To Judge or Not to Judge?
What Is Judging and What Is Discerning?
“That is not right – I am certainly not going to follow in his footsteps.”
“That’s wrong – he’s wrong.”
“How dare you judge me – the Bible tells us that we are not to judge.”
I’m sure you have said things similar to this. Well let’s talk about what Jesus says about judging one another.
Does the Bible tell us that we are not allowed to judge between right and wrong, good and bad, truth and error? – No way does the Bible tell us that we can’t judge about how to do things or about how we ought to live. How do we obey God’s commands to uphold the truth and to take a stand against wickedness and evil and not judge? We have to have a discerning attitude without being judgmental.
Listen as Carol reads from Matthew 7:1-11
Matthew 7:1-11 (NIV)
1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. 6 "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.
7 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
9 "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?
11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
So here is the ultimate question; “Are we to judge?” Let’ take a closer look at this scripture.
- The first thing we must do is to put Jesus’ warning into the context in which it was given. Jesus 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. Let me read this again this time in the NLT. 1 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.
- This is not so much a warning to not judge but to be careful how we judge. It is warning that we are going to be judged by the same standard that we are judging the other person. That is why it might be best to not be judgmental. There is a difference between being discerning and being judgmental.
- It is a warning not to judge someone else with one type of standard and then judging ourselves with a different standard.
- We overhear a person talking about another person and we mentally call them a gossip. But we go out and tell the same story to another person and we call it a form of information, FYI.
- We might even say “I’m not gossiping but I need to give you some information on…”
- Here is the catch we need to be looking at God’s standards for our lives and living obediently to what the Scripture has to say. We need to weigh our own action in God’s standard.
- When warranted, we are to judge someone’s actions and words according to truth found in the Scripture. We need to judge right from wrong but not the person.
- Paul talks about discerning good from bad and so does Jesus talk about discernment. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 (NIV) that we are to “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.
- Testing is judging between right and wrong. Discernment / judging is when we choose between righteousness and unrighteousness.
- The devil tells us that we are bad for making a judgment call. His job is to remove our ability to measure truth by convincing us that it is wrong to judge. It is not wrong to discern righteousness – what is wrong is to have a judgmental attitude toward people.
- It is the standard by which we judge and the motives behind our judgment that Jesus is critical of. Jesus gives us a standard for judging. Look at these two passages:
- John 7:24 (NASB) “stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment." In other words we aren’t to judge a person by their clothes or by the way they look.
- John 12:48 (NIV) 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. Let God the Father take care or the person’s destiny – we have enough to do to stay on the straight and narrow.
- Judgment is not according to appearance or personal preference, but according to God’s own righteous judgment which is revealed in His word. It is God’s Word that judges between right and wrong and we are to test all things by evaluating it against the word of God.
- The Bible constantly reiterates a foundational truth - God does not change. His word does not change. Anything that disagrees with God’s unchanging word is not true.
- Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My word will never pass away"
- Because God’s Word cannot change, we can confidently use it for discernment. We can trust it as our guide and our judge. It gives us the truth so that we might judge what we ought to be and do.
- So Jesus is talking about our judgmental attitude - we are not to have a judgmental attitude. That does not mean that we aren’t to discern what righteous and unrighteous behavior is.
- The word discern might best be defined by the word to detect with our senses and our inner senses. It also means to recognize or identify as separate and distinct – it is a matter of discerning right from wrong. It is a matter of us recognizing what we ought to be doing for the Lord and what we shouldn’t be doing.
- The quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is out there life.
ILLUSTRATION: The Lone Ranger and Tonto stopped in the desert for the night. After they got their tent all set up, both men fell sound asleep. Some hours later, Tonto wakes the Lone Ranger and says, "Kemo Sabe, look towards sky, what you see?"
The Lone Ranger replies, "I see millions of stars." "What that tell you?" asked Tonto. The Lone Ranger ponders for a minute then says, "Astronomically speaking, it tells me there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo. Time wise, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three in the morning. Theologically, it’s evident the Lord is all-powerful and we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What’s it tell you, Tonto?"
Tonto is silent for a moment, and then says, "Kemo Sabe, you are dumber than a box of rocks! It means someone stole tent."
- The tent being stolen is a simple discernment. But when Tonto called the Lone Ranger “dumber than a box of rocks” that’s being judgmental; that is what Jesus is against.
- We all need to be discerning in life without being judgmental but sometimes, it’s hard to separate the two.
- Jesus teaches about the importance of being discerning without being judgmental. I think the scripture outlines three areas of discernment here: discernment of self; discernment of evil; and the discernment of God
- DISCERNMENT OF SELF - Matt. 7:1-2 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” The Message translates these first 2 verses as "Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, and criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. You better believe it.
- Jesus is talking about being judgmental toward others. He is talking about being harsh, critical, condemning, etc. When we are discerning – we are discerning what our thoughts and actions are – not a person.
- Consider some areas, for example, where we should not judge one another.
