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What Scripture Says About Judging

 

Contents 

Introduction
1 - John 7:24
2 - Matthew 7:1
3 - By Their Fruit You Will Know Them
4 - The Gift Of Discernment
5 - Paul Judged Peter
6 - In Conclusion

 

 

Introduction

One of the things that really bothers me is to hear Christians say that we should not judge others.  There are a couple of reasons for this unbiblical stance.  One reason is that if we judge others, they will judge us, and, we don't want to be judged.  This is actually more Biblical than one might think.  The other reason for this stance is Christians are so Biblically illiterate these days that they don't know what the Bible really says about this issue.  Another reason for this misunderstanding is a bit hypocritical.  We judge in other matters in society but we don't want to judge in personal matters.  Our whole legal system is based on judging. 

I will briefly attempt to state the Biblical position on this much misunderstood topic. 

 

1 - John 7:24

Jesus, in John 7:24 said, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment".  Jesus is not telling us not to judge.  He is in fact telling us "how to judge".  He is simply saying that we should not judge according to how things appear.  It is true that things are not always as they appear to be.  You may see an old man on the street dressed in faded jeans. This does not mean he is a poor beggar.  He may be a rich man who is tired of always having to be well dressed.  Rock stars are another example. They dress like slobs and wear their hair as if they have no money for a hair cut, yet they have more money than you or I will ever have.  You can't judge by the mere appearance.

Jesus' point is simple.  When you judge, judge righteously.  Look beyond the appearance.  Put a little thought into your judgment.  Make sure you have all the facts.  Make sure you are judging from proper motives.  Make sure you arenít trapped by the same thing you are judging the other person for. 

Jesus is not telling us not to judge in this verse.  He's telling us to judge rightly. 

 

2 - Matthew 7:1

This passage is one of the most misused and abused passages in the Bible, and it's all because we don't take the time to see what Jesus is really saying.  So, let's take some time and look at what he is saying now.  

Matthew 7:1 is the verse everyone quotes when they say that we are not to judge. Jesus said, "Judge not that you be not judged, for with what judgment you judge you shall be judgedÖ" (KJV) What Jesus is saying here is how we judge others will be the way they judge us in return.  If we're unfair in our judgment, others will be unfair to us by returning an unfair judgment.  It's just human nature.  It's just simple logic.

Is Jesus really telling us not to judge in this verse?  The answer to this question is seen in the following verses. We can't take Matthew 7:1 out of context like most do.  Jesus goes on to tell us not to try to cast a speck out of your brotherís eye when you have a plank in your own eye" (NIV).  He goes on to say in verse 5 that you should "Ö first take the plank out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brotherís eye."

Do you see what Jesus is saying here?  He is telling us to examine ourselves before we examine others.  If we have the same problem that we're judging another for, we must deal with our own problem before we deal with the same problem in someone else.  Once our problem is fixed, Jesus says that we can help our brother with his problem.

Jesus isn't telling us not to judge in Matthew 7.  He's telling us that if we have the same problem, we fix the problem in our lives.  Then, we are able to judge our brother and then help him out.  Once we have fixed the problem in our own lives, we can affectively help our brother.  This is all a part of judging righteously as Jesus commanded us in John 7:24.

Jesus is not telling us not to judge in Matthew 7:1.  He's telling us a couple of things.  He's telling us that how we judge others will be how they judge us.  He's basically telling us not to be hypocrites in our judging.  If we do not have the same problem in our lives, or, if we've fixed that problem, then we can affectively help our brother in need. 

We must understand that we cannot help a brother unless we make a judgment call that he actually needs help.  Judging righteously is simply the first step in helping a brother in need. 

 

3 - By Their Fruit You Will Know Them

In Mathew 7:16 - 20 Jesus tells us that by their fruit you will recognize them. (NIV)  You can tell a tree is an apple tree by seeing its apples. You can tell that a maple tree is a maple tree by its leaves. This isn't rocket science.  You know what something is by looking at it and making a judgment call.

