The Practical Results of Motive Judging

By Steve Wallace

It is continually disturbing to witness the motive judging that some brethren engage in. In print and in conversation I have often been told of the reason behind a given brother’s actions or teaching. Some tell us that those who withstand departures from the truth are “fueled by pride,” “trying to make a name for themselves,” or have a “lust for power.” On the other hand, brethren who teach error have been said by some to be worthy of fellowship because they are “honest and sincere” though wrong.

While recognizing the sinfulness of such motive judging (Matt. 7:1-4, 20; Jn. 7:24; 1 Cor. 2:11; 1 Sam. 16:7), what might the practical results of this kind of judging be?

1. Brethren might use a false standard by which to judge faithfulness. Jesus said that we should “judge righteous judgment” (Jn. 7:24) and we have been given the standard we are to use for such judgment. It is the word of God (Jn. 12:48; Rom. 2:16). The Bible teaches that we are to use the word of God to judge a brother’s actions (cf. Matt. 7:20-21; Gal. 2:14; 1 Tim. 6:3-5; 2 Jn. 9-11). The use of the surmised motives behind a given brother’s actions is not only sinful, it is false standard by which to judge faithfulness.

2. Brethren who teach error can be judged as faithful while those who walk in truth can be judged to be in error. I do not see how this can be avoided. If we use a false standard by which to judge, we will end up confused as to who is faithful and who is not. If what one prominent brother among us has taught is true (partially stated in this article’s introduction), we can accept one who teaches error on divorce and remarriage because he is “honest and sincere,” i.e., has pure motives. On the other hand, one who opposes the brother who teaches error on divorce and remarriage can be shown to be in error because he is judged to be “just looking for something to fight about” or is “fueled by pride.” Thus, the way that the Lord ordained for determining faithfulness  “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:20)  is totally reversed.

3. Churches will fellowship and commend those in error while refusing fellowship and commendation to those walking in truth. Again, I simply do not see how this can be avoided if brethren refuse to judge in the manner that the Lord has commanded. Brethren in the first century were guilty of both kinds of erroneous conduct as contained in our heading above and were reproved for such conduct (cf. 1 Cor. 5; 3 Jn. 9-10). If we are guilty of such actions today in whom we do or do not fellowship and commend, the same verses which applied to such sinful conduct in the first century will condemn us.


Let us remember the proper standard by which to judge a brother faithful or unfaithful and use it to the benefit of all whom we may influence (Jn. 7:24; 3 Jn. 3; Gal. 2:14). Motive judging is of men and not from God. May we all realize that Christians in the New Testament were commended for “walking in truth” and for refusing to accept those who did not (2 Jn. 4; Rev. 2:2), and seek the fellowship and commendation that comes from “walking in the light” of God’s word (1 Jn. 1:6-7; 2 Jn. 3).

Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 24, p. 5
December 15, 1994