Bulletin Articles

Bulletin Articles

A Guide to Judging Others

“Jesus said not to judge others,” didn’t He? We are often reminded of this because in today’s culture, one thing is made very clear: we aren’t supposed to judge anyone! Of course, sometimes what’s missed here is that those who say this are, in fact, being quite judgmental against those whom they are rebuking. This type of irony is common. More to the point, however, is that we do need to pay attention to what Jesus actually said about this, so let’s think more about it:

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:1-6)

First, notice that Jesus did not say, “Do not judge” (period). He warned about making bad judgments, not about making any judgments. To say that no judgments can ever be made is untenable and impossible to consistently live with. There is no way to deal with others without making some kind of judgments. Further, verse 6 shows that sometimes we must make judgments about casting our metaphorical pearls before swine. Jesus, then, is warning about judging unfairly, judging hypocritically, and judging hyper-critically. He is warning that whatever standard of judgment we use against others will be used against us. If we are not merciful, we cannot expect mercy. If we are unwilling to give the benefit of the doubt, we cannot expect to receive that from others. If we are not willing to forgive, we cannot expect forgiveness. It is in this same context in which Jesus also made the statement, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you” (Matt. 7:12). If we judge with this in mind, our method and manner of judgment will be greatly affected.

After Jesus had healed a man on the Sabbath, some were seeking to take His life. He ended His exchange by saying, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Jesus refers to “righteous judgment.” The problem, again, isn’t with making judgments per se. The problem is the kind of judgments we make and the way we make them. How then do we properly judge? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Judge fairly. Don't just look at the outward issues (cf. also 1 Sam. 16:6-7). Jesus was misjudged because His opponents only saw the superficial aspects of who He was. Had they looked deeper, they could have known and appreciated Him as they should have. Sadly, their own prejudices blinded them to the truth. Can this happen to us?

2. Have pure motives. Make sure your own heart is right before making judgments about others. The greatest motive is love (1 Cor. 13), and we should always seek what is best for others. This includes giving the benefit of any doubt to others.

3. Show a spirit of forgiveness. Avoid the carnal “gotcha” mentality of this world. Jesus taught, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matt. 6:14-15).

4. Be cautious about your own problems. Don't use hypocritical, double standards. This is the point about removing the log from your own eye before trying to remove a speck from another’s. Paul wrote, “Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things” (Rom. 2:1). He further taught, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).

5. Stay humble. This is the only way to see clearly. God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble (1 Pet. 5:5). The fact that we all have stumbled should keep us humble as we seek grace both for ourselves and others. Arrogant judgment is to be avoided as a sin, but humble judgment in line with God’s will is to be commended.

By following these guidelines, we can avoid the erroneous judgments Jesus warned against, and instead learn to judge appropriately.