Over and over again I hear Christians and non-Christians alike make inaccurate and incomplete statements about judging. The misunderstanding is usually framed as a question: “Who has the right to judge?” Or statements like, “I’m far from perfect so who am I to judge.” Another popular one is, “I’m not here to judge anyone.”
Some will say that we have no right to judge. This is incorrect. You and I are judging people, situations, decisions and directions every day of our lives. At least I hope so! However, we are not to judge to condemn another person. Only God can and will condemn people to hell.
“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” – Matthew 10:28 KJV
The word judge means to render a discerning opinion by separating right from wrong regarding a particular person, behavior, ideology, doctrinal teaching or experience.
Many people can quote Matthew 7:1 – in King James no less☺- “Judge not lest ye be judged…” without even knowing where it’s found in the Bible nor the context or completeness of what it says.
When you consider the context of Matthew 7:1-20 you will see that Jesus is not prohibiting all types of judging. From the two verses below it is clear we must be exercising judgment or rendering a righteous assessment.
“You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? … 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” – Matthew 7:16; 20 NIV
There is a righteous kind of judgment which we are to exercise with careful discernment.
“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” – John 7:24 NASB
We are actually wired to decide what is right and wrong, what is the good, better, best, worse or negative in any given situation. In this sense, each of us judges every single day. Understanding this is vital if we are going to navigate through life carrying out God’s will in God’s ways. Discernment ought to always lead to healthy judgment.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” – Matthew 7:1-5 NIV
Notice that judgment without introspection and confrontation of ones own sin is the type of hypocritical judgment Jesus is condemning here. Verse 5 makes it very clear that there is a place to “remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Censorious, hypocritical, self-righteous, or other kinds of unfair judgments are forbidden. But in order to fulfill the commandments that follow, it is necessary to discern dogs and swine (v. 6) from one’s own brethren (v. 5), and to detect those who are false teachers from those who are in our midst.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. … 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” – Matthew 7:15; 20 ESV
The verses below give us further instruction about the role of judging and specifically, the role of Jesus Christ as the supreme Judge:
“If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” – John 12:47, 48 ESV
What will be the basis for judgment on the final day? That is the issue at the conclusion of John 12, with its emphasis on faith. The answer centers not in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ; He came into the world the first time to save it. That was Christ’s mission from the His Father. We know from John 5:22, that the Father has delegated His authority to the Son to carry out the ultimate final judgment of the world.
As the Holman New Testament Commentary on John says about this passage:
“From the passage in John 12:47-48 the focus of judgment will be the actual Word of God. God’s words through Jesus Christ as well as through the prophets and other biblical writers form the final authority for obedience. They are the message of faith. God through Christ will ultimately judge people by how they received and responded to what the Bible says. This is not a common invitation in John 12, but a command to turn from darkness to light and from death to life.”
“Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son,” – John 5:22 NIV
The Apostle Paul also clarifies that we are to judge (render a righteous opinion) about EVERYTHING from behavior to doctrine.
“The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments,” – 1 Corinthians 2:15 NIV
Most would agree that one of the greatest problems in the Church at large is Hypocrisy.
The antidote to Hypocrisy is judgment. Think about it. Healthy accountability with mutual permission to hold each other to live in conformity with the Scriptures actually promotes transformation.
In our culture the subject of Jugement Is probably the easiest topic to bring up in conversation with EVERYONE. Try it in the next weeks and share the results with your frieinds.