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Wednesday: Do Not Judge — 31 Comments

  1. Sometimes it is the case in reacting to strong statements about sin, especially if particular offenders are known, the words of Jesus are quoted, “Judge not,…” (Matthew 7:1). So did Jesus intend to say believers should ‘see no evil’ and ‘hear no evil,’ pay no attention to evil in the church or wider society, and simply mind their own business?

    It is probably safe to say all of us judge at some level, including those who are quick to say, “Don’t judge” the sin they wish to shield. Some may ask “Who am I to judge?” in relation to certain lifestyle sins, but express no such reservation concerning other evils like child abuse or terrorism. They exercise selective judgment. However God does not rank sins (James 2:10).

    The Sinless One, like his cousin and forerunner, John the baptizer certainly were not shy in calling out the sins of Pharisees and others (Luke 20: 46-47; Mark 6:18). Given such examples and the instructions God gave to several other prophets the Messiah probably did not intend to prohibit preachers of righteousness from calling sin by its right name.

    So what is the meaning of this caution against judging? (Matthew 7:1-5) In the passage Jesus addresses the issues of hypocrisy and accusations, though true, rooted in false piety and a sense of superior righteousness (Romans 2:1-3). Measuring one’s righteousness against another is forbidden by Christ (Matthew 6:1; 23:2-7).

    To the extent it helps one may consider his/her own vulnerabilities or weaknesses before making a charge against another. It is advisable to be more upset about sin in one’s own life than in the life of others, even if only as a safeguard against the harsh treatment of others.

    Sin only need to be called by its right name out of genuine concern for others. When necessary it is to be done in mercy, not malice. Otherwise it is better to keep silent, until motivated by love. And remember the Golden Rule (Luke 6:31).

    • Praise God for that comment Hugh. Let God help us teach, rebuke, correct in love and faithfulness. I have also come to realise that in trying to correct someone we may tend to be harsh. This is not meant to be as seen in the below quotations. the quotes are with respect to disciplining children but I am sure they are applicable to older folk too:

      "Discipline Your Children in Love
      “Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Eph. 6:4
      “The father, as priest of the household, should deal gently and patiently with his children. He should be careful not to arouse in them a combative disposition. He must not allow transgression to go uncorrected, and yet there is a way to correct without stirring up the worst passions in the human heart. Let him in love talk with his children, telling them how grieved the Saviour is over their course; and then let him kneel with them before the mercy seat and present them to Christ, praying that He will have compassion on them and lead them to repent and ask forgiveness. Such disciplining will nearly always break the most stubborn heart.” CG 286, 287
      “Never should parents cause their children pain by harshness or unreasonable exactions. Harshness drives souls into Satan's net.” AH 308
      “Some children will soon forget a wrong that is done to them by father and mother; but other children who are differently constituted cannot forget severe, unreasonable punishment which they did not deserve. Thus their souls are injured, and their minds bewildered.” CG 249
      “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father in heaven.” Matt. 18:10
      “When children lose their self-control, and speak passionate words, the parents should for a time keep silent, neither reproving nor condemning. At such times silence is golden, and will do more to bring repentance than any words that can be uttered. Satan is well pleased when parents irritate their children by speaking harsh, angry words. Paul has given a caution on this point: ‘Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.’ They may be very wrong, but you cannot lead them to the right by losing patience with them. Let your calmness help to restore them to a proper frame of mind.” RH 1-24-1907
      “Love breaks down all barriers. Let there be no scolding, no loud-voiced, angry commands.” RH 7-8-1902 "

      Oh that God may so fill us with His Spirit of love that we will learn how to be proactive and not reactive in situations where we see evil being manifested in our homes, churches, workplaces and elsewhere!

    • RE: "However God does not rank sins (James 2:10)."

      This is a statement I've always heard repeated, but if this is so how do we understand John 19:11? Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”

      Also 1 Samuel 15:23 "“For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
      And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.
      Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
      He has also rejected you from being king.”

      We see also in the sanctuary system there were degrees of sin--unintentional and "high-handed". (Numbers 15:27-31)

      Ellen White tend to suggest also that of all sins, PRIDE is the greatest. "The sin that is most nearly hopeless and incurable is pride of opinion, self-conceit." Counsel for Churches p. 46.4

      So it seems to me that although ALL sins are dangerous some are greater than others.

      • Hi Ray,

        Ellen White, in the book Steps to Christ, page 30, under the chapter entitled Repentance, supports the view that God does, in fact, rank sins. She says there are degrees of guilt in His estimation. Here is the exact quote:

        "God does not regard all sins as of equal magnitude; there are degrees of guilt in His estimation, as well as in that of man; but however trifling this or that wrong act may seem in the eyes of men, no sin is small in the sight of God."

