Nothing in this life is as simple as it seems. No, you can’t really lose thirty pounds in one month by exercising two minutes three times per week and eating everything you want, nor does it take less than ten minutes and no tools to assemble the kitchen cabinet you got your wife for her birthday at Ikea. While we’re on the subject, your hair follicles will not regenerate if you use the extra special shampoo made up of vinegar and chicken fat each time you shower, and all you get if you use the newly patented electronic abdominal chiseler is a nasty rash and the faint smell of burnt pork rinds that no amount of soap will wash away for at least a week. Life is complicated, nuanced, layered, and often times, due to our need for simplicity we fall into the snare of sliding toward one extreme or another forsaking the notion of balance because to achieve balance requires dedication, study, and a willingness to admit that we don’t really know it all, and sometimes that we might have even been wrong concerning a certain issue.
Today I want to tackle a sensitive subject, one that has been bantered about endlessly and absent of finality or conclusion within Christian circles for decades on end, namely that of judging.
Since every one of us has been confronted, at one time or another with judging I thought it only prudent to do a study on the topic that we might discover if we are biblically allowed to judge, when we are biblically allowed to judge, when we are not, and how we are biblically allowed to judge. As is the case with every endeavor wherein we seek to discover the heart and mind of God, we must allow the Word to have the final say, and the final authority on the matter.
There are two major camps when it comes to judging, both extreme, both unproductive, unhealthy and dare I say unbiblical.
The first major camp that we find within the church when it comes to judging is the judge everyone, living or dead, when you’re done judging them pass sentence, and then proceed to carry out the public execution crowd. This camp is great at striking out blindly at anyone who would dare call into question any one of their pet doctrines and summarily sentencing individuals to the bowels of Hades without a second thought or a moment’s hesitation. Yes, they will judge anyone, at any time, for any reason, except for the self-righteous mug staring back at them in the mirror every morning. Try to point out shortcomings, inconsistencies or false doctrine in their theology and their answer will be ‘how dare you attempt to judge a judge? You have neither the right nor the authority.’ The more imperious ones will even revert to King James speak, and ask ‘how darest though?’
The second major camp that we find within the church when it comes to judging is the judge nothing and no one, it’s none of our business, it’ll all come out in the wash crowd. Although this second camp is far less confrontational than the first, it is equally dangerous because when we fail to judge a doctrine, a teaching, or a message properly we run the risk of allowing harmful elements into our spiritual lives that eat away at our constitution and sow the seeds of doubt in our hearts.
So which camp is right? Are we allowed to judge, or ought we to keep silent and never judge at all?
What is troublesome and even tragic to me is that most of us read what we believe within the pages of scripture, rather than believe what we read. What do I mean by this? Well, rather than believing what we read in the Word of God, and adhering to it, a great many of us are predisposed to finding those scripture passages, those verses, and those fragments that merely back up what we already believe. It is dangerous to only read what we believe in the Word, and not believe what we read.
Many a spiritual shipwrecks are walking about today, absent of peace, absent of joy, absent the presence of God in their lives because they chose to read scripture through the prism of what they already believed, choosing to dismiss any passage that would contradict their preconceived notion on any given matter.
The truth of the matter is that the issue of judging, and whether or not we are biblically allowed to judge is not so simple. There are passages within the pages of scripture that allow us, and even encourage us to judge, and there are also passages in scripture that discourage and prohibit us from judging. As a foundation for this teaching series, since I already realize it will be too lengthy for one solitary post, I wanted to list a few of the scriptures, both pro and contra judging so that we might better understand the complexity of this issue.
First, we will go through a few scripture passages that prohibit judging.
Matthew 7:1-5, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘let me remove the speck out of your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Romans 2:1-3, “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are to judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?”
Now one thing I have to point out because it is worth noting, especially with the passage in Romans is that simply because you know what is right, and you can prove someone else is wrong does not make you any better. So often we give into this attitude that we are better, we are more righteous, we are more holy than another simply because we belong to a certain denomination, or we practice certain ceremonies. There is no holiness or righteousness in and of ourselves! Only by putting on Christ, by dying to the flesh and submitting to Him are we made righteous and holy in the sight of God.
Romans 14:1-4, “Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who etas despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.”
Romans 14:10-13, “But 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. For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”
Rather than simplifying the situation, it would seem these passages are making it all the more complicated; we have come to a crossroads of sorts because there are individuals who have interpreted these passages through the prism of hypocrisy saying ‘the brother is weak I cannot tell him the truth, as yet he is not mature enough, and so I will omit the necessary and vital truths that are mandatory for his growth.’ We use this passage and others like it to justify our silence, to justify our complacency, to justify our indifference, because, well, we’re just supposed to receive one who is weak in the faith and not rattle their cage. That’s not what this passage says, but once again through the prism of our preconceived notions we use it as a justification for our inaction.
The passage does not say do not speak the truth to one who is weak in the faith, but rather it says not to dispute over doubtful things.
Our duty as mature believers is to help those who are immature in the faith to likewise mature. It is to speak the truth in love, and as Paul so aptly suggests, not dispute over doubtful things. For some unexplained reason however, we have the tendency to go right into the bowls, and the seals, and the horsemen of Revelation with the babes in Christ, choosing to bypass the essential and fundamental teachings of the gospel such as repentance, and faith and holiness unto God. Babes drink milk, it is milk that nourishes them and sustains them, not steak and eggs.
1 Corinthians 4:1-6, “Let a man consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts; and then each one’s praise will come from God. Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.”
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?”
If these were the only scriptures on judging, then there really would be no debate on the matter. None would be allowed to judge, for any reason, at any time, and this ongoing debate would be nonexistent. There are however just as many passages within scripture that approach the notion of judging from a different angle, some seeming almost contradictory and opposite of those we’ve just gone through, and since this installment has gotten a little long in the tooth, on the next post, we will get into the aforementioned scriptures subsequently allowing the Word to show us what it is that we are responsible to judge, what we are mandated to judge, how we should go about it, and the instances wherein we are prohibited from judging.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.