If we do not interact with them, how will they have an example of what is good, and right and acceptable? We are to be the light of the world.

The power of God’s grace and the gospel of the kingdom is to be shared and preached in any and every place and is sufficient to break the hardest heart and to free from the darkest bondage of sin.

However, even though I would (and did for years) preach the gospel in a prison where murderers, drug addicts and thieves are separated from society for their crimes, I would not invite them to “drop by my home any time”.

Why you ask? Because it would not be in the interest of sound wisdom or discretion to invite such obvious potentially destructive elements into my life and family without disastrous results. And I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else either.

Would you invite a child molester to hang out with your children? Really? If you can’t judge a child molester as being an unfit guardian for your children, you really shouldn’t be a parent.

So…we must make character assessments, or “judgments” about others in order to live according to God’s standards. If we live according to the standard of God’s word, we use wisdom in choosing our associations and friendships.

The scripture tells us that if we love the world and the things in it, that the love of the Father is not in us, and that we are not to be “unequally yoked” with unbelievers.

Oxen are yoked together for their combined strength, but if one is stronger than the other, the weaker will be led by the stronger. We are not to be associated with someone whose unbelief is stronger than our faith. If we do, we will be corrupted by their ways and pervert the ways of God.

  1. Imposing Sentence

God is the judge. We are not God.

While I have shown clearly above (and it is equally clear in God’s word) that we must judge the behavior of others, we cannot determine a person’s eternal outcome. I cannot say of another “You are not worthy of God’s kingdom, and will surely end up in hell.”

I can share what God’s word says about sin and the certain consequences of continuing in it.

“I warned you before and tell you again that no fornicator, no idolator, adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God”.   I Corinthians 6:9

This list is repeated in some detail in Galatians 5:19-21

The very next verse says, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

It is a level playing field. We all begin in our corrupted state because we were born in sin, but “If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away and all things have become new. 2 Cor 5:17

But let’s not stop there –  let’s read on…

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife.  And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this.  So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?  Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.

But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such a person.  For what have I to do with judging those who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. (Pretty clear, right?”) Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”

That is not my judgment, it is God’s. I didn’t say it, God said it in His word, and it is His word that will judge each of us ultimately.

The person here is judged as “evil” because of their evil actions, but later after they have turned from their sin, Paul encourages the church to receive him again so he will not become discouraged. Paul reproved the church for their liberality with the situation.  It is therefore the church’s responsibility to judge so that we are not judged by God.

“For if we would judge ourselves, we will not be judged.”  1 Corinthians 11:31

For those of you who don’t think it is right to judge under any circumstance (and I know you’re out there…),  what do you do with this passage…?

“Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?”

What is my point, or conclusion of the matter?  It is this;

As God’s ambassadors and representatives, we are to rightly interpret and speak what God’s word has already said. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and instruction in righteousness.” 2 Tim 3:16

And it is clear from the scriptures that we have looked at here that there is a clear distinction between making necessary character assessments for the purpose of maintaining the purity of the church (ourselves) and imposing a sentence on another person’s life, which is God’s place, not ours.

God’s purpose in judgment is essentially two-fold; it is to make a distinction between what is acceptable to Him and what is not through His dispensing of justice; and to demonstrate His mercy for His redemptive purposes that are clearly seen in His Son Jesus Christ by His death and resurrection from the dead.

“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”  John 7:24

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3 Responses to “Is It Wrong to Judge?”

  1. Thanks for the careful dividing of this truth, one which so many do misinterpret. thanks

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