It’s been said to me, and I’ve said it to others: “If you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all.” It would appear that judging is not a good idea. While I would generally agree, we may be ignoring some of the most humbling words of Jesus. If judging is never appropriate, how do we distinguish between right and wrong? Within a biblical world view, healthy judging is not only an option, but a requirement for Christian maturity.
Our biggest hurdle is probably the verb “to judge.” Our culture has defined the term negatively, by where no good can come out of such an activity…unless, by good, you mean watching someone “get what they deserve.” In any case, the definition isn’t exactly a Christian one.
Jesus simply said: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). The Greek word for judge (krino) implies “to pass harsh judgement.”1 John Stott used the word “censoriousness” and defined it this way:
“The censorious critic is a fault-finder who is negative and destructive towards other people and enjoys actively seeking out their failings. He puts the worst possible construction on their motives, pours cold water on their schemes and is ungenerous towards their mistakes.”2
The word “judge” doesn’t refer to our critical thinking, but to our harsh and destructive words and actions towards others. Our critical thinking helps us, and others, mature in the faith.
Why harsh judgement is a problem
Our harsh judgement is really a form of self-medication to our faults – we can feel better about ourselves, if we tear someone else down with us. Jesus made the repercussions very clear:
“…with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”3
Others will judge us in the same way we judge them, and God will judge us by the way we judge others.
Understanding our brokenness is the key. If we stop to realize that we are all broken and in need of God, our judgment of others will naturally become more gracious.If we realize we are all broken, our judgment of others will naturally become more gracious. Click To Tweet
What Jesus noticed about judging
Jesus used a very visual analogy:
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?”4
We’re clearly broken and have issues in our lives that should keep us humble. Unfortunately, however, we tend to do three things:
- We often ignore our own brokenness (the log).
Just because we’re saved by grace, doesn’t mean we’re perfect. If anything, we have simply come to the realization of how imperfect we actually are.
- We willingly see, even the smallest, issue in others (the speck).
We tend to quickly notice the imperfections of others. In fact, sometimes we actually look for issues and can’t wait to find something.
- We are often taking notice of our own brokenness in those around us.
Subconsciously we may notice our brokenness in others so that we feel better about ourselves. We might even use that information to improve our spiritual appearance and degrade the appearance of others.Being saved by grace means we have come to the realization of how imperfect we actually are. Click To Tweet
Becoming a Mature Brother/Sister…
“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”5
To avoid hypocrisy and become a mature brother/sister to those around us, we have to deal with the brokenness in our own lives first. After we realize God’s grace and resulting humility, we are able to help others with their brokenness.
With that said, the goal is never to become a “humble corrector in the Lord.” On the contrary, the process of dealing with the brokenness in our own lives will naturally lend itself to the journey of discipleship and Christian maturity. And then, in humility, “iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).Dealing with the brokenness in our own lives will naturally lend itself to the journey of discipleship. Click To Tweet
But sometimes people aren’t ready…
Let’s face it, not everyone is ready to let receive words of love and mature discipleship. In this context, we read verse 6 as a warning to believers:
“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”6
Dogs and pigs were known to be unclean. This is not to say that we avoid bringing the truth of the Gospel to those who need to hear it. It’s simply a warning not to present the truth, especially in terms of correction (as seen in verse 5), to those who are not ready for it. They could respond with rage like pigs would respond after being tricked into thinking the pearls were food.7 So we must use discernment.
I wish I could say I’ve done this well, but it’s been a growing experience on many levels. But isn’t that part of our journey towards Christian maturity?
In great humility, we have to ask ourselves: what is in my eye?
If we ask that question honestly, it will remind ourselves of our brokenness, God’s grace and how much grace and love we have to use when we help those who are also broken.
|⇑1||Krino simply means “to judge” or “pass judgement” but it used in many contexts. In the context of Matthew 7, the idea of a judicial system is not in mind rather the notion of harsh and negative criticism towards others. Further reading: Leon Morris, The Gospel according to Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press, 1992), 164-165.|
|⇑2||John Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985), 176.|
|⇑3||Matthew 7:2, ESV.|
|⇑7||D.A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 112-113.|