Author: Ron Graham
A Disciple’s Judgment
—Thoughts on Matthew 7:1-2
Some people will say, “You have no right to judge” Usually they have in mind that saying of Jesus, "Do not judge so that you will not be judged" (Matthew 7:1-2 and Luke 6:37 ).
God appointed judges to judge Israel (Deuteronomy 16:18-20). Later the prophets continued judging as part of their role. John the Baptist, the final Old Testament prophet, judged and condemned many who came to hear him speak. (Luke 3:7-20).
1 Did Jesus Abolish Judging?
Although God appointed judges under the Old Testament law of Moses, perhaps Jesus abolished judging and in the new covenant nobody should be appointed to judge or take it upon themselves to judge. Is that so?
No. Jesus did not abolish judgment, because he himself commanded, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24).
If Jesus told people to judge righteous judgment, then clearly he wanted judgments to be made, but he wants them to be right and fair.
2 How Can We Tell Right Judgment from Wrong?
The judging that Jesus forbids is judging on a false and ungodly basis. As Jesus said, "You judge according to the flesh. I judge no one [that way]. But if I judge, my judgment is true" (John 8:15-16). When the truth, God’s word, is the basis of judgment, that judgment is righteous.
When Lydia was converted, she said to Paul and his companions, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home" (Acts 16:15). Did they have a right to make this judgment? Of course they did!
Paul gives us an example of unrighteous judgment: "In judging another you condemn yourself, because you, the one who is judging, are doing the same things yourself" (Romans 2:1-3). Such judgment is hypocrytical and is wrong. However, judgment based on truth without hypocrisy is right.
Paul says, "Why do you judge your brother, or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ... each of us shall give account of himself to God. So let us not judge one another anymore..." (Romans 14:10-13).
It is easy to take that as a blanket ban on judging. However in Romans 14 Paul is talking about judgment passed on mere personal opinions rather than the revealed word of God, the truth.
Paul is talking about opinionated people who dispute about doubtful things and look down with contempt on others who don't share their point of view. You will see this if you read all of Romans 14. That kind of judgment is wrong.
3 If You Judge, Are You Playing God?
Paul says, Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes" (1Corinthians 4:5).
In saying that, does Paul mean we should leave all judgment to God. Is he telling us not to play God but wait till judgment day and meanwhile judge nothing?
If that is the right interpretation, why does Paul say a little further on, about a brother reported to be immoral, "As though I were present, I have already judged him who has done this deed" (1Corinthians 5:1-5)?
In case we think Paul had a special gift and privilege to judge, we should read still further down in chapter 6. Paul says that Christians should be able to make judgments among and between themselves, rather than take each other to court.
"I say this to your shame. Is it true that there is not even one wise man among you who will be able to judge between his brethren?" (1Corinthians 6:5).
When Paul tells us to judge nothing and wait for God’s judgment on judgment day (1Corinthians 4:5), what is he referring to? The same verse tells us.
The Lord will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts (1Corinthians 4:5).
Many times we encounter situations where things are hidden from us and we can't uncover them. We can't read people’s hearts and we can't bring any dark secrets to light. If we make a judgment, it is based on guesses and hunches rather than discovered facts.
That is not right judgment, and it is better to judge nothing regarding that situation. We have to leave that matter to God who does know the hearts and from whom nothing is hidden.