Are We Supposed to Judge or Not?
I’m going to read to you a group of names and you tell me what the common connection is:
-Simon Cowell -Paula abdul -Randy Jackson -Steven Tyler
(America’s Got Talent)
-Piers Morgan -Sharon Osborne -Howie Mandel -David Hasselhoff
(Dancing With the Stars)
-Len Goodman -Carrie Ann Inaba -Bruno Tonioli
(Florida Supreme Court Justices)
-Charles Canady -Barbara Pariente -Fred Lewis -Peggy Quince -Ricky Polston
-Jorge Labarga -James Perry
(U.S. Supreme Court Justices)
-John Roberts -Antonin Scalia -Anthony Kennedy -Clarence Thomas -Ruth Bader Ginsburg -Stephen Breyer -Samuel Alito -Sonio Sotomayor -Elena Kagan
What are all of these people known for? Some are known for other things, but in this grouping they are all judges. Some judges judge people’s talents and abilities, while others judge between what is legal, illegal, constitutional, or unconstitutional.
But what does the Bible say about judging? Is the Bible for or against judging? If it is against judging, why is there an entire book of the Bible called “Judges”? Wouldn’t it be more fittingly called, “Sinners”?
Finish this sentence for me, “Judge not _____________________.” Jesus actually said that in His most famous sermon. So we should probably just go with what He said then, right? Especially since it was in His most famous sermon, and not something overheard by someone else while he was playing darts with Peter. The passage goes on to say, “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-4)
Pretty simple. We shouldn’t judge other people because when we do, it opens the door for someone to judge us. And when someone judges us, they can use the same standard of measurement against us as we used against them. Do you all know who Joan and Melissa Rivers are? Joan is a very funny comedienne, but lately she has become more famous as a fashion critic of celebrities at red carpet events. Joan and her daughter even have a show called “Fashion Police.” It doesn’t matter what personal issue the celebrity maybe facing (flu, pregnancy, death in the family) they will criticize that person pretty harshly by how they are dressed, accessorized, made up, and how their hair is done. She has made a career out of judging people’s appearances, and in the process has opened herself up to being judged by the same merciless standard. In fact, when I googled her name one of the results was “Joan Rivers without makeup.” Did the photographer care that she didn’t have make-up? No. Perhaps she was having a bad day or just woke up. Doesn’t matter. Why? Because no excuse was valid enough for her to stop her criticism of others. She is being judged by the same standard she judged others by.
But what else does the Bible say about judging? Let’s look at 1 Cor. 6:1-5,” Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? 4 If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? 5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?”
“Ok, so we’re supposed to judge then. Now I’m confused.” Perhaps there’s a difference between judging legal issues and personal preferences. What was happening in Corinth was this group of believers, the First Baptist Church of Corinth, would fight and argue over stupid things and then take their cases to the Roman/ pagan courts making a mockery of Christianity in the process. “You Christians say you’re all about love but you can’t seem to find a solution to who this chicken belongs to.” Paul was embarrassed. He said that we will eventually judge the world with Christ, and judge the angels, we should be able to handle a few cases on our own. This was an example of church discipline, as Jesus laid out in Matthew 18.
Let’s read our passage for today and see if we can shed a little more light on the subject. Our passage comes from James 4:11-12, “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one Lawgiver,[a] who is able to save and to destroy. Who[b] are you to judge another?”
Here James makes a distinction between who the judges are, who lawmakers are, and what our role should be. Ultimately, He is the judge and the lawmaker. And when we speak evil and judge another brother, we speak evil and judge the law, and ultimately God. James is very clear that we are not to do that.
So how do we make sense of all of this? We are not to judge others based on our personal preferences. We are to judge others in legal and moral matters, if we’ve been selected for that task, but we need to remember where we are in the totem pole. God is the ultimate judge, and we are mere representatives of Him. What happens when we elect judges, or elect politicians who appoint judges who do not believe in God, or follow His standards? Bad things. Roe Vs. Wade comes to mind. The constitutionality of gay marriages is another. Next time you’re on the internet google “Post Birth Abortion” and see what comes up.
Let me wrap it up with one last visual image. People are always saying things like “You can’t judge me,” “Who are you to judge me?,” and Tupac even had tattooed on his torso, “Only God Can Judge Me.” Ok, I will agree with you that for the most part we are not supposed to judge, but we are called to be fruit inspectors. Matthew 7:15-20, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
A good tree bears good fruit, a bad tree bears bad fruit. I have a mandate from God to inspect fruit, and if the tree is not bearing good fruit to cut it down. You say it is ok to drink, let’s inspect the fruit. “Pornography never hurt anyone”—let’s inspect the fruit. “Abortion is victimless”—let’s inspect the fruit. “I don’t need to go to church every week. I can worship God while fishing”—let’s inspect the fruit. “Me and their mom couldn’t work it out. They know I love them, and besides they would want me to be happy”—let’s inspect the fruit. Inspecting the fruit is how we should decide major decisions in our lives—career paths, love interests, schools, majors, extra-curricular activities, moral dilemmas….