December 6

Don’t Judge; Go Ahead and Judge, Part 1

Matthew 7:1-5 Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 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? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

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. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?

Oh, what our society has done with the word “judge” and the very concept of “judging.” Sometimes the only scripture some seem to know is the beginning of Matthew 7. This is taken to mean that any expression of disapproval is wrong, and God wouldn’t want that (hence the quoting of the Bible, sans any understanding of where it might be, or what the context might include).

It’s clear from just these two sections of God’s Word that some kind of judging is wrong. Matthew focuses on unrighteous judgment that comes from being tainted by one’s own sin. Yet when that sin (the plank) is removed, we are encouraged to help remove the sin (the speck) in our neighbor’s life (eye). So the action of identifying sin as sin cannot be the problem here.

What Jesus is really referring to here is found in the first verses of the chapter, and in James 4. It’s the attitude of negativity and criticism that we might bring that is condemned. It’s the position of the heart that breaks the law of loving one another that James speaks of in 2:8. “Speaking evil of one another” is what is objected to, not the making of a valid judgment call. It’s the condemning heart, either blinded or greatly compromised by the plank in the eye of the one who judges, that is addressed in this passage. James has been dealing with divisions among the saints in this chapter, and the admonition against judging must be seen in this context.

There is a righteous judgment that we are called to, and that will be addressed in tomorrow’s devotional. But let’s obey the proper rules for Biblical interpretation and make sure that we see Scripture in its proper context. There is a kind of judging that is sin: having a judgmental spirit, looking out for weaknesses, looking down on our brothers and sisters, and laying a judgment down upon them that traps them under our pride and lack of love. Happily, that kind of sinfulness can be broken by repentance and adherence to what James says in the verse just prior to 4:11: Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

Prayer: Father, help me to see when I am operating out of this kind of judgmental spirit. I don’t want to bring division or contention to Your body. Forgive me for times I’ve done that. I turn to You and ask for forgiveness and grace to be humble and loving.

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