by Mike Ratliff
1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2 (NASB)
It is impossible to walk through one’s day without having to make judgments. In fact our Lord Jesus who made the oft misquoted and misunderstood command found in Matthew 7:1 and Luke 6:37 to “Do not judge!” also made the following command.
14 But when it was now the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and began to teach. 15 The Jews then were astonished, saying, “How has this man become learned, having never been educated?” 16 So Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. 18 He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
19 “Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who seeks to kill You?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one deed, and you all marvel. 22 For this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. 23 If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath? 24 Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” John 7:14-24 (NASB)
To understand what type of judging our Lord commanded His people not to do in His Sermon on the Mount we must know the difference between judging that is wrong and judging that is right. In the passage above in which we read our Lord’s command to “Do not judge,” we are also given a metaphorical example by our Lord of what makes up judging incorrectly.
3 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 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. Matthew 7:3-5 (NASB)
Judging incorrectly is a fruit of hypocrisy. Think of that drive to work each day or having to wait in line at Wal-Mart or some other busy store. In those examples there are always people who “cheat.” For the Christian we should treat these scenarios differently than non-Christians, right? However, if we are honest don’t we let how others behave in those instances “get to us” a bit and even in some cases, perhaps, don’t we even “cheat” as well? What is the real issue? The issue is how we react when one of those impatient people attempts to manipulate things so that it impacts us directly. Think carefully how you respond when that happens for how do you react when you are the one in a hurry and everyone seems to be in slow motion? We judge incorrectly here if we seek to make ourselves somehow superior to the one who is trying to speed us up or move us out of the way. We may call the person a/an “insert favorite derogatory slam here” (jerk) under our breath or even out loud. We may refuse to speed up or move over just to show them. This is all part of judging incorrectly for it is hypocritical unless we are 100% not guilty of doing the same thing.
We can also exercise hypocritical, harsh, censorious judgment from a self-righteous legalistic perspective as we read in John 7:14-24 (above). This one trips up a large number of Christians and when that happens it is always wrong. Our Lord called it judging by appearances. Here is v24 again, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
The Greek word used here for “judge” is the same one used in Matthew 7:1. It is κρίνω or krinō. It means “to divide, separate make a distinction, come to a decision.” In the usage in Matthew 7:1 and John 7:24, however, it means “to judge, discern, form a mental judgment or opinion.” In other words, we are being commanded by our Lord to not form opinions leading to judgment based on “the appearance.” The Greek word used here for “the appearance” is ὄψις or opsis. This refers to the outward or external show or visage of something. To judge incorrectly would mean to not judge with “righteous judgment.” The word in Greek used here translated as “righteous” is δίκαιος or dikaios. It simply means “right justice.” It describes that which is just, which is expected by the one who sets the rules and regulations whereby man must live. This describes that which is according to the justice and standards of God Himself. The Greek word used here for “judgment” is κρίσις or krisis. This is a separation, a sundering, a judgment, or a sentence. In other words, our Lord is telling us to not judge incorrectly according to the flesh, but according to God’s truth, which is the exercise of moral and theological discernment.
This righteous judgment must be according to the Spirit, never according to the flesh. What I mean is that any exercise of “discernment” from a motivation other than obedience to God is more than likely going to be the fruit of judging according to appearance. Fortunately, we have God’s Word and we know what God teaches us from it that lines up with His standards of righteousness. If professing Christians who are pastors, preachers, teachers, writers, et cetera stray from this then it is the duty of God’s people to “judge with right judgment.”
God gives this “ministry” to some to exercise moral and theological discernment to warn the body of Christ and expose those who will not repent of leading people astray or attempting to re-create Christianity in a way that clearly violates God’s δίκαιος form of our faith and how we serve and worship Him. Remember, this discernment must be according to God’s standards, His δίκαιος, not man’s. That is why it is so providential that God has given us His Word, which clearly shows us God’s δίκαιος that we may serve Him, worship Him, and obey Him in all we do, for His glory alone. It must be done according to the Spirit, never according to the flesh.
Humility is key my brethren. We are not humble if we judge by appearances for this is by the flesh. If we attempt to exercise discernment in our ministries from a fleshly perspective then all we are really doing is judging hypocritically. No, our judgment must be the exercise of moral and theological discernment and never for our own glory, but for God’s alone. It must also carry with it a warning to the body of Christ that such and such is not of God and we must avoid those ministries. This is also a time of teaching when we can teach God’s people the truth. Many church doctrines were developed to address heresies. Also, the one being exposed must be offered the avenue of repentance.
Since we are most effective in our ministries as humble servants of our mighty God then it is vital that we exercise continual mind renewal (Romans 12:1-2) as living sacrifices. We will then have a right perspective of our role in God’s Kingdom and that means we cannot serve Him correctly if we operate according to the flesh. We must mature to the point of denying and crucifying it as a way of life. The opposite would be to indulge our flesh which only puts us in bondage to it, hardens our hearts, and darkens our ability to see and hear the truth.
The flesh crucified walk is one of continual self-examination. We must examine our motives and become more and more tender hearted so that we can discern God’s warning and rebuking voice to bring to our attention that we are being fleshly rather than humble. That is when we come to the Cross. We must then run to the throne of grace in brokenness, repentance, and confession. If we do not exercise these spiritual disciplines then we will be undisciplined which leads only away from the narrow path of the spirit-filled life. If God has given you the ministry of discernment then it is nothing to take lightly. It must be done humbly and for His glory alone. Therefore, we must begin with our devotion to our Lord and commitment to His truth and His ways then we can humbly judge correctly and forsake judging incorrectly.
Soli Deo Gloria!