Is judging others wrong? Let’s find out! There is a common belief in our society that Christians are judgmental! In fact, a few years ago, there was some research done looking at the perceptions that non-Christians have about Christians, and according to their research, 87% of non-Christians between the ages of 18 and 30 said that the term judgmental accurately described present day Christianity. In other words, almost nine out of 10 young people outside of Christianity view Christians as judgmental.
Christians have often been perceived as judgmental, and I think that some of this is unfair and inaccurate. Sometimes, if others know that you avoid a particular behavior or there’s something that you don’t partake in, like drugs, or sex outside of marriage, or gossip or something. Even if you never say anything critical about those that do such things, the mere fact that they know that you don’t do something, makes them feel like you’re judging them, whether or not you actually are.
I think one of the reasons that people do this is to feel better about themselves. If you think that sex outside of marriage is wrong, and I’m having sex outside of marriage, then one of the ways I can feel better about myself, is to think of you as being judgmental. If I can label you as judgmental than I can more easily dismiss your opinion, and I can go on feeling guilt-free and whatever behavior that I’m doing. I imagine a fair bit of this happens.
But I don’t want to let Christians off of the hook too easily, sometimes we are unfairly labeled judgmental, and other times it is entirely appropriate. Some people like to lift themselves up and to put others down, like the Pharisee that went to the temple and prayed.
Luke 18:10-12 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’” He was actually looking down on the tax collector who was crying out that he was a sinner and needed forgiveness.
Christians can become a Pharisee, like that guy. If we view our Christianity as something that makes us better than others or if we look down our noses at them at how sinful or wrong they might be, then we become Pharisees
Here is a theological truth: None of us can claim to be anything without Christ. All of us are sinful and broken apart from the grace of God, all of us have rebelled, none of us is good enough to merit entering his presence going to heaven. The only reason that we can have any hope that is that Christ has shown us mercy and grace. With a foundation like that, no Christian should ever use their faith to bolster themselves to show how great they are. And to look down on others.
But unfortunately, some do this. I want us to think critically about this issue of judging. This is what James says: James 4:11-12 “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?”
We have this passage on the one hand, and yet I want us to look at another passage. In 1 Corinthians 5:12 where the apostle Paul writes, “For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?”
Paul says clearly that we shouldn’t be judging people outside of the church. Christians should not expect for unsaved people to act like saved people. True? We shouldn’t judge those who are outside, but Paul leads us to thinks that it is appropriate to judge those who are inside the church. Are we to judge? Or are we not to judge?
What did Jesus say? Matthew 7:1-2 NIV “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” So clearly Jesus is against judging, and yet, just a few verses later, Matthew 7:15-16 NIV “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them…” Jesus doesn’t want us to judge, but he does want us to watch out for false prophets. How do we do that? By judging their fruit. He explains that we recognize them by their fruit, and by fruit he means their outward actions, their choices, and their behaviors. In essence we are judging to see if they are false prophets or true.
I see three categories that judging can fall into:
JUDGING OTHERS IN A POSITIVE WAY
- TO MAKE AN INTERNAL MORAL EVALUATION
Basically, this refers to using your best judgement to examine the evidence, and to form an opinion on what is right or wrong. So you’re looking at something, you’re examining it, you’re saying things about it in your mind to internally decide and make some kind of moral evaluation about whether this action or behavior is good or bad, right?
Several things I want to make clear about this type of judging others
a. It is not a sin to morally evaluate the choices and behaviors and actions of the people around you.
Often people today think that you’re judgmental simply because you formed an opinion in your mind that something might be right or wrong. I want to be clear that it’s not judgmental to form an opinion about whether an action is right or wrong. Someone could come up to you and say, How dare you be judgmental for thinking that what Susie is doing is wrong! And you could reply, “So then, aren’t you being wrong for judging my behavior as you’re saying it’s wrong to judge someone else’s behavior is wrong, and yet you’re judging, my behavior is wrong. So aren’t you wrong. And I think this is kind of the direction that America is currently moving. Somehow judging others is wrong, unless you’re judging them for being judgmental, then it’s okay. We’ve got this double standard about judging. Merely forming an internal opinion, about a behavior, being right or wrong isn’t in and of itself sinful.
b. It is impossible to not make evaluations in life
The fact of the matter is, you will evaluate the behavior and choices of others. If you see someone make a choice, You will either think it’s a good choice or a bad choice or a relatively neutral choice, I want to show you a picture of a guy on a ladder. What do you think of him? You just made a moral evaluation. You may think the guy is super smart or creative or amazing or daring. But most of you think he is crazy-taking his life in his hands. We can’t help but form an internal opinion. It is just a fact of life.
c. We learn by watching and internally evaluating others.
If we could somehow stop ourselves from forming opinions, and never again evaluate the actions or behaviors of others, to put it bluntly, we become less intelligent. If we permanently stop evaluating the actions of others, we would get dumber by the day, and I mean that because part of wisdom is learning from the successes and failures of others.
