In Luke 6:36, Jesus taught,“Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” In context, this verse can summarize the preceding passage where Jesus exhorted us to love our enemies. But it also applies to the subsequent verses where Jesus taught, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (vs. 37). The application of mercy often precludes the need to judge. James noted in James 2:13 that “judgment is without mercy to the one who hasn’t shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment!”
But how can we go through life without judging? If that were the case Scripture would seem to contradict Jesus. Let’s see if we can apprehend what He wants us to understand. In studying the Bible I can find at least three instances when it is appropriate to judge.
1. When the Holy Spirit prompts us to rebuke another’s wrong behavior. See 2 Samuel 12 where the prophet Nathan rebukes David for his adulterous affair with Bathsheba. Look at Acts 5 where Peter confronts Ananias and Sapphira for lying.
2. When we are righteously upholding God’s Word and its standards of behavior. Paul rebuked Peter in Galatians 2:11 for his hypocrisy. In 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 he warned the Corinthian Christians not to associate with believers engaged in immoral behavior and he gave the Ephesians a list of sins to avoid—Ephesians 5:3-7.
3. When we are selecting leaders—Titus 1:6-9. There is obviously a need to make judgment in determining whether a believer meets the qualifications necessary to be a deacon or elder.
So what does Jesus mean when He tells us not to judge others? May I suggest that there are at least five instances when we have no business judging others.
1. We don’t have the right to judge another person’s motives unless there is a confession of guilt. Only God can see into the heart and we must beware not to be junior Holy Spirits. While I can see what you do, I cannot see what you think.
2. We don’t have the right to judge another for behavior we ourselves are guilty of—this is what we call hypocrisy. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 20:10, “Differing weights and varying measures—both are detestable to the Lord.” Paul warned the Jews in Romans 2:17-24 for blatant hypocrisy.
3. We should not judge when our heart is not right with God—the result is a bitter or critical disposition or false judgment. Judas objected to Mary washing Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume. But the man was a thief. His heart was not right and therefore his judgment was polluted. (John 12:4-6)
4. We are not to have a disproportionate sense of justice. Jesus said don’t go after the speck in your brother’s eye when your own eye contains a log. We also need to beware against selective judgment. Too many Christians heavily denounce people engaged in homosexuality or those who have performed abortions while remaining mute regarding divorce and unmarried couples living together—rampant problems in our Christian community. We look bad to the world and we hurt God’s reputation when we pick up the bullhorn against selected sins while ignoring greed, anger, malice, slander, filthy language, lying, stealing and the rest of the sins that are consistently listed as abhorrent to God (Proverbs 6:16-19 and Colossians 3:5-10). Holiness is never partially determined.
5. We are not qualified to judge. In Luke 6:39, Jesus asks, “Can the blind guide the blind?” When we lack the information or maturity necessary to make a judgment call, prudence demands silence!
We should remember that when we set a standard we also will be measured against that standard. If we give mercy, mercy will be shown to us. If we cut slack, slack will be cut for us. Conversely, harsh or legalistic behavior breeds reciprocity. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 21:13, “The one who shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will himself also call out and not be answered.”
What keeps us from being qualified to judge?
1. We do not know all the facts.
2. We are unable to read motives.
3. We find it impossible to be totally objective.
4. We lack "the big picture."
5. We live with blind spots.
6. We are prejudiced and have blurred perspective.
7. We, ourselves, are imperfect and inconsistent.—Chuck Swindoll in The Grace Awakening
Which of us would dare stand before God and say, ‘My God, judge me as a I have judged my fellow-men’? We have judged our fellow-men as sinners; if God had judged us like that we would be in hell. God judges us through the marvelous Atonement of Jesus Christ.—Oswald Chambers inStudies in the Sermon on the Mount
©2005 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)