To one extent or another, everyone is.
In fact, the ability to make value judgments is part of our design.
Judging, by definition, is simply: forming an opinion or conclusion about something.
It’s difficult in our culture, however, to share ideas on issues of morality. Normally, if a person says an action is morally wrong, he is accused of being judgmental. If he affirms the action, he is seen as tolerant. It’s an incredible double standard. In both situations a judgment is being made. However, one is agreeable and the other it is not. The bottom line is if you believe certain actions are out of bounds morally, in America today, you are labeled judgmental.
When someone plays the “judgment card” it usually puts an end to a discussion. It’s amazing how Matthew 7:1 is nearly universally memorized and quoted! There’s hardly a level playing field in discussing issues of righteousness and morality in America today.
This double standard puts Christians in a particularly difficult position. Should we speak up and be labeled as judgmental or keep quiet in the name of tolerance? It depends on whether or not you believe Jesus prohibited judging.
Surely, when Jesus said, “Judge not,” He wasn’t trying to prohibit His followers from deciding if something is righteous or not. What exactly was He after? Let’s take a little closer look at Matthew 7:1-5 to find out.
Mat 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
Jesus knew that those seeking the righteousness of the Kingdom would have a tendency to get into self-righteousness. His main point here was to help His followers stay out of the ditch. Instead of barring judgment, He gave clear guidelines for the times we do have to judge.
Look at this phrase again, “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged.” He started the topic with a warning: The way we judge others is the way we will be judged. Think of it – the way He will judge us is based, at least in part, on the way that we judged others in this life. James elaborated on this idea, “Judgment will be merciless to the one who has shown no mercy.”
Now for the guidelines.
Mat 7:3 “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 “Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
His main point is this: If you have an issue of unrighteousness in your heart, it is a plank. If you see that same issue in another, it is always a speck. It is hypocrisy for us to point out the issues in others if we have not dealt with them in ourselves. When we have an unresolved issue in our heart, we must clear it out first and then we can help others. Notice once we have removed the issue from our life, then we CAN help another get through their issue. We are not prohibited from pointing it out, we are actually encouraged to.
Here’s the summary of Jesus’ guidelines on judgment:
1) Be merciful with others knowing you will be judged by the standard you use.
2) Deal with the issues of your own heart before you address another.
3) Don’t judge according to external appearances but get God’s heart on the matter. (John 7:24)
4) Put it into perspective: their issue is a speck; your issue is a plank.
A couple final thoughts:
When you do judge, offer it within the confines of relationship. Relationships provide the necessary arena for accountability and correction. A simple practice that honors the other is to ask permission before you offer advice. Many times conflicts can be avoided if you will simply ask before you share.
My prayer is that we would learn His ways and with meekness in our hearts, gently offer His perspective on issues of morality, always looking to ourselves first before we address another.
What do you think? How does this perspective differ from what you’ve heard or understood?