By Ben M. Shropshire
In our previous article on this subject, we showed the need for studying this topic, defined the word “judge” as used in the New Testament, discussed at least six different kinds of judging which the New Testament requires us to, do, and, finally, noted that, in all of the judging required of us, we are never allowed to use our own opinions, ideas, wisdom or suppositions as the standard for our judgments, but always must use the word of God, correctly understood and applied, as the basis for any judgment we make.
To continue the study of this subject this week, we want to take a look at the kinds of judgment which we are forbidden to do as in Matthew 7:1 – “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”
We are never to judge another on the basis of our own law, or when we make our own life and beliefs the standard of judgment. This is what is being condemned in Matthew 7:1-5, Romans 2:1-3, and in James 4:11, 12. While most of us would quickly say that we would never do this, the fact is that we often do it in several different ways. One way in which we do this is described by Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5 in which we are extremely zealous to condemn another for a violation of the law of God, while we condone in our own life a more flagrant violation of the same law. This shows that we really do not respect the law of God ourselves, and are simply using it for our own purposes in castigating another. Our standard of judgment, then, is not the law of God at all, but our own perverted form of divine law and hypocritical application thereof. To all who do this Paul said, “Wherefore thou art without excuse, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doth practice the same things” (Rom. 2:1). While this passage condemns such unfair judgment as being sinful, it implies at the same time the correctness of a proper kind of judgment of another when the standard of God’s law is properly applied to oneself as well as to the other person: “Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:5). Being able to determine that a brother has a mote in his eye (has committed some kind of wrong) necessitates a judgment on our part; but we must also judge ourselves first by the same law to see whether there is a beam (or even a mote) in our own eye that needs to be removed (Gal. 6:1).
We also are guilty of making ourselves and our ideas the basis of judgment when we speak against a brother without any cause, as occasioned by malice and hatred in our hearts. We are taught that, in doing this, we are guilty of making ourselves a law giver: “Speak not one against another, brethren. He that speaketh against a brother, or judgeth his brother, speaketh against the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judgest the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge” (Jas. 4:11, 12). The “speaking against” which is forbidden here is defined as “to speak down of a person, to speak evil of, to slander, or, to insult a person.” When we speak evil of another person and have no basis for doing so (no violation on his part of God’s law), other than the hatred and malice we have in our heart for him, we have made our own law and are using it to judge him rather than judging him with God’s law. Such judgment on our part is sinful and forbidden.
An additional way in which we use our own standard in judging another is when we make a judgment of another person’s motives. We do not have the ability to know what are the motives of another person, and when we profess to know them and judge him based thereon, we are making an improper judgment, based on what we think rather than on what God’s law says. Of course, we may be applying God’s law to what we think are his real motives, but we must realize that what we think about his motivation play a more important role in our judgment of him than the word of God does, and, again, we have ultimately made our opinion the basis of our judgment. When a person does something which is right within itself for him to do, but we think he has done it with a sinful motivation and on that basis we condemn him, we are wrong. We have no right to assume that a person is doing something for any other than a proper reason, or the reason which is may specify as being his motivation, because we cannot know his heart (1 Cor. 2:11). This is difficult not to do because we often allow our prejudices, malice, jealousy and hatred to color our thinking about why another person does something. Again, when we do this we are putting ourselves in the place of God, the lawgiver, usurping a power that really belongs only to Him. “The Lord seeth not as a man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 ‘Sam. 16:7). “Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart” (Psa. 44:21). “I the Lord search the heart, I try to reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doing” (Jer. 17:10). These, and many other scriptures like them, imply that only God has the ability to know the heart of a man and its motivations; that no man has such powers. For a person to claim such a power (to know the heart of another) and judge a person on this claim is for him to be guilty of the kind of judgment which is condemned in the Bible, but it is still done far too often.
A final way in which we allow our own law to become the-standard in juding another is when we misinterpret or misapply the word of God in doing so. Again, it is our perversion of God’s law that we are using to judge another, not the law of God itself. The Judaizing teachers of the New Testament age often did this, and Paul told the Colossian Christians to not allow such false teachers to improperly judge them (Col. 2:16, 17). Thus, when we find it necessary to judge another person in order to obey God (in the kinds of judgment we discussed in last week’s article), we must exercise the greatest possible degree of care to be sure that we are properly interpreting and applying God’s law to his situation. In requiring us to judge, the New Testament presumes that we are capable to doing such, and we ought not to so fear the possibility of our making an error of doing so that we fail to obey God.. To fail in this God-given task of judging others properly is to risk failing to teach them what they need to know and leaving them in jeopardy of their being lost without being aware of it. “Brethren, even if a man be overtaken in any trespass, ye who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to thyself, lest though also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). (Concluded next week.)
Truth Magazine XXIV: 27, pp. 439-440
July 10, 1980