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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Is it wrong to judge others?

Today I'd like to spend a little time discussing a topic that seems to pop up every now and then, usually in a class study situation. I'm referring to someone saying something like, we can't judge others because the Bible says we can't and then they cite the above verse.

I deliberately only provided verse 1 of Matthew 7 and did not cite the whole thought being expressed by Christ there because that's the usual pattern the questioner's use. They only quote verse 1 as a basis for their belief that we can't judge others - in anything! I think that the main reason that someone has a false belief in the matter of "judging" others is because, even though they've heard or read the above passage, they've probably never really studied it. That's what we're going to do right now.

As a prelude to the spiritual part of our lesson, I'm going to relate to you a little story that will serve as an illustration to our study of "judging." To our lesson regarding the type of "judging" that Christ is speaking against there in Matt. 7. We'll look at the whole statement made by Christ and we'll also look at a couple of other Bible references on this subject of "judging." But first, the story....

This story was told many years ago by a man who's probably remembered today by only a few reading this editorial. His name was Gabriel Heatter and he was a radio commentator for the Mutual Broadcasting Co. The few who remember him will probably remember his opening line each evening which he started off his WW2 news broadcasts with: "There's good news tonight." Here's his little story that he entitled, "Golden Shoes."

He said that he had met a man who had an unusual watch fob hanging from his vest - a tiny pair of golden shoes. He asked the man what was the significance of the shoes, if they were an award or something like that. The man replied that they were not an award, simply a reminder. He then asked the man what the shoes could possibly remind him of. It's the man's answer that serves our subject.

The man was an executive of a large business organization. He and four other men made all of the decisions for this business. For a matter to be acted upon it must be unanimously agreed to by all five of them or it was to be dropped. One of the matters that once came before them was a proposed promotion of a young man in their company. The other four agreed to the promotion, but this man said, "No, that he felt the young man wasn't qualified. That he filled his current position well, but didn't seem serious enough for a more responsible position. He always had a ready laugh or a funny story for every situation." The matter was dropped.

The executive said that a few days later he happened to be passing by the young man's house and met a doctor just leaving it. He asked the doctor if someone there was sick and the doctor told him "Yes" and that it involved a very strange case. It seemed that the patient was the young man's wife who was very ill and the doctor told him that if it weren't for her husband doing everything he could to keep her spirits up, she might have died a long time ago.

The doctor said that the young man must never let his wife see his concern that she might die at anytime. He must always be ready to encourage her and cheer her up. He added that the young man had just about worn himself out trying to find funny and hopeful things in order to keep her life bright and full of courage. The doctor said, "I couldn't have done it. He changed his whole personality so that he can cheer her up. It's miraculous how he has given her life."

The executive said that he couldn't sleep that night for thinking about how he could get the executive board back together and revisit the matter of the young man's promotion, and what he could do to remind himself, to make him remember a very important lesson. His wife had given him the watch and he had the golden shoes made by a jeweler to always remind him: "to never judge a man unless I could put myself in his shoes and know all the reasons why he conducts himself as he does."

Okay, let's apply our little story to the spiritual aspects of our lesson. First off, we have to add verse 2 to our beginning scripture which is usually neglected by those who misinterpret Christ's teaching in Matt. 7. Verse 2 reads, "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."

You see, what Christ is talking about here is not that we can't make judgments, but rather HOW we are to judge. Think about it, we make judgments every day. Most of the time we call them "decisions" but aren't our "decisions" based upon our judgments? Of course they are. We even make decisions on who we choose to associate with based upon their actions or deeds. Based upon the open and visible aspects of their behavior. His admonition in verse 2 simply means that, when we judge, we are to do so fairly and righteously, considering that this is how we want to also be judged.

There's a passage, again from the 7th chapter of Matthew, from the same portion of the sermon being preached by Christ where He said, "Judge not......." He says that we are to "beware of" and thus avoid "false prophets (teachers)" and we'll know who they are because we'll "recognize them by their fruits." (Vs 16 & 20) We'll be able to see their actions, hear their words and can judge them by those things.

Here's another quick example of exercising judgment from the scriptures: Romans 16:17 says we are to "watch out for those who cause divisions," who teach contrary to the Gospel and when we recognize them, we are to "mark and avoid them." Again I ask you, aren't we judging, making decisions regarding who we, as Christians are to associate with?

A classic example of "judging" righteously can be seen by looking at good old Job and the judgment passed on him by his three friends. They were looking at all of the terrible things happening to Job and seeing those things as evidence that Job was lacking in righteousness. That he was evil in some way. Of course Job was denying this and rightly so, he was righteous. They couldn't see his heart.

Here's our final thought on this subject today. We cannot judge the "heart" of someone. Only God "knows the heart" (Acts 15:8) thus is the only Judge qualified to judge it because He is the "righteous Judge." (2Tim. 4:8) And, because we want to be judged fairly and righteously, we have to exercise that same spirit when we make decisions based on our judgments.

The same principle involved in "judging" can be seen in teaching and directing others in their Christian walk. In James 3:1 we can read this principle and what it's telling us there is that we are not the standard by which they are to live. IE: we have "warts" just like everyone else. Therefore, we don't want to be judged by the standards by which we judge others.

When it comes to the judgment of another's "righteousness" or "heart" it's not our judgment to make. David gives us who the only Judge qualified to do that in his Psalm 9:8. "He shall judge the world in righteousness, He shall administer judgment to the people in uprightness."

Ron Covey

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