We all make judgments, even when we are not thinking about it. If you are listening to this podcast, you are right now deciding whether to keep listening. If you are reading this blog, you are right now considering whether or not to continue reading. This verifies that judging is an important exercise, for it helps us determine what is worth our time and what is not. For the record, I believe you will find this podcast a worthy investment of your time, so do stay with us! Now, what about judging others? Ah, this is a little trickier. The Bible actually tells us emphatically NOT to judge others and with the same passion it tells us TO judge others. Why the seeming doublespeak? It all comes down to two things. Obviously the “what” of our judgment is important. But more importantly, we need to be aware of the “why” of our judgments.
While teaching the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus famously said in Matthew 7:1: “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” Many read this as a blanket command from Jesus to never judge others. This is not remotely close to the meaning of the instruction of Jesus. First, we need to realize there are no less than seven different words for "judgment" in the New Testament. The meanings of these words range from merely scrutinizing a person or situation to the finality of a pronounced judgment. The New Testament uses these various words to show us different levels of judgment, as well as when to and when not to judge others.
Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7 had everything to do with the damage that comes from arbitrary judgment. This damage is common and happens when we measure someone’s character or actions by using our own feelings and bias rather than facts. To paraphrase, Jesus was saying: "Who do you think you are, going about judging others when your own faults are so painfully obvious?" He further tells us that we are liable to harsher judgment from God when we dish it out to others.
Does this mean we should never reach out to help someone when we observe their faults? Isn’t being helpful the "Christian" thing to do? Yes, but it MUST be done in a Christian manner! This is where the challenges of appropriate judgment begin to be understood. Mutual judgment is an appropriate and valuable exercise, but it has clearly defined boundaries as well.
If - what - why
Check out our June 7, 2021 podcast, “Is It Ever Right to Judge Your Brother?” for more. We lay out the meaning of several New Testament words for "judgment." We examine the character guidelines that help us determine if we should personally be in a position to judge. We look at several biblical examples of what circumstances require us to apply Christian judgment. Finally, we seek to understand the why of these judgments. Judgment is tricky. There are times it needs to be done and there are many times when I should NOT be the one doing it!