In our last issue of the News, we considered the judging that is not forbidden (and the righteous judging that is required). We need now to consider the judging that is forbidden: “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matt. 7:1).
We must not judge someone with regard to “adiaphora,” that is, in things indifferent. Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8 teach that this is a biblical category. For example, if a person eats only vegetables it is not per se sinful, so one should not judge or despise him or her for it. “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17).
We must not judge in matters that do not belong to us or enter into quarrels that are none of our business. “He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears” (Prov. 26:17). Thus Peter exhorts, “But let none of you suffer as ... a busybody in other men’s matters” (I Pet. 4:15).
We must not judge without being aware of the pertinent facts of the case. If it truly belongs to you to adjudicate on a matter, you need to hear both sides (so to speak) of the case. Without hearing both sides, you are in no position to judge. Just because one side is forward in presenting his or her view to you is no guarantee that he or she is in the right. “He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him” (Prov. 18:17).
We must not judge other people’s motives. Do you know who was guilty of judging someone’s motives in what is perhaps the most famous biblical example of this sin? The devil! Satan judged Job’s motives: “Doth Job fear God for naught?” (Job 1:9). So wicked and hardened was the devil in this evil that he made it a charge of sin against holy Job, a charge Satan made to God Himself! But the devil was dead wrong! Contrary to Satan’s accusation (10), Job did not serve God for what he could get out of it. He served God because he loved and feared Him (1). God alone knows man’s secret motives. “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God” (I Cor. 4:5).
We must not judge without mercy. Love requires us not to impute evil motives to good actions. Love requires us to put the best construction we can on doubtful actions. We must not “make a man an offender for a word” (Isa. 29:21). We must also remember mitigating circumstances and that we too are weak and sinful. “How would I have reacted in that difficult situation? Maybe I, too, would have ...”
We must not judge out of hypercriticalness. Some people love to judge, to criticize, to put down. They are always looking for a fault which they promptly magnify out of all proportion. They are glad when they have something to criticize and they are sad when they can find no fault for then they have nothing to say.
We must not judge out of self-righteousness. This is the sin of the Pharisee in the Lord’s parable: “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luke 18:11-12). When we put down others, it is often to make ourselves look good and feel good, for when we are pointing our finger at the sins of others, it is hard to remember our own iniquities. If we are not confessing our sins to God, and thereby experiencing forgiveness by Christ’s cross and Spirit, this is a sort of substitute. “I must have relief from the guilt of my sins, but I’m not going to humble myself before the Triune God. Instead, I’ll talk up how bad others are and then I’ll not feel so guilty.”
We must not judge as if we were the final judges. God alone is the supreme judge and He judges according to His Word (John 12:48). Our judgments are provisional. Jehovah is the judge of all the earth and He is my judge and your judge too. So we must never think or speak as if our judgments are supreme and final.
Having seen the types of judging that are sinful, we must also consider the sphere in which sinful judgments are especially forbidden. Let us read three verses that follow almost immediately after our Lord’s prohibition in Matthew 7:1: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (3-5). Your brother! Not so much your physical brother, but your spiritual brother (or sister) in the church!
Obviously sinful judgment is prohibited in all spheres: family, home, workplace, school, neighbourhood, etc., but in Matthew 7 it is especially forbidden regarding one’s fellow saints in the church. These are the ones we should especially love (I Cor. 13:4-7) and so be least judgmental about (Matt. 7:1-5).
But if we are not walking with the Lord, the exact opposite is often true. We show patience and kindness to almost everybody else, but we sinfully judge our brothers and sisters in the church. These things ought not be!
We must not judge unkindly the motives of our brethren, or judge them rashly or unheard, or look askance at every word or act. We must not be hypercritical about an elder, a minister or deacon so that everything or most things they do are viewed with suspicion or a jaundiced eye. Nor must we judge them out of self-righteousness to make ourselves look or feel good. Instead, as those redeemed by Christ and “born again,” let us “love one another with a pure heart fervently” (I Pet. 1:22-23).
- Volume: 14
- Issue: 8
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851