Judge Righteous Judgment

Warren E. Berkley

People get all mixed up about “judging.” As soon as you point out some sin or error, the charge is made, “You are judging. The Bible says judge not.”

Let’s clear this up. In Matt. 7:1-5, Jesus did say, “Judge not,” but there are more than these two words in the passage! If Jesus had said nothing but “judge not,” we might be warranted in drawing the popular conclusion. But that isn’t all He said. Jesus was prohibiting the kind of one-sided, hypocritical judging that was common from the hypocrites of His day. And what He actually taught is – Before we judge others, we need to judge ourselves. It is wrong to constantly look for faults in others when we have major spiritual problems. Jesus teaches – after we take the plank out of our own eye, we are to do something: “remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Now think about this. Jesus did not say, “leave the speak in your brother’s eye.” He said – HE COMMANDED US to remove it. So the commonly quoted passage does not prohibit all judging.

And in fact, Jesus tells us in another place: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment,” (Jno. 7:24). There is a type of judging that we should refrain from: judgments based on appearance. Jesus would not do this. Neither should we.

A good example of this is given in James chapter two. A man comes into an assembly and appears to be rich. He is given special treatment. Another comes in, “a poor man in filthy clothes,” and he receives no warmth, welcome or hospitality. James says this is wrong. “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality,” (Jas. 2:1). This is an example of judging based on appearance. Jesus never did this, and we ought to follow His example. We are to judge “righteous judgment,” but snobbery and partiality is not justified. James illustrates the sin of partiality – then says it is not compatible with faith in Christ; is prompted by evil thoughts; is disrespectful to God; is dishonoring the victim; is in disobedience to the royal law; and manifest no mercy.

This is based on the fundamental truth that God “shows no partiality,” (see Acts 10:34 & Eph. 6:9). Jesus showed no partiality either. If we are children of God and followers of Christ, we will shun hateful, exclusive attitudes of prejudice. We will not make judgments about people based on any morally neutral characteristic (skin color, size, ethnic group, cost of clothing, etc.). This is something Jesus would not do.

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