      • Ray,
        Your comment is quite reasonable. Bear in mind though the context. “Sins” here is a reference to actions, which is what people may judge, not intent of heart. Even if God did rank sins (the actions), in practical terms it does not make a difference to us if we do not know what that ranking or grading system is. For example which ranks higher, adultery or making graven images (Matthew 5:27-29), Sabbath breaking or angry gossip (Matthew 5:21-23)?

        All sins deserve death (Romans 6:23). James 2:10 effectively equalizes all sins (actions) by equating each to the whole. All sins are connected to the root – self; and any ranking in the human mind is only academic as far as salvation is concerned.

        On the other hand God does make a distinction with the circumstances of the sinner, including knowledge, conditioning/experience, opportunity and intent of heart (matters outside the scope of human judgment). These are what the Biblical passages and EGW statement you quoted seem to address. For example rebellion is not so much a single act but more an attitude which may involve any act of violation of God’s commandments which is deliberate and intended to reject the Creator’s authority.

        Hopefully this helps with a little clarification. In any case yours is a good contribution. Thanks.

      • I also agree, Ray.

        There are different degrees of magnitude spoken of in the Bible when it comes to sin.

        Another example relates to Eli's two sons. It is said of them that "the sin of the young men was VERY GREAT before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD." (1Sam 2:17)

        I believe it is because of this differing 'order of magnitude' that some will die in the Lake of Fire as in a moment, while others will suffer many days.

        Some suffer, as it were, "few stripes", while others suffer "many stripes". (Lk 12:47-48)

    • It seems to me that James 2:10 only tells us that we can lose our salvation by cherishing just one sin. It says nothing about all sins being of equal magnitude.

      I think it's not difficult to see that if I overeat, I may sin against my body, but it's hardly of the same magnitude as committing murder. 😉 While we may not understand all of God's ways, He does present truth to us in a way that appeals to the reasoning ability with which He has endowed us.

      • The rich young ruler "kept the whole law" but was not saved. Paul said that with respect to "the righteousness of Law, found blameless." (Phil 3:6). But he considered that a loss and rubbish so that "I may gain Christ" and His Righteousness. Keeping the Law is not evidence of Salvation and no one cherishing sin has salvation, God's salvation.

    • First of all re Christ's rebuke of sin: It seems to me that Christ spent most of His ministry trying to win the Pharisees with the same love He demonstrated for others. It was only at the very end of His ministry that He pointed out their hypocrisy - and this was as much for their sake as for the sake of the people who looked up to them as a standard of righteousness. Furthermore, according to Ellen White, "tears were in His voice when He uttered His scathing rebukes." He loved them enough to die for them. That's why He had tears in His voice.

      Until we love others enough to die for them, we should hesitate to rebuke them.

      I also don't think Jesus was only talking about conscious hypocrisy - i.e. pointing out sin in others when we are knowingly doing the same thing. I believe that He referred to the well-known psychological phenomenon that we most easily recognize in others the faults we have ourselves. In fact, we are so sensitive on the topic, that we magnify the sins of others - thus minimizing our own. And most often this is not conscious. Thus, if we really want to recognize our own sins, perhaps we should examine what irks us most in others. (That has often given me pause.) Our sins may not be precisely the same, but they are likely of the same kind. I believe that's the phenomenon Paul was addressing when he wrote in Romans 2:1 NIV:

      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.

      I think we should be very hesitant to soften such clear commands of Christ as to "judge not." Note that in the lesson quarterly, Ellen White's comment sheds more light on what is our duty and what is not:

      "Judge not, that ye be not judged." Do not think yourself better than other men, and set yourself up as their judge. Since you cannot discern motive, you are incapable of judging another. In criticizing him, you are passing sentence upon yourself; for you show that you are a participant with Satan, the accuser of the brethren. The Lord says, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves." This is our work. "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” 2 Cor. 13:5; 1 Cor. 11:31.

      It seems to me that our work is to judge ourselves - and we can't even do that properly without God's Spirit. God's work is to judge others, because only He can see the heart.

      On the other hand, we should continuously share what God has done for us. If He has given us victory over a particular sin, it is appropriate to share so that others struggling with the same sin may be encouraged. Before Christ, we are all equals, and we are to *share* as brothers and sisters, not to set ourselves up as judges over others.

  2. Very often we judge others for their wrong doing without
    looking at our deeds.
    We point a finger to them while the rest
    Four fingers point onto us!!!

    And you are right. We can't use this verse as a shadow to legalize
    people to do wrong. We are ought to rebuke to a sin
    on its name.

  3. Thanks so much Hugh for such a powerful explanation. Its obvious that many of us tend to confuse between judging and advising. Judging is sealing someones fate but as Christians we are to warn,condemn,reprimand,advise with love not Judging.