Someone who says that he doesnít believe that Jesus is God is not a Christian.  You are making a righteous judgment by saying that.  You are making a judgment based on what you know to be true.  There is nothing wrong with this kind of judgment.

If a person is in an adulterous relationship we have the right to judge them and say that they are an adulterer.  This is assuming we're not committing the same sin.  If a person steels, we have the right to judge them and call them a thief.  Again, this is so if we're not caught up in the same sin.  This judging is based on fact.  It is not based on appearance alone. 

Just as an apple tree bares apples, so Christians will bare fruit of the Spirit.  Jesus tells us that we will know a person by his fruit.  Stating the simple facts about a person is judging righteously.  The Bible does not prohibit such judgment calls. 

Many politicians of late have been called out on the carpet for bad and wrong behaviour.   Mayer Rob Ford of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, is one such politician.  I've been told not to judge him.  I've been told he is human, just like the rest of us.  I tell others that if John the Baptist were here, he'd point out Rob Ford's sin.  He'd point out that Rob Ford has been dishonest to his constituents.  He'd tell Rob Ford to own up to his dishonesty and repent.  John the Baptist would be judging Rob Ford, and he has the Biblical right to do so.     

 

4 - The Gift Of Discernment

In 1 Corinthians 12 we see Paul listing nine gifts of the Holy Spirit.  One of these gifts is called the gift of discernment.  What is this gift? It is a supernatural gift given by the Holy Spirit that enables you to discern from good and evil, right and wrong.  It is a supernatural gift that enables you to discern something that you could not otherwise discern.  Discerning is a type of judgment.

Peter in Acts 5 discerned, most likely supernaturally, that Ananias and Sapphira were not being truthful to him when they told him that they sold a field and gave all the money to the church.  Peter discerned that this was a lie. In fact Peter was judging them.  We might ask, "Did Peter have the right to make such a judgment"? Well, whatever the answer, he judged them anyway.

If one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit enables us to judge beyond human ability, it's clear that judging is Biblically permissible. 

 

5 - Paul Judged Peter

In Acts 5 Peter judged Ananias and Sapphira, but in Galatians 2 Peter was judged by Paul.  Galatians 2:11 says that Paul opposed Peter to his face because he was in the wrong.  Many today would struggle over such a judgment call, especially when Paul pointed this out in a public forum.  We might say that Paul was too judgmental.  He should not have opposed Peter.  He should not have judged him.  Paul noted that Peter ate with the Gentile Christians, but when the Jewish Christians came to town, he withdrew himself from the Gentiles.  This infuriated Paul. This was hypocrisy in Paulís eyes.  So, Paul judged the situation.  He judged Peter, and rebuked him openly.  Was Paul being nasty or mean?  No he wasn't.  Was he upset with Peter?  He was probably more than a little upset.  Was he right in his judgment?  He certainly was.

Paul was judging righteously here.  His motive for judging was pure.  He did not want anything or anyone to defame the gospel of the Lord who died for him.  He needed to expose this wrong and to correct it for all to see.  He needed to do so for the sake of the gospel. Others were beginning to follow Peter in his hypocrisy and Paul could not let this happen.  He had to remedy the situation and he did so swiftly and to the point, without beating around the bush.

This is just one example of how Paul judged people. There are many other examples as well.

 

6 - In Conclusion.

It's clear to me that Jesus intends for us to judge righteously.  If we donít judge the right way, then we should not judge at all.  If we judge the wrong way, with improper motives, then we can expect to be unfairly judged in return.  If we canít judge the right way, then we shouldnít judge.  We should keep our mouths shut.  If we can judge for right reasons, then go ahead and do so. There is nothing wrong with right judging.

There are legitimate reasons for making a right judgment.  One reason is to help a person in need as seen in Matthew 7.  Another reason is to expose sin and to make sure the sin doesn't spread, as seen when Paul judged Peter.  God Himself gives some the supernatural gift of discernment, which in reality is super natural judging. 

Judging isn't the problem.  It's why and how we judge that is the problem.  This is the real meaning to Matthew 7:1.    

 

 

 

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