Is it Always Wrong to Judge Others? (Part 2)

1 Corinthians 5

12It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your job to judge those inside the church who are sinning in these ways. 13God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13, NLT)


One of the biggest criticisms against Christians in our culture today is that we’re “judgmental”. Gabe Lyons and David Kinnaman, in their book “UnChristian” outline several negative traits that non-believers perceive to be true of Christians and being judgmental is one of them.

As a result of this criticism, many Christians wrongly believe that we should NEVER judge others. Matthew 7:1, in which Jesus says: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” is often cited as proof that Christians should never judge others.

I wrote about this passage several months ago (you can read it here) and explained why that passage does not teach that Christians can never judge others, while explaining what Jesus was really teaching in that passage.

Now, in this passage of 1 Corinthians, Paul gives further clarity on the issue of judging.

The context of this passage is sexual immorality. Apparently, there was a person in the church who was involved in some pretty heinous sexual sins, and nobody was calling him out on it.

Does this sound familiar?

Often, we in the church don’t want to confront others regarding their immoral life choices because we don’t want to be seen as “judgmental”.

Paul offers a rebuke to the Christians in the Corinthian church precisely because they did NOT judge the person for their sinful actions.

Paul explicitly states that while it’s not our job as Christians to be the morality police to the world, for those who are in the church, those who claim to be followers of Jesus, we ARE to confront and rebuke them when their actions and life choices do not line up with God’s standards for righteous living.

We should note that the idea of “judging” someone is simply confronting them whenever they are in sin.

Unfortunately, the world’s view of “judging” usually involves any type of negative feedback that might be critical of a person’s choices. Paul says that we, as believers CAN and SHOULD be prepared to approach, confront, rebuke and even criticize those who are in the church if their actions are not righteous and honoring to God.

Of course, whenever we do this, we need to be careful how we do it and we need to ensure that our own lives are above reproach. Otherwise, we can easily be labeled as hypocrites, which is another one of the negative traits labeled against Christians that was identified in the book UnChristian by Kinnaman and Lyons.

If you read the passage in Matthew 7, you’ll see that this was exactly the point Jesus was making about judging others – it’s not wrong to judge but we don’t want to be hypocritical in the way that we judge others.

So is it always wrong to judge others?

Clearly, NO! But we need to be careful how we confront others so that we are not doing it in a way that may seem hypocritical. Additionally, we should not apply the same moral standards to those outside the church as we do to those who are followers of Jesus.

Reflection

What do you think is meant by the term “judging”?  How have you defined it?

What is your response to the view that many non-Christians view Christians as being judgmental? Do you think this charge is true or fair?

Paul says that “it certainly is your job to judge those inside the church who are sinning in these ways.” How does this statement align with your current thinking on the issue of judging? Does it surprise you to know that we as Christians SHOULD judge others (those inside the church)? Why or why not?

What do you think are some ways we can be better at judging others without reinforcing the negative stereotypes that Christians have on this issue?

 

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

Is it Always Wrong to Judge Others?

Matthew 7

1“Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. 2For others will treat you as you treat them. Whatever measure you use in judging others, it will be used to measure how you are judged. 3And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4How can you think of saying, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5Hypocrite! First get rid of the log from your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.
(Matthew 7:1-5, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

“DON’T JUDGE ME!”

Have you ever heard someone say this? It’s become fashionable to criticize others for being judgmental, which is ironic because when you criticize someone for judging, you are, in fact, exercising a judgment against them.

Many Christians have concluded, largely based on this passage, that we’re never to judge others. EVER. To do so would be un-Christlike and a violation of Jesus’ clear teachings.

But is that true? I don’t think so. Let me explain why.

First of all, it’s not possible to eliminate all judgments, at least not in the technical sense. To make a judgment is simply to form an opinion or conclusion based on your own personal evaluation. We do this hundreds of times a day as we make decisions.

We form opinions (judgments) about others based on our personal interactions with them and other relevant data that gives us a window into their character and their personality.

Typically, when people “feel judged”, what they usually mean is that they feel criticized or shamed for something they have done or some viewpoint that they hold.

Is it always wrong to “judge” people or be critical of their actions or their viewpoints?

Clearly, the answer is NO. If that is true, then Jesus himself violates his own teaching as he often had encounters with religious leaders in which he was critical of their teachings and their practices. So Jesus must not be saying that you can NEVER confront, rebuke or correct someone for something they’ve done or said.

