IS IT ALWAYS WRONG TO JUDGE?
Praise God who establishes righteousness, who alone is good, who forgives our sins if we only accept His place as King, God, Lord, Love. Though God is a righteous God of mercy and forgiveness let us embrace the knowledge of the Lord our God as a Judge we delight in.
2 Timothy 4:8
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
Whether God desires that we judge is a complex issue calling for interpretation of various types of judgment. Without knowing how to fully explore the topic, some things are clear. (If you like, refer to the bottom of this post to see the full quotations of the scriptures cited.)
1) we should judge ourselves and show mercy to our neighbor. In fact, judging ourselves for our sins, which is an element of contrition and repentance, is essential to being born again in Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:31, Luke 6:37, James 2:13, 2 Peter 3:9)
2) there is a place for judgment. Jesus is a judge in the sense of bringing even painful consequences to sinners, see Matthew 25. Jesus also gives this responsibility, in a proscribed manner, to us. He says that the Pharisees should have practiced the weightier matters including judgment. Paul says that we are to judge those in the church but not those outside it. Paul specifically asks the church of Corinth to appoint someone to judge in their church, and he also establishes standards of separation within a church. (The church seems to be told in 1 Corinthians 5 to expel certain people, for example, fornicators and drunkards, from their community. If that were not the case how could the corporate church avoid associating with them and eating with them?) Also, Paul writes that the saints shall judge the world and angels. 1 Corinthians 5 describes Paul’s guardianship of that church by excommunicating one of their members. In the next letter Paul makes a point of sharing how hard that decision was for him, how he prompted that action by the majority out of love for all, and how he desired that the man be restored, his punishment having been sufficient. In 2 Corinthians Paul does warn them that he will come and apply judgment according to the Spirit. St. John may also be indicating in 3 John that he will bring discipline or judgment to Diotrephes. (Matthew 23:23, 1 Corinthians 5:12, 1 Corinthians 6:2-5, 2 Corinthians 2:3-8, 2 Corinthians 13:2, 3 John 1:10)
3) criticism is different than judgment. James, who said if we judge we are not doers of the law, but rather judges, also made critical remarks, as do other Apostles. For instance James said, “ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain.” Jude writes in his thirteenth verse that false brethren are “foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.” These are in a sense moral judgments. They are judgments by bringing to conscious articulation a state of immorality. But they do not in themselves seek the neighbor’s condemnation. Both epistles emphasize that the Lord will judge. (James 4:2, James 5:1-6, Jude 1:13)
4) hypocritical or self-righteous judgment is self-condemning. Jesus Himself has famously said, “judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Now though Jesus Himself is a judge, and declares that, He warns us that we should not judge. If we judge someone in a matter where we ourselves are guilty then clearly we condemn ourselves, and have convicted ourselves, becoming not doers of the law, but judges. In the same manner, Paul challenges those Jewish teachers who need to avoid hypocrisy in their teaching; they ought to know better since they possess the form of true justice in the law. So he asks them, “You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, ‘do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery. This is not to say we should not teach our children to not steal, or that a pastor should instruct the congregation that adultery is a sin. But if he stands as a judge and not a doer then he is a hypocrite, and that standard of judgment, as Jesus said, will be measured out to him.
Can we judge then as long as we avoid hypocrisy? Paul leads us in the first three chapters of Romans to understand that the whole world has walked in wickedness and none of us have a proper standing before God by our native merit. He therefore says, ‘those who judge another (krino) are inexcusable because they do the same things, thereby condemning themselves (katakrino).’ How does Paul say that judges are inexcusable while he is even then calling out the condemnation of the whole course of mankind? By including himself as one who is condemned by sin, he recuses himself from judging his neighbors in the sense that he claims no native superiority or natural righteousness. Paul is one who said he was the least of all saints, the chief of sinners, and though he worked harder than all the other apostles, was not worthy of being called an apostle because he persecuted the church. So Paul has thoroughly accepted his sins and is aware that he cannot claim any righteousness of his own, but seeks the righteousness of Christ which is by faith from first to last. Romans makes repentance the basis of Christian conversion and the perspective by which we should perceive the power of God, so it may even work in us so that we eschew that evil, which Paul nobly admits remains persistently inside him. So in Paul’s use of the term judge, a thing he forbids, he means a judgment made in excessive self-confidence, and one not humbled by the cross. (Matthew 7:1,2, John 5:30, John 7:24, Isaiah 11:23, Romans 1-3, especially 2:1-3, and 2:21,22, Ephesians 3:8, 1 Timothy 1:15,16, 1 Corinthians 15:9,10, Romans 3:21-23, Philippians 3:8,9, Romans 7:15-25)
5) unfair judgment may be connected to treating with contempt, or despising someone. Paul and James both seem to make this connection. (Romans 14:3,4, James 2:3,4,6)
6) unfair judgment may be connected to malicious blasphemy. This is what the Greek means when James says we ought not judge and speak evil of our brethren. (James 4:11,12)
7) to judge properly means to discern what is in the heart not judging by the outer appearance. To this point, let us see what God says comparing David’s brothers to His anointed.
1 Samuel 16:7
But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
And again in John Jesus says, “Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather judge according to righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)
To judge properly means to see things the way they really are, going on a discerning faith not on what the eyes see. Here in John, Jesus is referring to His opponents’ superficial way of judging the law, so the instruction is not as literal as it would be if correcting from judging the outward physical appearance. In this case, pietistic people judged God for healing on the Sabbath because that was considered a violation of the law. Sometimes seeing things more deeply means being more critical and sometimes it calls for an act of appreciation or forgiveness. When Jesus purged the Temple and when He rebuked the Pharisees in Matthew 23, as well as the many judgments of the Lord proceeding through the prophets, are occasions when a deep and accurate insight of things as they were properly called for strong criticism or judgment. (John 2:14-17)
Jesus brings this teaching to bear in relating to the Pharisees again two chapters later.
And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
The Pharisees probably left this conversation rightfully feeling they had been threatened with judgment. They consider themselves to be seeing and so cannot be made to see, therefore their sin remaineth. One must repent in order to be saved. This is like Jesus’ saying “I have not come to save the righteous but sinners.” Does he really not want to save anyone righteous? He means He does not save those who are convinced they are righteous and will not come in contrition and find life. We have to consider ourselves sinners. So the Pharisees I believe were in fact threatened, and that is a popular interpretation.
However, there is a more positive aspect here also. ‘That those which see not might see’ means that we who do not see the light will see it. We will find truth and prudence if the Lord is pleased to save us. That is also a normal interpretation. Jesus next says that He will make the seeing blind, and His judgment can do that in a miraculous way. When He helps us judge ourselves, change from our evil thoughts, examine our false standards of right and wrong, get rid of a regard for outer appearances, then He makes us blind. Being made blind to the misleading guidelines we have cultivated in our hearts it is possible to see our neighbor in a realistic way of love and not judge him or her. So being made blind can be restorative.
1 Corinthians 11:31
For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
1 Corinthians 5:12
For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?
1 Corinthians 6:2-5
Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?
2 Corinthians 2:3-8
And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all. For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.
2 Corinthians 13:2
I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare:
3 John 1:10
Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.
Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.
These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.
Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.
His delight is in the fear of the LORD, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?
Romans 2:1-3, see also Romans 1-3 generally and Romans 7:15-25 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?
To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ
1 Timothy 1:15,16
This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.
1 Corinthians 15:9,10
For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?
Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?
And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.