Friday, May 8, 2009

A Time To Judge

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven--A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. A time to search and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace. ~ Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

Believe it or not, there is a time to judge. The question is, "when?" These days it seems that any criticism, correction or pointing out of error is labeled as judging. Christians have a reputation of judging others because we're not tolerant. We're called legalists for not accepting what society deems as "normal". If we dare disagree with something or someone according to biblical standards, we are considered hateful, dogmatic, hypocritical and holier-than-thou. Christians and atheists alike commonly mis-use Matthew 7:1 "Do not judge so that you will not be judged."

The below article from "A Time To Love" magazine explores this controversial topic of judging from a biblical perspective. Solomon had it right in Ecclesiastes; there is a time for everything. Jesus and his disciples gave clear instruction on the topic of judging. We would do well to better understand what it means in order to better live out the Christian life and discern false teaching rightly.

Judge or Judge Not: Which is Right?
by Angela Dion May 2009

Many news headlines and stories for the past two years focus on how judgmental Christians are. What does God’s Word offer for guidance in this area?

Christians seem to fall into two categories concerning judging others. Either we judge with an iron fist, condemning anyone who doesn’t conform to our standards, or we never judge others, thinking: "Nobody’s perfect; Who am I to judge?" Are there people whom Christians should judge? What does the Bible teach us about judging?


“In Greek, the word ‘judge’ means to condemn or acquit someone after a thorough investigation. It means to make an informed decision about the guilt or innocence of someone, and have the authority to carry out that decision,” offers mental health therapist Sue McHenry. Book and Bible study author Mike Ratliff adds, “The biblical definition of judging is that which our Lord used in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7) when he talked of people wanting to remove the mote from their brother's eye when they should first remove the log from their own. In other words, improper judging is saying something to another to bring that person down below us.”

There is a difference between a wise judgment and a judgmental attitude. Dr. Peter Beck, assistant professor of Religion at Charleston Southern University, notes the distinction between wise judgment and a judgmental attitude. “The judgmental condemn others for the very sins they harbor themselves. Wise judgment, however, keeps us from being condemned because of the errors of others.”

In her book, “Therapy with God” (Xulon Press, 2008), McHenry introduces “Speck-and-Log Therapy” as it relates to a judgmental attitude. She suggests, “When you notice yourself being critical and judgmental of someone else, take a minute to pray about that and ask Jesus to reveal to you where that might be a problem in your own life. Use your judgmental attitude as a barometer to look inside yourself.”


Clear of a judgmental attitude, there are three categories of people Christians can judge.

1. Ourselves. The first person we should judge is ourselves. McHenry uses the biblical example of Isaiah 6:1 to demonstrate. “This Scripture gives a beautiful illustration of that as Isaiah goes from the prideful, ‘Woe is you, Israel’ to ‘Woe is me, I am undone,’ because he finally saw the Lord high and lifted up. Having thus seen himself in direct comparison with God, his pride was broken and he repented. Then God was able to use him.”

Self-examination will guard us from making hypocritical and condemning judgments against others. In addition to Matthew 7, Romans 2:1-5 points out that we frequently are hard on others for the very things that are problematic for us. If we find ourselves judging others before we look at ourselves, often it’s an indication of sin in our own lives. Once we remove our own plank, then we can consider others.

We frequently are hard on others for the very things that are problematic for us. Ratliff responds, “The way of life, which does not judge others based on one’s own value system, results from surrendering to the Bible’s teaching on judging ourselves against God’s standards. When we do that, we do not judge others. Instead, we forgive them.”

2. False prophets. Christians have to be familiar with the basic truths of the Christian faith in order to recognize and discourage the deception promoted by a false prophet or blasphemer. Jesus spoke of false prophets when he said in Matthew 7:16, “By their fruit you will recognize them."

Ratliff adds, “Our Lord commands us to make ‘judgments’ by discerning false teachings and teachers and then avoid and expose them. We are commanded to do this, but not hypocritically. Also, the goal of this judging should always be the other person's repentance and restoration, not their destruction.”

3. Christian brothers and sisters. Examples of biblical judging include Jesus turning over the tables of the money changers, Paul writing letters criticizing behavior in the churches and James accusing believers of showing favoritism to the rich. At times, we need to make a judgment on a fellow believer’s behavior.

Dr. Beck explains, "I am to call sin ‘sin.' I am to judge between right and wrong. I am to avoid sin on my part and prevent it on the part of others. If I don't, I am guilty by implication. Remember Peter's accusation on the day of Pentecost: ‘This Jesus whom you handed over to be crucified (my paraphrase).' Those people in the crowd didn't bind Jesus. They didn't beat Jesus. They didn't crucify Jesus. They stood by and did nothing to stop it. And they were found guilty by silent association."

We just have to make sure our motives are proper. Ratliff says, “The source of judging others incorrectly is pride. The humble righteous believer still has to judge, but it will always be in light of God’s values and will be his judgments.”


The common thread throughout biblical judging is the motivation to glorify God. We must approach God in prayer before judging another, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal our motives and methods. Three conditions should exist before we judge sin in a fellow believer: love the other person, know the heart of the other person and desire to restore the other person.

1. Love. Love is the beginning point in any form of relationship that will bring glory to God. Also, you will be more likely to receive a positive response when you come to someone in love. McHenry cautions, “When you have a brother or sister mired in sin, first and foremost prepare your heart for humility through prayer. Ask Jesus to help you join him in his humble approach.” She continues, “Confronting our brothers and sisters about their sin is a responsibility we all share, but to do so in love, grace, encouragement and humility is the way of Christ and leaves you feeling uplifted and at peace.”

2. Know the heart. Before we judge other believers, we should know them. If we know the heart of the person, we’ll have insight into his situation. Develop a transparent relationship with the person first, then judge only if the situation warrants it. We don’t want to judge by what we perceive on the surface but by what we know to be true.

For example, if someone appears to have no self-control in finances, a discerning judge will know what his finances were like last year, if he’s signed up for the budgeting seminar, if someone else is helping him in this area, etc. An uninformed judge is a dangerous judge. Know the heart and meet the person where he is.

3. Restoration.
The goal of proper judging should be restoration of the person. “Your purpose isn’t to humiliate them or beat them into submission. Your purpose is to restore them to a state of cleanliness before God,” says McHenry.

Ask: am I trying to elevate myself or deflate the other person, or is restoration really my motive? If our desire is honestly to restore the other person, we won’t approach him or her with a holier-than-thou attitude. If we examine our motives carefully, love the person and know the heart, restoration should be possible.

Dr. Beck gives a final word, “Jesus teaches that we are to be discerning, able to judge between right and wrong, recognizing and acknowledging error when we see it in the beliefs and corresponding actions of others. (Matthew 7:5-6, 15-20). This kind of judgment preserves us, the church and others from the sin that so easily corrupts the truth and undermines the Gospel.”

Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." ~ John 7:24



Ken Collins said...

A hard teaching. Necessary, but tricky. Can't seem to do that with a peer (or best friend) as I don't trust my attitude... Don't think I'm worthy or something like that. And by the way, you've been looking for a way to use that logo!

Sue said...

A good article on when, where, and how to judge others Biblically. I am Sue McHenry, author of Therapy with God, and I very much appreciate your using the references from my book, and especially the way in which you used them. We are on the same page, so thank you for spreading the truth. Blessings, Sue