We don’t have to learn everything from our own experiences and choices, right? Certainly, some things you just have to do it yourself, and fail and learn from your experiences. But the wise person is someone who is always looking around to learn from the world around you to speed up that process, right? If you’re only learning from your own experiences, and never learning from the experiences and choices of others, you are making a huge mistake.
You prepare for parenthood by watching parents and deciding which behaviors are worth replicating and which behaviors are worth avoiding. You prepare for marriage by watching how married people treat each other in deciding what to replicate and what to avoid. You grow as an employee in a business leader by looking at what the people around you are doing and deciding what is worth replicating and what is worth avoiding that. All of that is done by forming internal moral evaluations about the choices and actions of the people around you,
Therefore, this type of judging others, forming an internal moral opinion about whether an action is right or wrong, good or bad. Better or worse, is a good thing, But there are two conditions that have to be met.
First of all, we have to have enough information to evaluate accurately.
I think often Christians fail on this point with only little tidbits of information were quick to assume that we know the whole story, who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong. Often, we don’t know enough, and it takes humility to recognize that any evaluation you have is tentative because you don’t know all the facts. I’m reminded of a story of a woman at the airport, she had several hours to kill, so she went to a book store, bought a book and a bag of cookies and sat down to read for the next several hours waiting for her flight, and as she was their reading, she realized that the guy next to her kept reaching into this bag of cookies and eating, and at first he was kind of thrown off by that. And she doesn’t want to say anything. She wasn’t sure what to think and kept reading, she’d take a cookie and then he’d take a cookie. But the longer she’s reading, the more the more frustrated and angry she’s becoming, until finally there’s one cookie left and she’s curious what he’s going to do, and he pulls the cookie out of the bag breaks it in half and says, Would you like this half of the cookie, and she is like furious, she rips it out of his hand, folds up her book and boards the plane. She sits down trying to cool off, she opens up her bag to grab her book, and there in her bag is her full bag of cookies, it was the guy’s cookies that she kept reaching into to eat.
Now, in a situation like that, you kind of have this aha moment where you realize, I’ve been fuming about something when I was the one in the wrong, but how often do we have similar attitudes and yet never get that aha moment where we get the rest of the story, we get the rest of the information, not even realizing that we completely misread the situation.
I think it’s entirely appropriate and okay to form an opinion so long as you do with a measure of humility, recognizing that you might not have all the facts, that there might be another side to this story. That is why Jesus said in John 7:24, He said, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”
Jesus is saying don’t judge in a shallow way, were you just looking at the surface of things, but to form an opinion, but do it based on truth and Judge correctly.
Secondly, we evaluate based on what God’s Word says.
If you are looking through the lens of scripture you will be judging correctly. The more you know the Word, the more accurate your internal judgment of someone’s actions will be true. By the way it is never wrong to declare the Word of God, what it says about what is right and what is wrong. If you feel judged, it is not the pastor or the teacher that has caused you to feel that way, it is God. The word is our basis for evaluation. We cannot make our decisions merely on the perspective of our culture or family or personal preferences. Our thinking needs to be grounded in scripture.
JUDGING OTHERS IN A NEGATIVE WAY:
- TO PUBLICLY CRITICIZE, MOCK, AND LOOK DOWN ON SOMEONE FOR THEIR ACTIONS
The first way was internal. This is external. This I public. When a person criticizes, and finds fault with something, and they begin to look down upon a person it’s this negative type of judging that the Bible consistently says is sin. I think this can be expressed both an attitude and an action. The attitude is one of superiority and pride, Some look down on others from a place of pride, kind of mentally mocking them.
You may be thinking. I don’t do that, but how often do you do this when you are driving especially. I do. I will admit it. When a guy is going is 15 miles an hour in a 40 mile per hour zone. I get irritated. There’s this internal mocking that can happen, as I think, “they are so stupid to drive that way.” It’s an attitude of superiority that is not merely saying, I think what they’re doing is wrong, but is saying, “I am better than them because I don’t do that. That person is a jerk.”
That this is an important distinction in your heart, and no one else may see this about you, but is this is an inward thing, it’s good to form critical opinions about whether behaviors right or wrong, or good or bad, but when you start using that to build yourself up and to look down on them, to dismiss them, to mock them, to internally, treat them with disdain. That’s being judgmental,
And what happens is that this attitude will outwardly manifest itself. Maybe in how you talk about them or talk to them, it might be the way that you publicize or draw attention to their faults. It could be sharing with others what they did or how stupid they are. It’s this type of judging others, not simply forming an opinion, but the attitude and action that spills from a heart of pride and superiority that James condemns James 4:11 says “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren…”
This version says, do not speak evil. Other versions say, do not slander. When we say slander, typically what we mean by that is spreading false things about someone else, a slander and English implies that is malicious and that it’s false. But the word that’s used here has the meaning in Greek that we literally don’t speak down on one another or don’t speak against one another. It is forbidding any speech, whether true or false, which runs down another person. ome people think, well if its true, I can say it. No you can’t. We should not be publicizing anyone’s faults and failures. In particular if it is about someone’s past. God forgives and forgets.