Then what is Jesus saying exactly?

The key word in this passage is “Hypocrite”. Remember that we said that Jesus often had encounters with the Pharisees, whom he accused of being hypocrites on numerous occasions.

The word “hypocrite” was an acting term. Actors would play several parts in a live play and would simply wear different masks to take on different parts. So, to be a hypocrite is to wear a mask; to project an image of yourself that doesn’t match the true self.

The Pharisees were hypocrites because they made a living out of pointing out every small flaw in others while giving the impression that they were living sinless lives.

The problem with the Pharisees was their attitude. They were extremely self-righteous, thinking that they were completely blameless, while pointing out to others even the smallest infractions.

Jesus is warning against the kind of religious sanctimony in which you are critical of others for the very things of which you yourself are guilty.

This is clear from the outset as Jesus says that whatever standard you judge others by is the same standard by which YOU will be judged. If you have a standard of judging others that points out every flaw or indiscretion while giving yourself a pass on all the little things, then this is an incongruent application of standards. Jesus points out that this is hypocrisy.

So what’s the solution?

The solution isn’t to NEVER look to correct other’s bad behavior or to NEVER point out another person’s indiscretions or errors.  The solution is to confront and correct others in a way that is not hypocritical. We do this by correcting our own behavior first and by being open to examining our own errors first.

We call this humility.

By having an attitude of humility you’ll gain the respect and attention of others and they will be more likely to listen to you and value your feedback.

If we’re not humble in our approach toward others, if we are unloving or condescending as we point out their faults and indiscretions, it is less likely they will pay attention to anything we are saying to them. More than likely, their defenses will immediately go up and they probably will curtly respond, “DON’T JUDGE ME!”

Reflection

What are some situations you’ve been in that made you feel judged? What was it about that situation that caused you to feel judged?

What reasons could you give to demonstrate that Jesus clearly doesn’t mean that we should never confront others for their actions or be critical of the things they say or believe?

Based on the passage, how would you explain Jesus’ teachings on judging?

What are some things you can do to ensure that you’re not being hypocritical in your actions and encounters with others?

 

Photo by Alesia Kozik from Pexels

The Consequences of Deceit

1There was also a man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. 2He brought part of the money to the apostles, but he claimed it was the full amount. His wife had agreed to this deception. 3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself.  4 The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God.”  5As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified. 6Then some young men wrapped him in a sheet and took him out and buried him. (Acts 5:1-6, NLT)

I don’t know about you but I’ve read this story dozens, if not hundreds of times over the years and I always thought the punishment seemed kind of extreme. I mean, I know God doesn’t like lying, but to see these two fall dead for their deceit always seemed a bit extreme (Verses 7-10 tell of a similar fate for Sapphira).

My standard explanation has always been the idea that God is really holy and any sin is deserving of death. We really can’t be surprised when peole get what they actually deserve. Theologically, that’s true, but we don’t tend to see the consequences of lying play out this way normally. Perhaps there is more at play here.

So what’s going on?

A few thoughts:

    • The sin was not in selling the property or even keeping part of the proceeds. Peter says that the land was theirs to sell or not sell as they saw fit. The sin was deceiving others regarding how much they gave (see Acts 5:2).
    • They (Ananias and Sapphira) wanted to give the impression that they gave everything when they really didn’t. This is religious charlatanism. It is projecting an outer image that doesn’t match what is really true.
    • If you read through the gospels, you’ll see that Jesus spoke of this often with the Pharisees. He often pointed out their hypocrisy and the true nature of their heart condition. So it’s not surprising that this kind of attitude and religious impressionism is dealt with swiftly in the early church.

Honestly, it’s much easier to object to the outcome of the story as being unjust instead of reflecting on my own heart and thinking about the myriad of ways in which I do the same thing. The truth is, we all want to be liked and it’s very easy to stretch the truth or bend the facts of my situation in order to make myself look better to others. This is what John Ortberg calls “impression management.”

In what ways are you tempted to make yourself look better to others than you are?

What are the areas in your life where you struggle to present your real self?

What is keeping you from sharing your real struggles and honest thoughts with those closest to you?

I’m thankful that this story is not normative of how the Lord responds to those who engage in the sin of deceit, for I know if that were the case, I would’ve been hauled out in a wrapped up sheet long ago!