To Judge or Not to Judge?
Judging. Wow, what a loaded word! It seems so politically incorrect to judge anything in our society. In this social era of maximum tolerance, the only group society seems to judge and condemn is Christians, who are perceived as narrow-minded, bigoted and inflexible. But, like it or not, we are all judging something and someone all the time. Someone’s clothes … hair … car … house … cleanliness … weight … intellect … attitude … work performance … language. Some say it is wrong to judge, that we are not to judge—that judging is up to God. People say that He is the only one who has the right and authority to judge. So they will often quote, “Judge not lest ye be judged.”
But in the Bible, we are called in many places to judge not only ourselves, but also others. Some examples: to correct our children’s actions, we parents judge their behavior; to pick elders and church leaders, we judge each candidate’s conduct and character; when voting for Godly leaders, we judge politicians’ policies and motivations; we judge the words and content of false Bible teachers; we confront gossip, addiction or adulterous behavior. The Bible even calls us to be a third party to help settle a dispute between two Christian brothers.
How can we carry out these duties without judging the individuals? What a dilemma—to judge or not to judge? How do we know when to judge and when to sit tight? Sorting out these contradictory instructions and scenarios is complex. I don’t want to oversimplify, but most of the confusion can be clarified by boiling the quandary down to this: 1) What’s at the center of your heart motivating your judging behavior? 2) What lenses are you using to assess the situation? And 3) Are you judging the person’s heart or their actions?
Only God can see into hearts and truly judge the full scope of an event. We can judge conduct, but only hypothesize about the motivation leading to the person’s conduct. God knows everything and judges accurately, impartially and according to absolute truth. We are too limited to be able to make the same quality judgments. We are called to judge conduct (our next Stepping Stones devotional will look at that element a little more), but not to judge someone’s heart. Most importantly, we do need to make sure our motives for judging conduct have a Godly focus. We need to follow His call to be salt and light in the troubling situation, focusing on serving the person we are judging and not belittling them.
Today when you judge someone, try to determine whether you are judging that person’s heart or his conduct. Judging the heart is a dangerous area that needs to be approached with extreme caution because it is only for God. If you are called to judge another person’s conduct, first examine your own heart and motives. Are you using me-centered agendas and lenses? Be honest with yourself. When you judge the right things for the right reasons in the right way, a big burden will be lifted for you and often for the other person as well. You will experience freedom in your relationships. Once you have the “judgment,” then glorify God as you present that assessment to the individual you are called to judge and serve. You are called to judge, but whether you judge the right thing with the right motivation or you judge their heart and have a me-centered motivation and delivery, it’s your decision, so choose well.
Dear Father God, I know I am sometimes quick to judge—and to condemn. Please forgive me. Help me understand my own issues better and resolve my needs. May I never feel compelled to judge and ridicule others to lessen my own fears, anxieties, insecurities and inadequacies. I desire a heart that beats with Yours and wants to love and serve those You put into my life. Help me to have a discerning lens to understand their struggles. Help me lovingly and clearly to teach them Your word. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One quickest to forgive, Jesus Christ. And all God’s children say AMEN!
“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’” 1 Samuel 16:7
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;’” Luke 6:37
‘There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” James 4:12