Are we ever required to judge others? Are we to judge ourselves? In regard to judging, Jesus said “I am able to do nothing from Myself. Even as I hear, I judge; I decide as I am bidden to decide. As the voice comes to Me, so I give a decision; and My judgment is right and just because I do not seek or consult My own will but only the will and pleasure of the Father Who sent Me. Even the Father judges no one, for He has given all judgment and the whole business of judging entirely into the hands of the Son.” John 5:22,30.
From the things that Jesus said to people, it certainly seems as though He judged others: “You are of your father the devil… Whoever is of God listens to God. This is the reason you do not listen to Me: because you do not belong to God and are not in harmony with Him. But I know you and understand that you have not the love of God in you.” John 8:44, 47; John 5:42.
There seems to be a deeper teaching here than simply ‘don’t judge others’ because Jesus DID judge others!
“Do not judge and criticize others so that you may not be judged yourselves. For just as you judge others you will be judged, and in accordance with the measure you deal out to others, it will be dealt out again to you. Why do you stare from without at the very small particle in your brother’s eye but do not become aware of the timber in your own eye? You hypocrite, first get the beam of timber out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the tiny particle out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-3,5.
In the context of these verses from Matthew 7 Jesus seemed to be saying don’t judge unless you have first been dealt with yourself in that area or you won’t be of any help and will be a hypocrite. When the thing has been dealt with in you, then you can help another with the help you yourself have received (2 Cor 1:3-5). It is difficult to see anything with a beam of wood in your eye! A speck is irritating but at least you can still see something! When the beam is out of your eye; THEN you are able to SEE to take the tiny speck out of your brother’s eye and you will be a help and a blessing to him because of it. If you are trying to get a speck out of someone’s eye when there is a beam in your own eye, even if you have the best of intentions and are trying to be helpful you’re still likely to cause severe damage to your brother or sister’s eye instead of dealing carefully with one small speck; because you cannot see well enough to help. Eyesight is a very precious thing both in the physical and in the spiritual.
Judgments and words bring either death or life. Sometimes God allows judgments and words to bring death to what is of the flesh in us so that Christ’s Life will be increased in a person. But because words have the potential to bring either death or life, we must be very careful with them. It is so easy to pass judgment on others and to think that we are judging righteously and yet we may be completely wrong and may be judging through our flesh and not through the Spirit at all.
We usually make our judgments based upon what we think we see and perceive, but what we often don’t realise is that what we are focusing on and seeing may be just what we know (our knowledge!) and not God’s Knowledge. We ought to discern whether a person is full of the fruit of Life from the tree of Life and know that this is the ONLY thing which is vital – Christ and His Life. We typically misjudge by instead judging from our own knowledge of good and evil – thus we make our judgments and decisions based upon what WE believe to be either good or evil.
Our enemy still deceives us in the same way as he deceived Adam and Eve: by tempting us to make a judgment about something, and then deceiving us into believing our judgments and perceptions are correct and that they will not bring death! The Truth will only bring Life when it is given IN the Life and IN the Way – Christ. In giving any judgments, we have to be very careful and sure that we are sharing only what HE wants us to and thus allowing His Spirit to bring further revelation in His own time and way to the person. Otherwise we may be stepping ahead of Him and taking over the role of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life and bringing unnecessary offense and division as a result. We need to be looking for Christ’s Life in one another and uniting on that One Thing instead of nitpicking over ‘many things’.
When we judge one another based upon our knowledge, we are likely to be unintentionally judging God’s work. For example, we may see someone who appears to be open and trusting. We may decide that they are naive and have never had their trust betrayed but the exact opposite may be true – the trust may be the result of the Life of Christ which has triumphed in enabling them to continue to trust in spite of that trust having been abused! Or we may know someone who is strong and unshakeable. We might come to the conclusion that they are proud, stubborn, arrogant and unteachable. But we may be completely wrong, what we may not see is that this strength is the result of the work of Christ which has come about through much weakness, humbling and brokenness – it is His Strength which we have mistaken as being natural strength. In judging these things incorrectly based upon our limited knowledge, we have in fact judged the fruit and work of the Tree of Life in their lives. And who are we to criticise and judge God and His work in someone? We need to instead discern and know LIFE! The Hebrew word for Life means something which is flowing, fresh, active, alive, sustaining and maintaining. His Life must be what we discern, perceive and focus upon.
Righteous and Unrighteous Judgment
The way I see it at this point in time is that we may only be given authority to judge others in the areas in which we ourselves have already been judged/dealt with. You won’t be so likely to point out a speck with an attitude of pride but humility and love when you know what a huge beam you just had in your own eye! We must come from a position of knowing that we will all stand before God and that we are all sinners.
