Judgment

Along with inclusiveness, one of the “high virtues” of the modern age seems to be non-judgment. It is considered a serious “sin” to many modern minds to be judgmental. This is , logically, a rather curious set of morals, since to spot a judgmental deed and point it out is—well, a judgment itself, right? The whole interaction could very logically go around in an infinite loop: 

“Don’t judge me!” 

“What?! You just judged me! Don’t judge me!” 

“Hey, wait a minute! I said it first. Don’t judge me!” 

“Well, Don’t judge me!”

And round and round it goes in perfect, silly, post-modern circles.

“But wait,” you may say, “isn’t there a serious, biblical directive against judgment?”

Right you are; it is a clear command found right in Matthew 7:1-5

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged…”

And yet, 10 verses later (Matt. 7:15ff), Jesus not only commands us to judge or discern, but even gives us some criteria by which we might judge false teachers, their fruits.

Was Jesus confused? Is this a Bible contradiction? What’s going on here?

Although it may seem confusing, it is less difficult that you may think. The simple answer to the apparent problem is that there are two ways to judge—a godly way and a sinful way—it is not a one-size-fits-all matter. Let me explain.

Sinful Judgment
Jesus said, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1), and then He clarifies. The first clarification—“For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you”—reminds us that the kind of judgment that we “offer” is the kind of judgment that we’ll get from God. If our judgment is sheer criticism, aimed to humiliate and condemn, or born from harshness, malice, or grudges; then, watch out, what goes around, comes around—from God!

In the second clarification Jesus poses a parable, “Why do you look at 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,’ and behold, the log is 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.” Here we see the irony of correcting someone’s sin, when our own uncorrected sin is so obvious. People judge this way, generally speaking, when they want to draw attention away from their own sin. Jesus calls it acting, hypocrisy.

Another kind of sinful judgment has to do with criticizing others on the basis of non-binding traditions—which Jesus judged: Matthew 15:9 “BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.” Later in the New Testament Paul also called to account those who were judging other Christians on the basis of their own opinions, traditions, and tastes—Romans 14:1 “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.”

So, Is Judgment Ever Right?
Jesus commands us (Matthew 7:15-20) to tell the difference between good and sinful teachers (prophets)—between what is right and what is wrong. Note: we do not determine what is right and wrong; we simply recognize it. Jesus clarifies our “place” in Matthew 18:18, “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”

“OK,” someone may say, “but isn’t it better to just discern the truth and keep it to yourself?” While some truths are not necessary for survival, I think you’d agree that there are some that I need to know. For example, I’d need to know, if my house is on fire; and I’d need to know, if I was about to drink poison. Likewise, I need to know, if my soul is in jeopardy. Ezekiel 33 (please read it) tells us clearly (in parable style) that silence about spiritual truth can’t help anyone—and may actually condemn us for letting others die spiritually without a warning. Truth unspoken is truth hidden.

Of course, for judgment to remain “right”, it must be spoken in love: Ephesians 4:15 “but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” Notice: 1) Speaking 2) the truth 3) in love is all part of growing up spiritually to the image of Christ.

How does all of this come together?
We all judge; what kind of judge are you? None of us like to be corrected; sometimes it is done poorly and wrongly; but correction/judgment/discernment doesn’t have to be un-Christian. It is right, when we are accurately and humbly speaking God’s words. It is right and required, when people’s souls are on the line. And it is right, when accompanied by love and self-examination (Gal. 6:1-5). In summary…

  • You must be certain of God’s judgment or authority before speaking. Men’s tastes, traditions, and opinions are a different story in the matter of judgment. (John 7:24; Romans 14:3-5; 1 Cor. 8-10)
  • You do have the biblical right to discern right from wrong. (Matthew 7:15ff; Hebrews 5:14)
  • You do have the right and obligation to point out error and sin. (Ezekiel 33; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; Galatians 2:11; James 5:19-20)
  • You do not have the right to be unkind, unloving, disrespectful, hurtful, or petty. (1 Cor. 13; Colossians 3:12-14; James 3:13-18)

Park Linscomb

Advertisements

About parklinscomb

I'm a minister for the church of Christ in Manchester NH where I've worked since the 1970's. I'm a big fan of my family, archaeology, the Bible, the Lord's church, and Gander Brook Christian Camp.
This entry was posted in Bible commentary, Christian Leadership, Christianity, New Testament and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Judgment

  1. Louise Linscomb says:

    PARK YOU REALLY DID A GOOD JOB – I PRINTED IT OUT, BUT I THINK I’M ABOUT TO RUN OUT OF INK AS IT IS VERY DIM – BARELY READABLE, AND IT PRINTS IN RED INK INSTEAD OF BLACK – IS THERE A REASON FOR THAT? I ALSO SAW SOME PICTURES OF A GROUP OF COLLEGE KIDS (I THINK FROM HARDING) THAT LINDA POSTED – GUESS YOU HAVE BEEN BUSY ENTERTAINING THEM AS I HAVEN’T HEARD FROM YOU LATELY. SOME OF MICHELLE’S FRIENDS ARE GIVING A BRIDAL SHOWER FOR ALEX AND TYLER ON SATURDAY MORNING – MARY AND I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO COLLABORATE ON GIFTS AND I WILL RIDE WITH HER. I HOPE TO BE ABLE TO GO TO LUBBOCK FOR THE WEDDING, AND HAVE MADE ROOM RESERVATIONS ALREADY – HOPE ALL WORKS OUT AND WE WILL SEE YOU THERE. I’M DOING PRETTY GOOD – FINALLY GOT MY NEW BRIDGES, ALTHOUGH I HAVE BEEN IN TWICE FOR ADJUSTMENTS. HAD TWO PLACES ON MY FACE FROZEN TO MAKE THEM CLEAR UP – GO TO SEE THE DR. TOMORROW – THIS MORNING I HAD A NEAR CATASTROPHE – THE HANDLE ON MY WASH BOWL BROKE OFF IN MY BEDROOM WHEN THE HOT WATER WAS GOING – I COULDN’T GET IT TO SHUT OFF AND THE BOWL WAS FILLING WITH WATER – I FRANTICLY CALLED A PLUMBER AS I COULDN’T GET THE NUB THAT WAS LEFT OR THE CUT OFF UNDER THE SINK TO TURN EITHER – THE PLUMBER SAID 30 MINUTES – I STARTED BAILING WATER INTO THE SHOWER – AND THE WATER FINALLY WENT DOWN, BUT CONTINUED TO RUN. WHEN THE PLUMBER CAME HE WAS ABLE TO SHUT OFF THE UNDER THE SINK CUT OFF – AND HE PUT IN A NEW FAUCET AND PLUMBING UNDER THE SINK – AT THE TUNE OF $337 (WITH DISCOUNTS INCLUDED) I WAS SO THANKFUL IT DIDN’T FLOOD THE WHOLE HOUSE LIKE IT DID ABOUT 2 YRS AGO WHEN THE FRONT BATH FLOODED. I COULD JUST SEE GOING THROUGH WITH ALL THAT MESS AGAIN – WET CARPETS, DRYING FANS, PAINTERS, ETC. I WAS PRAYING, YOU COULD BET. WHAT CAN I DO TO GET MY PRINTER TO PRINT IN BLACK? I WOULD LIKE TO GET BETTER COPIES OF YOUR ARTICLE. DROP ME A LINE TO LET ME KNOW YOU ARE OK. LOVE, MOM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s