re:THINK – Judging Others

This morning, we’re continuing our message series entitled “re:THINK”. In this series, we’ll be dealing with the issue of repentance.

Repentance is a churchy word that’s been given a bad reputation by critical and judgmental people and churches. However, repentance is necessary and really quite encouraging. Repentance is all about re:THINKING and repurposing our lives in order to live them in complete freedom and to their fullest potential!

So far, we learned about what repentance actually is and what our response should be whenever we find out that we need to re:THINK our perspective, purpose, or behavior (whenever we need to repent), and that we need to remember those who have gone before us, those around us now, and those rising up in the generation following us.

This week, we’re going to be challenged to re:THINK the issue of judging. I’ve heard it said over and over again both inside as well as outside of the church that we’re not supposed to judge others. Just as 2Pac proclaimed in the 90s, everyone cries out, “Only God can judge me”. However, is this what God’s word teaches?

I’ve heard it said that if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes accepted as truth.

This morning, we’re going to do a little mythbusting to see what God really thinks about us judging one another.

First of all, why is judging such a big deal? Well, it seems that we all have an innate desire to be right.

Maybe this is because our education system trains us this way; that we are either right or wrong. Maybe this is because our parents rewarded or punished us based on being right or wrong. Maybe it’s just a part of us being created in the image of God; having a hunger for righteousness. Although no one knows for sure why this is the case, none of us like to have our weaknesses and wrongdoing pointed out to us.

Whenever someone judges us, we feel as if though that person is considering themselves to be better than us. We feel that they are looking down on us. We feel that they are acting as if though they don’t have sins that they struggle with themselves. We feel that people should only be able to judge us if they, themselves, are perfect.

However, is it possible to make a judge someone and not to look down on them? Is it possible to make a judgment call about someone’s life and have that judgment move us to compassion? Is it possible to judge someone and encourage them in response?

With all matters of life, we need to turn away from our feelings and opinions and place our feet on the firm foundation of God’s word.

Most Christians who believe that we should not judge others quote the words of Jesus found in:

Matthew 7:1
Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

Or in:

Luke 6:37
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Now, we could just call this a day and all go home. After all, this is a direct quote from the mouth of Jesus. However, we know that the most important thing about quoting anybody about anything is the context surrounding their words.

When we first read this verse, we can easily interpret it to mean that we are absolutely never to judge anything or anyone or we’ll be judged and certainly hell-bound for all eternity. However, since context is king in correctly interpreting all scripture, let’s take a look at the surrounding verses around these two and the complete conversation that Jesus had.

First, we’ll start with Matthew 7:

Matthew 7:1-6
1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

As we can clearly see here, in context, Jesus was not speaking against judging others. In proper context, Jesus was speaking against hypocrisy in our judgment of others. In fact, Jesus called people dogs and pigs – talk about not judging others!

He also referred to one of the primary issues when it comes to judging. When we see sawdust in someone’s eye, we should help them to remove it. If there is a sin issue in someone’s life, our urgency should be to lead them to repentance, to re:THINK that issue. Of course, that is after overcoming that issue in our own lives first. Sawdust and a plank are the same issue, having some wood in your eye. The visual picture of hypocrisy that Jesus paints with the sawdust and plank is obvious. It’s just not right to look down on someone who is struggling a little bit with a sin that you, yourself are blinded and bound by! You can’t help them to overcome when you, yourself have not overcome that same sin.

Now, let’s take a look at the context of the second verse often quoted to defend that it is wrong to judge others.

Luke 6:37-45
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

39 He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.

41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

43 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

We find that Luke’s account is an account of the same conversation that Jesus had. This time, there is a spiritual principle taught along with judging, condemning, forgiving, and giving. The measure that we use in these matters will be measured back out to us.

If you ever sit down and speak with someone who frequently looks down on other people in judgment, you’ll quickly find that they also frequently believe that other people are looking down on them and judging them as well. Yes, God’s word rings true.

However, does that mean that Jesus was teaching not to judge or condemn others? Not by any means! In fact, Luke’s account also records Jesus teaching us how to judge by the parable of the fruit trees. Jesus teaches us that we can judge someone’s heart by the words of their mouth and the fruit that their lives produce. He also again warns against judging with hypocrisy. Until we try to help someone re:THINK a sin issue, we need to first make sure that we’ve overcome in this same area and have repented fully of it ourselves. Otherwise, we’ll just be the blind leading the blind!

Now, let’s just quickly go through scripture to find what else it teaches about judging others. After all, we want to be far more comprehensive in this matter before calling the myth that we are not supposed to judge others busted. We’ve only looked at two instances where judging others is found in scripture!