- We should not judge people’s motives. We can’t know why they do what they do. Only the Lord knows this.
- We should not judge the service of another believer.
- The Scripture is plain we should not judge outward appearances, because we all know that it is the heart that counts. Remember when long hair was in for guys – now I wish I could have that hair back. We called the guys hippies. Grandma Cook
- James 4:11-12 (NIV) 11 Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you--who are you to judge your neighbor?
- James’ words are very powerful and plain. WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE TO JUDGE SOMEONE ELSE? By judging others we put ourselves in the roll of God and this is dangerous territory. It’s what caused Satan to get kicked out of heaven – He thought he could do a better job than God and wanted to be God!
- Matthew 7:3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
- Jesus is saying that we need to be judging ourselves: our actions and reactions, attitudes, and thoughts. Check out who we are and not the other person’s actions and reactions, attitudes and thoughts.
- Often, when we point our finger at someone else we are far guiltier in our own lives of some kind of sinful behavior.
- I read this some place “Why is it that my dirt is never as dirty as your dirt, from my perspective? My sin never seems as sinful as the sin of others either.” Check out who is doing the judging – us.
- Jesus is making it real clear here that our dirt is probably dirtier and that the speck of sawdust in the other person’s eye is tiny compared to the plank in our eye. Take care of the sin in your own life first.
- DISCERNMENT OF EVIL – Jesus then tells us that we need to discern the evil that is present in the world in which we live. "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7:6 (NIV) This is a rather strange verse that needs some explanation.
- The dogs and pigs of Jesus’ time were not quite what we think of today. “We’re not talking Lassie and Miss Piggy here!”For instance, dogs weren’t the nice, domesticated puppies many of us have at home. The dogs of Jesus’ day were wild, feeding on garbage and road kill.
- Dogs and pigs were viewed with contempt. Pigs were considered unclean, and the ancient Jews were forbidden to eat them – it other words sour krout and pork. No self-respecting Jew would go anywhere near a pig.
- What is Jesus talking about in this verse? There are some people who treat the gospel and all things having to do with God and Christ with scorn and contempt. Jesus is saying that there are some folks that you are not going to have an impact on – so move on.
ILL.- During a cold winter, a farmer found a snake stiff and frozen with cold. The snake said to the Farmer, "If you pick me up and hold me to your stomach, your body will make me warm." The Farmer said, "If I do that you will bite me." The Snake answered, "Why would I do that if you save me?" The Farmer had compassion on the Snake, and taking it up, placed it in his bosom. The Snake was quickly revived by the warmth and resumed its natural instincts, bit its benefactor, inflicting on him a mortal wound.
"Oh," cried the Farmer, "Why did you bite me after I saved you?"
"You knew I was a snake when you picked me up," answered the Snake. With his last breath the farmer said, "I am rightly served for pitying a scoundrel."
The moral of this little parable is that if you cozy up to a snake / sin / sinful people you’re liable to get bit!
- Matt. 7:6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”
- Let us carry the moral of the snake story a little farther. There are many in this world that want to bait and trap Christians. They are out to destroy Christianity. We need to be discerning in life when it comes to sharing the Good News. Some people will not listen. And some people will even do worse than not listen. Some will turn on you and attack you! Or abuse you! Or cuss you! Or manipulate you into not believing or following.
- Jesus is saying that there are times that we need to avoid the evil of the world. I have at times tried to share the Good News of Christ and the person has tried to twist and destroy it. Now I think that I am pretty good at defending my faith. But there are some folks that will try and destroy the faith you have. Jesus is saying that we need to discern who are going to listen and if they are not willing to receive the free gift of grace it is time to move on.
- Sometimes it does absolutely no good to share the gospel with some people. All they will do is spit in your face, so to speak. We need to be discerning. Don’t waste your time trying to witness to some people, but at the same time, don’t use this as an excuse not to witness for Christ.
- But there are times that we must take the chance to share the Good News even if it isn’t accepted well. The classes on Becoming A Contagious Christian will help us in the area of sharing our faith without being put down or bit.
Steven Covey tells in 7 Habits for Highly Effective People, the story of a man who riding on a bus and was greatly disturbed at a young boy who was running up and down the aisle of the bus screaming and laughing at the top of his lungs, while the young boy’s Dad just sat idly by. The man could not believe that someone would be so rude and inconsiderate, of the other people around him. He then began to notice other unflattering things about the man. His hair was unkempt so he was probably homeless, and his eyes were bloodshot, so he had to be an alcoholic. Finally not able to take anymore of the child this man went and approached the dad and demanded that he get control of his young son.
The dad seeming to be shaken from a trance apologized to the man and told him that the boy’s mom, his wife, had just died at the hospital after struggling all night and he was trying to think of a way to break the news to the boy. Don’t judge – if you do you will be judged by the same standard.
Next week we will look at discerning God – We got to ask so we might know. Matthew 7:7 (NIV)
7 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.