    • Very often we do even worse than you are saying. We gossip/evil speak and then pretend like we are lovingly confronting a wrongdoer. Our first response should be to pray for wrongdoers and then ask God for His wisdom and guidance in how to respond/react to a wrongdoer.

    • Mackpherson, I don't believe that Christians are to "condemn" anyone. "Reprimanding" doesn't sound quite right to me either, because it presupposes that the person doing the reprimanding has authority over the one being reprimanded.

      It seems to me that, since we are all sinners, when we speak to our brothers and sisters, it should be as one sinner to another sinner - as one who has found the way of life to show another the same way.

  4. Quote from Wayne Dyer: When you are Spiritually connected, you are not looking for occasions to be offended, and you are not Judging and Labeling others. You are in a state of GRACE in which you know you are connected to GOD and thus Free from the effects of anyone or anything External to Yourself! AMEN!

  5. For sure who are we to judge our friends when we shall also be judged. Our goal is to live a christ like life because we are being told that we are a salt or light to this world. No one can manage to do things without these two important comodities.

  6. It is right to condemn sin but usually we judge and condemn others when we label them and that is wrong. Calling others ugly names means we are judging and condemning them.

  7. In relation to the question at the end of the lesson, today "judge not" has been changed to mean "do not tell me if I am wrong or warn me if I am on the wrong path." The two do not mean the same thing. The former condemns, the latter seeks to point away from doing that which condemns. Sin condemns us when it is not confessed and repented of.

  8. We judge every minute we look and think of someone's wrong doing, we judge even without speaking by distancing ourselves we make others feel less desired. The only way to get the right thing to do is to walk with Christ always

  9. The law condemns ALL of us as sinners in need of God's saving grace. The only remedy we have from that condemnation, is the power in the blood of Lamb (Rom.3:23,6:23). Like the apostle Paul,every one of us is chief of sinners and that fact we need to acknowledge very often, especially when tempted to cast judgement on others.

    The most effective deterrent against this sin is to turn our eyes upon Jesus for it is by looking in that Mirror that we see our true selves. The Bible asks us squarely, "Who is he that condemns?" and the resounding answer comes back, "It is Christ that died.." (Rom.8:34.

    Thought for today:
    "Do not judge and you will never be mistaken." (Rousseau)

  10. It is important in this discussion to see clearly the difference between judgement and discipline. In the English language words often carry several meanings and their intentional meaning only becomes clear in their context.

    Judgement, used in the sense of the text, "Judge not ..." implies the sense of using judgement for your own purposes. We are all guilty of doing that, even in a religious sense. How often have we heard words like, "They still eat meat ..."; "I saw so-and-so in the video shop ...". The implication is often that you are a better Christian because you don't do those things. That sort of judgement is unnecessary. I find myself guilty of doing the same myself at times and am in the process of learning that slowness of speech is a virtue!

    Discipline, on the other hand, is about redemption, not judgmental punishment. We do see people for who we have some responsibility (fellow church members, youth, relatives, friends) doing something wrong and something needs to be done to help them. When we believe that they have done something wrong, that in itself is a judgment but in a different sense to the previous paragraph. The action that we take should not be a reaction but the result of a carefully thought out plan. I like to think of discipline as an action that we take together, rather than as some action pushed onto the offending party by those who consider themselves more righteous. Discipline calls for considerable soul-searching by those who administer it. Often discipline has been draconian and has had completely the opposite effect to the intention. When we see discipline as a collaborative activity rather than an antagonistic one it will be far more effective.

  11. It can appear "obvious" to us that we are being judged when others speak negatively about our clothing, about the way we walk, or about the reasons we do something.

    But what about when somebody says, "You are such a wonderful person"? Is their "verdict" any less a judgment, than the words "You are a fool"?

    "...A flattering mouth works ruin." (Prov 26:28, Prov 29:5)

    "Whoever is foolish enough to flatter you cannot be your true friend. Your true friends will caution, entreat, and warn you, and reprove your faults." (3Testimonies p.225) Isn't this so true? A real friend WILL talk straight to us when needs be.

    But I suggest that the flatterer is just as much a "judge" as the one that condemns us.

    • I totally agree, Stewart. Flattery often works to our ruin and fills us with pride which most likely influences us in making wrong or sinful choices. THEN we face negative condemnation fro even those who flattered us with flowery tributes.

  12. It is so easy to say "what you are doing is wrong!" I have discovered that when I have that attitude what I appear to be saying to another or to myself that there is a list of rules and if you only "do" the right ones then you will pass the test.
    I have realized - talking to myself first and foremost - is that Jesus wants a loving relationship with Him and wants me to be happy and because He created me He knows what kind of a character will bring me the most fulfillment, that is a character that is in harmony with His character.
    So now I try to talk to myself and others from a perspective of is this thought, attitude or action drawing me closer to be with and like Jesus or pushing me away. The heart must be changed first and the actions will follow.
    So examine the heart, treat & healed & convert the heart, don't start with the actions.