Romans 2:1-4
1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

Here we find the same theme once again of being called not to pass along judgment to others in hypocrisy. However, starting at chapter 2, we lose a significant bit of context in this letter which further confirms this hypocrisy. If we go back just a few verses, we read:

Romans 1:29-32
29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

So in the very sentence before they are told that they have no excuse for passing judgment onto others, they are reminded of the many sins that they are guilty of themselves and yet passing judgment onto others for those same sins. By judging those other people, they are in essence, passing judgment onto themselves.

If a king is guilty of treason and they decree that the penalty for treason is death and they pass on that judgment to others guilty of treason and have them put to death, well, they have also passed on this same judgment to themselves. It’s not at all saying that the king should never judge others – that would be absurd to have a king who leaves anyone do as they please without punishment. It is saying that he should be very careful with the judgment that he passes onto others for an issue that he, himself possesses. This is simply a common sense matter.

Now, let’s continue on to see how this myth holds up.

John 7:21-24
21 Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all amazed. 22 Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath. 23 Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? 24 Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”

Here, Jesus again urges us to judge, but to judge correctly and not by mere appearances.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

Here, God’s word urges us to judge those inside the church and to have nothing to do with people who call themselves a believer in Jesus, but are sexually immoral, greedy, an idolater, a slanderer, a drunkard, or a swindler. We’re not even supposed to eat with people who refuse to repent, or re:THINK these issues.

This myth is beginning to look very busted, however, let’s continue on again.

1 Corinthians 6:1-7
1 If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? 2 Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 4 Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? 5 I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? 6 But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers! 7 The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already.

Here, Paul teaches that we will judge the world and even angels – surely we should be competent enough to judge trivial issues amongst two believers and avoid lawsuits amongst the church. If we’re not to judge others, then how could God’s word shame us for not judging between each other?

Romans 14:1-4;10-13
1 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will acknowledge God.’”
12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.

Again, we find strong language warning us against judging others. We could quote one verse from this and stand that we are not supposed to judge others because only God can judge us.

Is this myth now plausible? Are we perhaps indeed not supposed to judge others?

Well, if we are to indeed maintain context before applying scripture, these statements calling us not to judge are true only for arguable matters. This does not apply to what God’s word clearly calls out as sin.

We were close to calling this one plausible, however, it’s still looking busted to me.

Alright, let’s take a look at one last scripture before making a final call on this one.

James 4:11-12
11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

This scripture, I believe summarizes the heart matter of judging others. We are to judge others, however, we are to judge them correctly. How we respond to this judgment makes all of the difference in the world. This is where judging others can either bring about freedom or sin.

James 4 tells us not to slander or speak against one other in judgment. We are not to gossip about other people’s sin. Whenever we see that someone has sawdust in their eye, let’s lead them to the eye wash station and help them get it out! Let’s not point at them, look down on them, and tell everyone else about it – what good does that do for anyone?

Whenever we become aware, by judging others, that they have sin in their life, we are to lead them to Jesus to have it dealt with. We are to lead them to repentance, encouraging them to re:THINK the issue. Judging others is not wrong, however, slandering one another, gossiping, and speaking evil against them is wrong.

Yes, the myth is totally and conclusively busted. It is not wrong to judge others, in fact, it is impossible not to. Anytime that we become aware of information, we will judge it. This is just a part of how God created us. If we are not to make judgments, then everyone can do whatever they want to do without consequence. After all, who are we to judge? Police officers, legislatures, judges, – they are all hell bound for sure for their evil deeds of judging others, right? No, let’s use common sense!

This morning, let’s re:THINK judging others. Let’s hold fast to God’s truth and what His word teaches on the matter. We are to judge one another. If we truly love one another and want God’s best for one another, we’ll actually make a habit of doing so. Not to look down on people, but to encourage people into better things! We won’t gossip and slander others because of their sin. We’ll come along side of them and help them to gain freedom from it! In doing so, we’re simply fulfilling the second greatest commandment that Jesus gave us – loving others as we love ourselves!

What we’re being encouraged to do here this morning is to be honest and open with one another; to allow ourselves to be encouraged by one another into better things. We’re being encouraged to help each other walk in the freedom that Jesus purchased for us. We’re being encouraged to help each other to live our lives in the full abundance that Jesus promised. Don’t use the fact that we are to judge one another as a license to tear each other apart and look down on others, use it as the license that God purposed it for – to build each other up into all that God planned us to be!