“Therefore you have no excuse or defense, O man, whoever you are who judges and condemns another. For in posing as judge and passing sentence on another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge are habitually practicing the very same things that you censure and denounce.” Romans 2:1-3. We frequently find that people will accuse us of something we clearly see they themselves are guilty of! We can so easily spot the inconsistencies, contradictions and problems in one another’s life, but are often blind to them in our own life.
The issue seems to be righteous versus unrighteous judgment and judging by the Spirit of Life rather than by outward appearances or what WE think is right or wrong. So often we are just so completely wrong or deceived in our judgments because we don’t know people’s hearts. Instead of judging from heart knowledge, we judge from head knowledge of what appears to be either good or bad to us. Our personal judgments of what is good can be just as wrong and dangerous as our judgments of what is bad! The whole deception of Satan was to get Adam and Eve to rely upon themselves and THEIR knowledge and reasoning rather than simply relying on Life and Knowledge from God, and this deception still works with us as descendants of Adam.
We must be careful never to judge by the external and by what we think we see, but by what we are shown by the Spirit of God. “You set yourselves up to judge according to the flesh and by what you see. I do not set Myself up to judge or condemn anyone. Yet even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in making it, but there are two of us, I and the Father Who sent Me. I have much to say about you and to judge and condemn. But He Who sent Me is true and I tell the world only the things that I have heard from Him.” John 8:15,16, 26. We cannot justify judging our brothers and sisters by what we observe in the natural as if the Bible gives license to that; but balance is required because by the same token we must not avoid having to judge when it is necessary and required.
According to Paul, we are not required to pass judgment on the world, but rather on those who are part of us! We normally do the opposite; we judge those who are of the world who are “so much worse than us” (such pride, self righteousness, and hypocrisy on our part!) but we wouldn’t dare speak out against the sin that is in the Body; yet Paul seemed to do the opposite: “I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers? God decides on the outsiders, but we need to decide when our brothers and sisters are out of line and, if necessary, clean house.” 1 Cor 5:12,13 TM.
Paul appears to have judged others; even from a distance:”As for my attitude, though I am absent from you in body, I am present in spirit, and I have already decided and passed judgment as if actually present, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, on the man who has committed such a deed.” 1 Cor 5:3,4. Righteous judgment is something that is necessary but not often practiced today. Paul seemed to have an understanding of this whereby he knew that God would hold him personally responsible if he did not give the WHOLE counsel of God to the people.(Acts 20:26-27). His understanding of this may have been from the prophet Ezekiel who was told by God: “If I say to the wicked, You shall surely die, and you do not give him warning or speak to warn the wicked to turn from his wicked way to save his life, the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity but his blood will I require at your hand. Yet if you warn the wicked and he turn not from his wickedness, he shall die in his iniquity, but you have delivered yourself. Again, if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and some gift which I lay before him he perverts into an occasion to sin and he commits iniquity, he shall die; because you have not given him warning, he shall die in his sin and his righteous deeds which he has done shall not be remembered but his blood will I require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he is warned; also you have delivered yourself from guilt.” Ezekiel 3:18-21. This is quite a responsibility indeed.
Many people have already judged themselves simply by accepting or rejecting the Word of God. “Anyone who rejects Me and persistently sets Me at naught, refusing to accept My teachings, has his judge; for the very message that I have spoken will itself judge and convict him at the last day.” John 12:48. “Jesus said, I came into this world for judgment, as a Separator in order that there may be separation between those who believe on Me and those who reject Me, to make the sightless see and to make those who see become blind. Some Pharisees who were near, hearing this remark, said to Him, Are we also blind? Jesus said to them, If you were blind, you would have no sin; but because you now claim to have sight, your sin remains. If you were blind you would not be guilty of sin, but because you insist, We do see clearly, you are unable to escape your guilt.” John 9:39-41.
We must ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us those areas in our lives where we do not see clearly or are blind. This is one area in which our brothers and sisters can be very helpful in helping get the speck (or beam!) out of our eye.When we are looking in the mirror of the Word we can only see one side of ourselves; sometimes others can show us things which they can see that we are not able to see ourselves, BUT it must be in the Way, Truth and Life of Christ or it will bring destruction to a person. Our enemy delights in accusing and condemning us by pointing out all our faults and getting us occupied with analyzing ourselves and trying to make Self better or more acceptable. It cannot be done. There is NOTHING in us naturally that is right and holy which is why we so desperately need Christ to redeem us; not only from sin but also from Self! Discernment is essential (read this article for more about discernment and judging: Being Discerning).
May He give us Grace to be willing to see and receive His judgment on our own flesh and to exercise righteous judgment from Him.
“For if we searchingly examined ourselves detecting our shortcomings and recognizing our own condition, we should not be judged and penalty decreed. But when we fall short and are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined and chastened so that we may not be condemned to eternal punishment along with the world.” 1 Corinthians 11:31,32.