Judging: We all do it. Some do it well, some do it poorly, and some say they don’t. But in reality, we all judge all the time.
Even Jesus did it.
Judging is a good thing and you should do it frequently.
There, I said it.
Also, we all judge all the time.
First, let me define judge and judgmental. We get those two mixed up quite a bit.
Judgmental: Having or displaying an excessively critical point of view. Synonymous with hypercritical, condemnatory, negative, critical, disparaging, or overcritical. Judgmental is an excessive negative bias without cause or reason.
Judge: To form an opinion or conclusion about something. Synonymous for evaluate, appraise, assess, decide, etc. Judging is a reality-based assessment with minimal bias (minimal because all of us are biased with everything to some degree).
That is judging. Making an opinion or coming to a decision about something based on evidence presented to us. Judging and condemning are not synonymous.
If we say that Chick-Fil-A has better milkshakes than McDonald’s does, we made a judgment. If we say a child molester deserves prison time and has mental problems, we made a judgment. If we say that a high school senior is bullying a freshman, we made a judgment. If you say you didn’t like the Twilight movie, you judged it based on what you saw (the evidence) and formed an opinion to dislike it.
Even if we were to say that we were opinion-less about something, we would still be judging to come to the conclusion to be opinion-less, which is also a type of opinion.
This may get difficult and weird, but stick with me for the next 1,000 words or so.
We all judge all the time.
The caveat with judging is that we have to do it correctly, and we can’t condemn others to their eternal resting place. That whole “remove the plank from your eye before you remove the speck from someone else’s eye” verse (Matthew 7:1-6) is essentially listing out the stipulations for judging other people.
1). Judge yourself first. We can’t judge anyone without first realizing and addressing our own issues. We all have our own hang-ups, biases, and problems, and we need to try to improve and fix them, preferably with God’s assistance. Even more so if some of our issues prevent us from helping others or if they prevent us from seeing clearly. Hence, the plank.
2). Don’t be a hypocrite. A hypocrite is, “Somebody who pretends to have admirable principles, beliefs, or feelings but behaves otherwise.” Essentially, our talk has to match our walk. We have to actually live out the ethics and morals that we claim to believe.
3). We have to hold ourselves to the same standards that we judge by. Giving ourselves extra leniency doesn’t work in this situation. If anything, we should be extra strict on ourselves. But that goes back to #2 with the whole “hypocrisy” thing. We have to label (and own) our actions, behaviors, opinions, etc., with the same metaphorical label maker we use to label everything else.
4). Don’t condemn. Forming an opinion based on evidence presented to us is okay, but it is not our place to condemn others or to determine their eternal resting place.
Those are the shorthand rules for judging others, straight from the Jesus.
A lot of good Christian and well-meaning people have taken this passage of scripture out of context in so many ways, but that’s just it: it’s out of context. They didn’t look at the big picture Jesus was painting, either unintentionally or intentionally.
The argument of “Jesus said for us to not judge people,” which is taken (out of context) from that Matthew 7 passage I mentioned earlier. Jesus says to do it correctly. Besides, if we go with the “Jesus said not to judge” reason for not judging, then Jesus blatantly contradicts himself. He said that we’re supposed to “follow him,” act like him, adopt his values, mimic his character, that kind of thing. And Jesus judged people…He judged people a lot. So, logically, wouldn’t that mean that we need to judge like him also, if for no other reason than to only follow Jesus’s behavior?
Did you see the key sentence structure there? Judge like him. We need to judge (assess, formulate an opinion) like Jesus did it.
Emulating the character of Jesus isn’t like a cafeteria; we can’t pick and choose what we want to have. It’s kind of an “all or nothing” deal.
My favorite example of Jesus judging is when the Pharisees brought that adulterer woman to Jesus and wanted to throw rocks at her (John 8).
I understand that some people might say, “Adam, Jesus didn’t judge her though. He didn’t punish her or anything!”
Right, he didn’t punish or condemn her. However, he did judge her though. He judged her the right way. He said, “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” How could he have reached the conclusion that she was sinning if he didn’t judge her? Remember, judging is only forming an opinion based on evidence.
Judging is only forming an opinion, conclusion, or taking a stance on something. Delivering the consequences is an entirely different matter. It’s a multi-step process.
A lot of people have issues separating the act of judging from delivering the consequences of that judgment. As Christians, it is our duty to judge. Really, the bible mandates it.
Psalm 37:30 “The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom; his tongue speaks of what is just.” “Just” means behaving according to what is morally right and fair.
1 Corinthians 2:15 says, “The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything.” Judge is a synonym for evaluate.
That makes me think about my college grades and papers a little differently now; the professor judged my work.
How does judging work though? How do you determine what’s right, wrong, indifferent, and insignificant? This is one of my favorite questions!
John 7:24 says to, “Judge according to righteous judgment.” Righteous means upright, correct, virtuous, upstanding, etc. To figure out what “right” is we must look at what we know about God’s character and values; what he stands for, stands against, how he feels about things, stuff like that. To find out what God values, we only have to read scripture more thoroughly. You can’t miss it.
Example: We know God cares more about divorce than he does about casual drinking. Why? Because there is so much more scripture that talks about God hating divorce than there is about God hating drinking. Seriously, if we line the two things up side-by-side, drinking doesn’t even register compared to the passages regarding divorcing and marriage.
So, we have to figure out what God’s “judging stick” looks like. Let me explain.
If you’re holding a stick, you can’t say how crooked, or straight, it is until you have an actual straight straight stick to compare it to. In this instance, God’s character is the straight stick; our (and everyone’s) actions and behavior is the other one.
As Jesusy people, we’re expected to know what right and wrong are and to call it as such. We need to know what a crooked stick looks like when we see one. We aren’t supposed to deliver the “eternal consequences” of judging; that’s not our place. But we are supposed to know what it looks like and how we need to act to keep ourselves emotionally, physically, and spiritually safe.
Example: Would you send a 6-year-old to a daycare that operated out of the back of a van in a shady part of town by a shady person who had history of child molestation? Of course not! But to come to that decision, you made a judgment based on evidence and took proper action to keep little Sebastian safe from the questionable daycare.
Determining “right” judgment is entirely about being in tune with God’s character, integrity, and values. He’s supposed to be the straight stick we compare everything else to. The bible is laced with God’s character, along with what he hates, loves, dislikes, detests, what’s close to his heart, etc. It’s everywhere. You can’t not see it if you read and pay attention. Proverbs 6:16-19 is a good section that says what God hates and doesn’t stand for.
That Proverbs passage says:
“The Lord hates six things; in fact, seven are detestable to him: arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil, a lying witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers.”
Based off of that section alone, we can come to a good assumption about what is and isn’t morally right. It’s simply just reading to see what the straight stick looks like, comparing it to ourselves, aligning ourselves with God’s standards, and assessing the world through God’s eyes.
Figure out God’s character.