The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans 16:16)



There is much confusion on the part of Christians and non-Christians concerning judging. With the help of God we will now endeavor to clear away all the cobwebs.  


The average religionist, it would seem, believes we are not to judge, no exception or qualification offered. Such a belief is patently simplistic. The truth is we are judging when we condemn one for judging. When one exclaims, "you are wrong because we are not to judge," they themselves have just judged. In too many cases, the claim "judge not" is a cop out, one is seeking to avoid an issue.


All judgment is not wrong! How can we "try the spirits" (1 John 4:1), receive not errorists, and "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" (Eph. 5:11) if we do not judge (discern and pronounce as wrong)? The truth of the matter is we cannot please God without rendering judgment (2 John 9-11). In a single sentence Jesus forbad certain judgment and commanded another type of judgment. Hear him: "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24). "Judgment" is from krisis, "…a separating…then a decision" (W.E. Vine). You will notice that Jesus is not simply allowing a certain type of judgment – he is requiring it! God's word is the standard for all judgment (John 12:48). Paul judged Peter "according to the truth of the gospel" (Gal. 2:14). Righteous judgment, therefore, is judgment which is based on the teaching of the scriptures (cf. Ps. 119:172). By using the word and knowing the pertinent facts, we are judging righteous judgment.


There are many instances of justified judgment seen in the scriptures. As just observed, Jesus taught righteous judgment (John 7:24). Not only did He teach it, but He also approved righteous judgment (Luke 7:43; 12:57). Lydia asked Paul to judge her to determine her faithfulness (Acts 16:15). Paul did not say, "Lydia, we must not judge!" Paul urged the Christians at Rome to judge (Rom. 2:27). Paul himself rendered judgment in the case of the fornicator being in sin and encouraged the church at Corinth to do the same (1 Cor. 5:3, 12 - "judge" is here used in the sense of assessing the facts and rendering condemnation). Christians are commanded to judge in cases of alleged abuses and mistreatments one of another (1 Cor. 6:1-6). Keep in mind, however, the judgment is righteous judgment. Again, righteous judgment requires knowing the facts (Matt. 7:20). The facts in a given situation must be known and the correct standard must be used – the word of God.


When does judging become wrong?


Our judgment becomes wrong when we judge "according to appearance" (John 7:24). The Jews were judging (condemning) Jesus because it appeared he had broken the Sabbath by healing a man on the Sabbath (John 7:21-24). Their judgment was shallow and based on appearance (they did not possess all the facts concerning the Sabbath law). It may have appeared that Jesus was violating the Sabbath day law, but in reality he was not.


Our judgment becomes wrong when we are just as guilty as or worse than those whom we are judging (Rom. 2:1-3, 19-24). This is precisely the circumstance involved in Jesus' statement, "Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Matt. 7:1-5). Appreciate the fact, though, that Jesus said, "…first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye" (vs. 5). We are to remove all hindrances which can distort our judgment – then, after one has corrected ones own life, they are in a position to correctly "judge" (vs. 5).  Moreover, in the same setting Jesus requires judgment when he taught, "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs..." (vs. 6).


Our judgment becomes wrong if it is in an area of liberty. Paul asked the cogent question, "But why dost thou judge thy brother...?" (Rom. 14:10).  Some were judging others over matters of indifference - certain days, eating meat, and drink (vs. 3, 6, and 21).  Such matters did not involve sin (vs. 14).

Our judgment becomes wrong when we use carnal standards. Some judge using the standard of materialism (Luke 12:15; James 2:1-4), traditionalism (Mark 7), or the Law of Moses (Col. 2:14-17).  Prejudicial judgment is pronounced as wrong. If we answer a matter before we hear it, Solomon said, "It is folly and shame" (Prov. 18:13). Many employ the standard of majority rule, "the majority cannot be wrong, so you must be!"


Our judgment becomes wrong when it's based on subjective feelings. "I feel such is wrong (or right) within my heart," some say. People who thus judge are guilty of subjective judgment. The wise man wrote: "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool" (Prov. 28:26). In using such an individual subjective standard of judgment, people can seldom agree. We are to "walk wisely," using God’s word as the standard (Prov. 28:26; John 12:48).


Our judgment becomes wrong when we assume the role of a judge. Jesus said, "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son" (John 5:22). Judgment is sinful when it is the result of a disposition simply to condemn. You or I must not act as final judge (James 4:11-12; see 2 Cor. 5:10). Again, this is not to say that we are not to apply God’s word, coupled with all relevant facts, and determine the rightness or wrongness of a matter.


Our judgment becomes wrong when it's based on the assignment of motives. God knows men’s hearts (John 2:25); however, we do not know the thoughts of others (1 Cor. 2:11). Instead of attempting to assign motives, we are to judge others’ fruit or actions (Matt. 7:15-20).

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