    John walked with Jesus for 3 years and his nature changed and he drew closer to Jesus.
    Judas walked with Jesus for 3 years and his nature did not change and it separated him from Jesus forever.

    • Shirley, thanks for the thought. Perhaps to apply that to the subject of judging would look like this:
      When we see someone doing something wrong, we should try to understand *why* they are doing it. What hurt are they trying to heal with the wrong medicine? (e.g. All addictions are an attempt to heal a hurt with the wrong medicine, and I suspect we all have *some* addictions.) Why is that person working on Sabbath? Likely it is a lack of faith. So we should ask ourselves what we can do to encourage that person and strengthen their faith, rather than telling them what they're doing wrong. (They already know!)
      Some things that people judge in a damaging way are actually cultural and not a matter of right an wrong at all: Different generations have different standards of dress and modesty and music. And the older generation often feels that their standard is *right* and any other standard *wrong.* It seems likely to me that that's exactly the way the Pharisees thought ...

  13. Thanks for your discussion. my question is what is the difference between advice and judging because we confuse judging and giving advice?

  14. So true. However there is the tendency for us to shy away from even lovingly pointing out the errors of others. The following is a statement from the book 'Christ Object Lessons' p248'But sin is not to be lightly regarded. The Lord has commanded us not to suffer wrong upon our brother. He says, “If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him.” Luke 17:3. Sin is to be called by its right name, and is to be plainly laid out before the wrongdoer. –

    In his charge to Timothy, Paul, writing by the Holy Spirit, says, “Be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” 2 Timothy 4:2. And to Titus he writes, “There are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers.... Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.” Titus 1:10-13.

    Thus from my understanding the purpose of rebuking, confronting others is to be redemptive and restorative, leading back to the truth and love of JESUS. Any other reason is unlawful judging.

    • Well said:

      Thus from my understanding the purpose of rebuking, confronting others is to be redemptive and restorative, leading back to the truth and love of JESUS. Any other reason is unlawful judging.

      And it seems to me that to be redemptive means we will have to work with Jesus: First of all we will have to ask Him for a love like His - that we genuinely love the person we are thinking of reproving or rebuking enough to be willing to die for them. That should prevent any hasty reproof, it seems to me. 😉
      Next we would have to pray for the right *way* to approach the subject - a way that is most likely to result in changed behavior. And that will take the kind of wisdom that comes only from God ...

  15. When Jesus said, ’Do not judge’ He did not imply that anything goes. John 7:24 says, ‘Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly." When you judge by mere appearance that one is superficial judgement. Hypocritical judgement is the one that Jesus spoke about in (Matthew 7:3-5). When we point out the sin of others while we ourselves commit the same sin, we are actually condemning ourselves (Romans 2:1).Harsh judgement is wrong on its own. We need to be gentle towards everyone (Titus 3:2). The Pharisee in Jesus’ Parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector was confident in his own righteousness and from that proud position judged the tax collector. It is not by mistake that we are introduced to the topic DO NOT JUDGE. How are we able to go out there to spread the GOOD NEWS if we are the first ones to point a finger at someone? How will the people be able to receive the life changing Word that we are carrying if we see ourselves as better than them? The scripture said in Matthew 11:29 we need to learn from Jesus who is gentle and lowly in heart, that way we can win souls to Christ. We also need the spirit of discernment (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The whole counsel of God has to be preached and taught, including the Bible’s teaching on sin (Acts 20:27). We are to gently confront erring brothers or sisters in Christ (Galatians 6:1).Church discipline ought to be in place and practised (Matthew 18:15–17). The truth ought to be spoken in love (Ephesians 4:15).

  16. When Peter "withdrew and separated himself" from the Gentiles -- because he didn't want to be seen sitting and eating with them -- Paul reproved Peter for doing it. And Paul did not wait for a more private opportunity to do it - the reproof was an open, public, reproof. (Gal 2:11-14)

    Was Paul wrong to do this? Was this an example of one man judging another? Of course we cannot now hear the tone of Paul's voice, or see his face, but I believe that Paul was "a wise reprover", and that he did not judge Peter's motive.

    "As an ear-ring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear." (Prov 25:12)

    Paul's reproof hung upon Peter's ear for the rest of his life. He wore it, and it was valuable to him. But if Peter had been "a scorner", then no, I don't believe that Paul would have spoken as he did. (Prov 9:7-8)

    Paul, as a spiritual man, judged all things (1Co 2:15), and he was able to discern when to speak and when to be quiet.


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