Who are we to go digging stuff up? James goes on to say, “He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law.” He’s saying that when we’re being judgmental against someone else, there’s a sense in which we’re not just speaking against a brother, but we’re speaking against the law and judging the law, we’re speaking against the Lawgiver. We’re acting as if we know better than God, as if we’re in the position to see as God does. Only God gets to judge, because He alone, knows the thoughts and intentions of someone else’s heart! We don’t! God is the only one to truly be in the position to publicize someone else’s fault if he finds the need to do that. So that kind of judging others is wrong.
There is a third biblical concept we should adhere to and understand:
JUDGING IN SOCIETY
- TO FORMALLY CONFRONT OR ADDRESS AN ISSUE AND RULING BECAUSE OF WHO YOU ARE
There is something that I read on T-shirts and tattoos and it is an interesting sentiment. It says, No man can judge me. Sorry. That is not true. People judge you every day. The owner of the business judges whether or not he or she thinks you are capable of doing a job. The teacher at your son’s school judges whether or not the homework assignment will get an A, B, C, D, or F. It is entirely appropriate if you’re a judge in a court of law, to make a ruling that someone is guilty or innocent. Judges are authorized legally to make determinations, to issue out rulings, there’s nothing wrong with them doing so.
So you can wear a T-shirt that says, no man can judge me. But that really isn’t the truth.
And I think similarly, in the context of church discipline, according to the Bible, Pastors and elders in the local church are authorized by God to determine if someone is persisting in sin and to take steps in confronting them. In a sense there will be judging that takes place in the church. But this is not harsh. This is gently rebuking them. This is trying to bring them into greater obedience with the scriptures. But if there’s persistent willful disobedience and an unwillingness to repent of obvious sin, then they could even be removed them from membership in the church.
I think this is the context of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 5. I quoted that passage earlier. where he tells us, that we’re not to judge those outside of the church, but inside of the church. He’s dealing with a very serious situation, someone in the church in Corinth is sleeping with their step-mother. It is open. They are coming to church with their arms around each other. this guy is living with his father’s wife. It is immoral even to the world. It is public. It is obvious and known to all.
And it appears that the church isn’t doing anything about it. They’re just kind of like, I don’t want to talk about this. We’ll just pretend all is okay. And so Paul writes in 1st Corinthians 5:2 he says, “And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?” And then he continues in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13: “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”
And he’s quoting the Old Testament there, but it’s a very strong statement, but it’s done in this context. It is not a context of condemnation, but love. The church ought to love people enough to confront them. This man was living in willful sin! And ultimately, the good news is that this situation was resolved by what the church did. The man repented. He was taken back into fellowship. Why? Because the goal wasn’t to keep him out of the church but out of hell.
In fact, the scripture tells us that on this journey that we are on together, at times we may need to speak to a brother or sister in Christ and speak the truth in love. Matthew 18:15-17 also tells us as individuals how to deal with sin among those we call brothers and sisters. These are Jesus words. “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
Now there are several powerful principles that are found in Jesus teaching. The point of this passage is not that you are acting as God and sentencing them to hell. The point of this passage is that you are acting as a brother or a sister that is concerned about them.
If my physical brother David or my sister Linda, was doing something sinful and I knew about it, I would have to go and talk to them. I wouldn’t talk to you about it. I wouldn’t publicize it. But because I know what sin does, and because I know how it enters in and destroys and kills and ruins things. I need to speak up to see if I can’t help the situation. And the same ought to be true for people in the church. Right? You are my brothers and my sisters. But Jesus taught us some things to consider.
The first one is this.
- Before you do this, you must have a solid relationship with that person.
“If your brother or sister sins…” There are people that come into churches and really all they are is fault finders and nit pickers. They will try to use this to set themselves up as someone spiritual. If you don’t have a real relationship with someone, who are you to talk to them? Jesus said, If your brother or sister sins. We are to have a prior relationship with them. It is not anyone’s job to be the Holy Spirit and running around correcting everything they see by using Matthew 18. This is about relationship.
I have seen people run out of the church before they could even make friends, because someone thought they needed to be confronted. But when you are walking together as brother and sister.
You can’t ignore some things. But the goal is not to make you look superior. The goal is not to tell how God revealed something to you and oh my you are so Godly. No! The goal is to help your sister or brother. To love them into repentance.
2. This is about keeping this as quiet as possible
Jesus didn’t tell us to run all over the church gossiping, telling everything you know. Calling secret prayer meetings. Sending text messages about someone’s situation. That falls more in line with the second concept of speaking evil about others that is negative. Jesus said, just you go. That’s right. By yourself alone I have had people tell me something about someone. Then I will say, did you talk to them about it? No. I would never do that. So why are you telling me? This is about keeping it quiet. Then if they won’t listen to you, take one or two more. That’s it.
Then tell it to the church. When it says the church. very rarely does that mean that in a public service, you give an announcement about someone. It means that you bring church leaders into it. The church leadership then decides what to do.
3. This is all about loving the person.
If you don’t love the person enough to pray for a while before this happens they you aren’t ready.
If you don’t love the person enough to be broken and humble, and willing to listen, you aren’t ready.
If you are angry you aren’t ready.
Please leave a comment as I am interested in your opinions on this article.