Are We To Judge?

Judging-What does it mean? Is it right to judge? Have you ever pondered these questions? "Judge not that ye be not judged" (Matthew 7:1), has led many Christians to conclude that they have neither right nor responsibility to judge what they see and hear. Yet this conclusion leaves them at a loss to know how to cope with life about them.

A study of God's Word will show that His children do have a responsibility to judge.

Personal Responsibility to Judge

Jesus said, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24). From the beginning of time God's Word has held up a standard of right living.

The Bible clearly teaches that lying, stealing, covetousness, and all immorality are displeasing to God. It states that anger, foolishness, and selfishness are not to be permitted in the lives of God's children. If these deeds and attitudes are present in my life, do I not need to judge them as sinful and seek deliverance from them? If I notice such deeds and attitudes in the life of a friend, dare I say "Well, I'm not to judge it right or wrong," when God has declared that "...they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God"? (Galatians 5:21).

Each day brings to every person opportunities for both good and evil. How is a person to know what to accept and what should be rejected? First Thessalonians 5:21 tells us "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." By what standard do we prove "all things"? The only true standard we have to live by is God's Word.

Understanding Matthew 7:1

What was Jesus teaching when He said, "Judge not, that ye be not judged"? Let us take a look at the entire passage that contains these words.

"Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with that judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, 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" (Matthew 7:1-5).

This portion of scripture, which many say prohibits judging, actually teaches us to judge in two ways. First, we are to judge sin in our own lives. Then, with a pure attitude, we are to help our friend or brother judge the error that might be in his life.

A Right Spirit for Judging

We must be careful to judge righteous judgment with a tender heart toward the one who is erring. Perhaps one reason that judging is so ill-spoken of in today's world is that far too much of it is done hypocritically and harshly.

Christlike judgment is that which seeks to reveal error, points to the remedy, and leads to healing and restoration. This part God has entrusted into the hands of true believers (2 Corinthians 5:19-20).

People have a natural tendency to become critical and censorious toward those with different opinions and lifestyles. It is easy to judge another's words or actions without having a complete knowledge of all that pertains to the situation. A man may feel that a friend has done a grave wrong, and roundly condemn him for it. If, however, he would take the time to visit with the friend and would learn the truth of the matter, he might well conclude that he himself would have acted in the same way.

Perhaps our feelings have been hurt by a remark made by a neighbor. "He's mean!" we fume, "he wanted to hurt me." In reality there is a great possibility that our neighbor had no ill intention at all. He may have misspoken or we may have misunderstood his words. We may see a Christian brother fail in some way. "Look at him," we mutter, "he doesn't care how he lives!" In reality he may care very much, and even at that moment may be in anguish because of his failing. It is not our responsibility to condemn the one who has failed. We should help him see his error and lead him to repentance and forgiveness.

Man, with his depraved nature delights in proving others wrong and himself right. Sometimes we begin to feel it our responsibility to convince another person of his wrong-doing. If the individual we are trying to convince is not easily persuaded, we may become argumentative. We may speak loudly and forcefully. We may begin to list many errors and failings of the one we are speaking to, or confront him in such a manner that the accused has no way to explain his position. This is not the Lord's way of proving and judging sin. When a person wants to "win the argument" or "prove to someone he's wrong", he has ceased to be an ambassador for Christ. He is on his own mission and is no longer reconciling his brother to Christ. "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ." (2 Corinthians 5:20).

As we seek to judge the error in the life of our brother or of our neighbor, we should never allow this judgment to cause us to feel uncharitable or irritable toward him. We must speak to him tenderly and patiently. "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness: considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1).

Judgment Committed to Christ's Church

The New Testament teaches that responsibilities have been given to the believers who form Christ's church on earth. They are to be a people distinct from the ungodly generation about them (2 Corinthians 6:17-18). They are to live in unity, "having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind" (Philippians 2:2). The keys of Christ's kingdom have been given to them, and they are to bind that which God has bound and loose that which has been loosed in heaven (Matthew 16:19, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-14, Titus 3:10-11).

Prove False Teaching

Christendom is in great confusion today. One group of professing Christians proclaims "here is Christ." Another denomination says, "No, He is here." Doctrines are being taught that conflict greatly with one another, yet all claim spiritual authority. What is the cause of this chaos? Has it not come about because of the unwillingness of people to judge between truth and untruth?

Jesus said, "Beware of false prophets...Ye shall know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:15-16). The Son of God gave to believers the grave responsibility to judge their teachers by the lives they live. He warned that many false prophets would come in His name, and in His name would do many wonderful miracles. Sadly, however, the fruit of the lives of these teachers would reveal selfishness, pride, lust, covetousness, dishonesty, and other ungodly characteristics. By this proving, the sincere child of God is to be admonished to flee from these teachers, lest he also be led astray by them (1 John 4:1).

Much of the false teaching that has spread across the world has a certain appeal to the nature of man. It seems reasonable and right. Those who follow it give great testimony to the power of God in their lives. Only a careful and thorough proving of these teachings, comparing them with the complete Word of God, will reveal that falsehood has been mixed with truth. As these tenets are followed to their conclusions, it is so often found that they do not blend with the biblical doctrines of self-denial, humility, and meekness. They seem rather to give place to self-sufficiency, pride, and carnal living.

God, the Final Judge

There is coming the day of final judgment at which time God will deal with the fate of the souls of men. His judgment will be in accord with His written Word. The Bible tells us that the day will come when "the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8).

God has the ability to look inside the heart of man. He alone is able to weigh all the circumstances under which each soul has lived. He is able to determine the motives and intentions which move each human being. God is able to decide whether a soul has lived according to the faith prescribed in His Word.

The individual who judges sin in his life, who lives according to the Word of God, can be assured that God will receive him at the final day of judgment. The person who does not give heed to the teaching of Jesus will face a fearful day of judgment. Jesus said, "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 12:48).

May we ask God, the great Judge, to give us a keen understanding of His will for our lives, that we may judge righteous judgment and at the end receive our eternal reward!