“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. “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.” (Matt. 7:1-5 NASB)
We began looking at this last time. This subject of judging others is one that bothers and confuses many people so we are taking an extended look at it. As I said last time, we are sure it is wrong to judge, but we are not sure what that means. And yet, we are all aware that it is necessary to judge other people. We find ourselves doing it all the time, sometimes without even realizing it.
It is important to understand what the Bible means when it says we are not to judge others. Are there occasions when it is necessary and right to pass judgment on another person for what he says or does? What must we understand to be biblical in this crucial area?
The first thing we must know is that judging is necessary, but dangerous.
We are called upon to make various kinds of judgments about church and faith related issues all the time. This is less judgment than evaluation of ability and spiritual maturity. When our criterion for this evaluation is biblical it is not judging in the worldly sense of the word.
However, as Jesus pointed out, we have a natural tendency to judge in the wrong way. This is not to say that we should not be fruit inspectors, carefully discerning and evaluating the words and actions of other people to discriminate between truth and lies, right and wrong. When I observe a counselee who says they want change, and they have been instructed in the process of change, yet they continue to live as before, I can reasonably conclude that they may not be truthful.
Sometime we make critical judgments and expect others to conform to preferences we hold that are extra-biblical. Our problem is that critical judgments come all too naturally. In my flesh, I have no trouble deciding what is wrong with people! My family will tell you I can tend to be critical and I have to be careful not to be this way.
This critical spirit comes to us as a result of our sinful nature. A part of the sin package we are born with is a natural desire and tendency to sin. We are hard wired to be critical, judgmental, negative and condemning. We see this revealed throughout the Bible. The Old Testament offers many examples: After the Israelites conquered the Promised Land, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh returned to their allotted land and built an altar by the Jordan. When the other tribes heard about the altar, they assumed the worst and rashly assembled their troops to go to war against their brothers. Fortunately, before a battle began, those who had built the altar were able to explain its legitimate purpose and avoid bloodshed (Joshua 22:10-34).
In 1 Samuel, we read how Eli the High Priest made a hasty, critical judgment of Hannah as she prayed (1 Samuel 1:12-17).
Even King David made critical judgments. David passed judgment against an innocent man (Mephibosheth) and turned all of his property over to a false witness because he did not wait to hear the other side of the story (2 Sam. 16:1-4; 19:24-30).
We also see this pattern continue in the New Testament. When Jesus was doing miracles and healing the blind, the Pharisees stubbornly closed their eyes to the good he was doing and interpreted his actions in the worst possible way, saying that he was actually serving the devil (Matt. 12:22-24).
In Acts 21:26-29, we see that Paul meticulously followed all of the Jewish customs as he prepared to come into the temple. Even so, the Jews assumed the worst, jumping to the conclusion that he had defiled the temple and should be stoned. There are several more I could list, but I think you get the idea.
Our judgment about making judgments is not only impaired toward the negative, we also have a tendency to make mistaken positive assessments! We can be impressed by things we ought to criticize. Paul commented on this to the Corinthians:
For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. 2 Corinthians 11:4 (NASB) (See also 2 Timothy 4:3, Galatians 1:6-9)
Criticism and judgments of others didn’t end with the recording of Scripture. We make rules that we conclude are biblical because they are loosely based on something we read and have taken out of context. We will pick up on this aspect of judgment next time.
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