of God's judgment
not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged;
and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. And 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?...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."
7:1-3, 5 NASB
who rejects Me, and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him;
the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day."
Civil and criminal matters
These are areas in
which we are to judge. The Bible clearly and repeatedly gives parameters
for judging legal and legislative disputes. One such verse comes from Leviticus
19:15 NIV: "Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor
or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly."
Humanity is free to
make authoritative distinctions or judgments in the areas of civil and criminal
matters when doing so by God's provisions as found in Scripture. These provisions
are justice, impartiality, without bribery, and without hypocrisy. Along
these guidelines, the act of judging actually glorifies God in that
our judgments become a reflection of his own perfect attributes.
Civil and criminal judgment
sets the all-important example of respecting authority. The respect of human
authority both reminds us and teaches us to respect God's authority. Gods
authority is ultimately to where human authority traces back its roots.
Therefore in many cases, to obey earthly authority actually is to
obey God's authority.
2. Ecclesiastical conduct
refers to the words and actions of professing Christians within the church.
This is another area in which we are to judge. (An area where far
too little judgment is going on.) As the apostle Paul wrote in his first
letter to the Corinthians (5:11-13 NIV),
But now I am writing
you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother
but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard
or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of
mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?
God will judge those outside. 'Expel the wicked man from among you.'
There are many material
effects of the church failing to police her own ranks in this manner. They
range from the accommodation of unrepentant hypocrisy, to divorce for unscriptural
reasons, to the recent cover-ups in Catholic sects of predatory homosexuality,
and more. All these problems plague the non-church world as well, of course,
but God calls the church to stand out from the rest of the world. The
church is to exercise an integrity which is so high and opposite the rest
of the world that its purity draws the attention of all who see it; thereby
acting as a natural in-road towards the Lord.
Judgment here, too,
glorifies God by being an example of sanctification (the act of being set
apart), by preserving the holiness of God's earthly church, and by executing
the process of correction and repentance among God's people.
3. Right and wrong
This is an area in which
we are not to judge; but care must be taken to understand this correctly.
We are not to judge right and wrong because right and wrong have already
been judged by God. God has judged them in the sense of defining them.
Right is everything which is characteristic of his unchanging qualities
(e.g., honesty, integrity, fidelity). These are qualities God specifically
desires that we reflect.
do we know what God's qualities are? God has revealed these
through his dealings with man in the past and through Scripture. Therefore,
it is good for us to judge, in terms of discern, right from wrong
so that we might say and do that which is right. Yet, it is not our place
to judge, i.e. authoritatively state, new definitions of right and
wrong. If that were even possible, that would be falsifying the very character
Nowhere do God's unchanging
definitions of right and wrong apply more than in examining our own lives.
Even though we may each be fully convinced in our minds that the things
we personally say or do are right, it's not us but rather God who will make
that final determination. Paul states in the same letter to the Corinthians
(4:3-4 NIV): "I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human
court; indeed, I do not even judge myself." Notice what he then adds:
"My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the
Lord who judges me."
Even though Paul basically
admits to not being conscience of any wrongdoing, he knows that the only
definitions of right and wrong are those recognized by God. He knows that
even with some knowledge of God, our human judgment is still imperfect.
So the only guidelines by which we are allowed to decide right from wrong
are God's guidelines, not any individual's.
4. Character declaration
We are also not to
judge one another in terms of making authoritative declarations of the nature
of one another's inward character. The passage in Luke 6:36-37 NIV that
is so often only partially quoted goes: "Be merciful, just as your Father
is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and
you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."
Notice that there are
two qualities here which we are exhorted to exercise (do be merciful,
do forgive), and two other qualities we are to abstain from (do not
judge, do not condemn). It is not that there is no such thing as
judgment and condemnation - there are. But like vengeance, they belong to
God and not to us.
To say or think something
like "so-and-so is evil" or "so-and-so is going to hell" is to judge someone's
heart and intentions. We cannot make this particular judgment because we
are unqualified in at least three ways:
1) we have not
been given the authority to do so;
2) we do not have
the omnipotence to know what is in someone's heart; and...
3) our own hearts
are not sufficiently free from the very same evils ("You, therefore,
have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever
point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who
pass judgment do the same things" Romans 2:1 NIV).
In a sense, it is also
wrongfully judgmental to say or think, "so-and-so is good" or "so-and-so
is definitely going to heaven". For in the purest sense, only God is truly
good: "A certain ruler asked him, 'Good teacher, what must I do to inherit
eternal life?' 'Why do you call me good?' Jesus answered. 'No one is good
- except God alone'" (Luke 18:18, 19 NIV). Even positive judgments of
inward character are nonetheless judgments we are not qualified to make,
much for the same reasons as those mentioned above.
Biased, bigoted, intolerant, and judgmental?