JESUS AND JUDGING
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. (Matt. 7:1)
First of all, as Jesus’s disciples, we must differentiate between making judgments on people based on our own behaviour and discerning by an objective standard. The issues are: “Is it legitimate to judge?” and, “By what standard do we judge?” There is a difference between judging and discerning as Jesus showed in the following verses.
“Don’t judge. Don’t throw pearls to pigs. Watch out for false prophets.” These are not contradictory but complementary statements.
Our judgment of other people comes from our expectation of them which is often based on the standards we apply to ourselves. How often I have found myself measuring another by my own attitudes and behaviour and finding that they fall short! Included in this kind of judging is the attitude of condemnation. Jesus made clear that judging another in order to condemn is not in keeping with the mercy which is the basis of God’s dealings with us and which reflects the spirit of Torah.
This kind of judging is what the hypocrite does. He sets his standard – himself – and forgets that he does not measure up to his own standard, but is eager to condemn another for his failure to measure up. Underneath the judging, once again, is the attitude of contempt towards a lesser person, which is abhorrent to God.
Does it mean that all judging is wrong? If I mean judging in order to condemn because I think I am better than someone else even though I do the same things as they do, yes, it is wrong. Jesus condemned this kind of judging.
However, we are not to be mindless in the way we relate to other people. There is a form of judging which is both legitimate and necessary in order to protect us from people who have no intention of obeying the truth.
Do not give to 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. (Matt. 7: 6)
Jesus’s reference to dogs comes from Proverbs 26:11.
As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.
Peter used the same illustration to show that people who have heard the gospel but choose not to believe it and who return to their evil ways are like dogs that return to their vomit and pigs that go back to wallowing in the mud after they have been washed. Not only do such people return to their evil ways, but they also reject and ridicule the gospel, persecute those who preach it and teach false doctrine to lure people away from the truth.
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them, bringing swift destruction on themselves . . . Of them the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit,’ and ‘A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud’. (2 Peter 2: 1; 22)
Discernment is judgment, based not on ourselves but on the objective standard of God’s Word. It is legitimate to check on the validity of a prophet’s words. In the early church, the standard was based on the disposition of Messiah, not on the validity of what the prophet said. If a prophecy was delivered in the disposition of Messiah – that is, in keeping with His yoke of humility and gentleness – the prophet was judged to be a true prophet. If not, he was dismissed as a false prophet. What was the standard of judgment? The fruit of his life. Did his life exhibit the disposition of Messiah? Did he live and speak in the spirit of Torah?
Jesus condemned the hypocrites because their profession contradicted their fruit. A diseased tree cannot produce healthy fruit. A thorn bush cannot produce grapes or figs. A person who claims allegiance to Jesus, and even does miracles, is not necessarily a true talmid of the rabbi. Fruit is evidence of the nature of the stock from which it comes.
Jesus vividly illustrated the way in which true fruit is borne in the life of His disciples.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing. (John 15: 5)
The way we judge people can be very subtle. Take for the example the godly father who disowns his daughter for wayward behaviour. She comes home pregnant out of wedlock, or is busted for doing drugs and he reacts with “righteous” anger. He kicks her out of the house because she has brought disgrace on the family name, and he believes that he has done the right thing.
But wait a minute. Has he not appointed himself as a judge? By what standard is he judging her? Is he acting in the spirit of Torah? Has he forgotten that God has already taken care of her debt? Has he the right to inflict punishment a second time? Where is the mercy which is the weightiest in God’s character?
When we judge, criticise and condemn, we make our home or our church a dangerous place for sinners. The home and the church ought to be the safest place for people to fail because it is the environment where God’s Word is put into practice in the spirit of Torah. If we or our children cannot be safe at home or in the church, where will we or they find safety?
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2: 12-13)
If mercy does not temper our attitudes towards people who fail, we will ourselves fall into the “sin” trap, adding our sin to theirs by what we think of them and the way we treat them.
Let’s paraphrase Jesus’s words:
When you judge, criticise or condemn others for not measuring up to your standard, you place yourself in danger of receiving the same judgment as you pass on them. Make your world a safe place for others to fail by extending mercy and forgiveness instead of building a “holy” wall between yourself and them.
Be careful whom you trust. Measure people by the standard of God’s Word. Don’t waste the truth on those who have no intention of believing the good news. They may turn on you and throw God’s gift back in your face. Don’t follow those who lives don’t match their words. They are false prophets and their intention is to destroy you. Use God’s Word as a measure, not yourself because you are as fallible as the people you condemn.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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