Friday, August 13, 2010

Do Not Judge?

This is a follow up to my previous sermon, "The Time is Now."

Audio: Do Not Judge


"I did one work, and you are all amazed," Jesus answered. "Consider this: Moses has given you circumcision-not that it comes from Moses but from the fathers-and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses won't be broken, are you angry at Me because I made a man entirely well on the Sabbath? Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather judge according to righteous judgment."
John 7:21-24 (HCSB)

Stop judging according to outward appearances rather judge according to Righteous judgment. After my last sermon I had some come to me to question the notion that teaching that God's word says that we are not to judge generally was evil. Today I would like to cover three areas. First I would like to clarify the idea that suggesting that God does not want us to judge is evil. Second I would like to pull from the Scriptures what unrighteous judgment looks like. Finally I would like to explore with you was righteous judgment looks like.

Teaching "Do not judge" is plainly evil in my estimation. First let me explain what I mean by evil. Something that is evil can be worthless in and of itself, a perversion of the original, degenerate, and/or destructive. Something that is evil can also be morally wrong, with intent to hurt others, violent, Atrociously wicked, and or/lewd. I think one could make the case for the latter list, but in this instance I am using evil in the sense of the first list. The teaching is worthless in and of itself, the teaching is a perversion from the original, the teaching is degenerate, and the teaching is destructive.

Do not judge is a worthless teaching because it self-contradictory. A person saying, "Do not Judge" is in fact judging. They contradict themselves if they mean by "do not judge" to be a moral imperative. Any teaching which contradicts itself is meaningless and worthless. It is like trying to drink water from a glass that has no bottom. I keep pouring water into the glass but when I raise it to my mouth there is nothing inside for me to drink.

Do not judge as a moral imperative is a perversion of the original. In my last sermon I explained that Jesus was not in fact teaching the moral imperative to not judge, but rather dealing with the issue of hypocrisy. I will cover hypocrisy more later in the sermon. The phrase "Do not Judge" occurs a handful of times in the Bible. Yet the command to judge accounts for more than 50 references in the Bible (based on a quick count) including more than 20 in the New Testament. If Do not judge is a moral imperative then why would God include the command to judge. Why would God appoint Judges in Israel's history, why would there be an entire book of the Bible dedicated to this period talking about those that judged righteously and those the judged unrighteous. The answer is that in the cases that the phrase "do not judge" appears, the command is conditional and not absolute. That is to say do not judge hypocritically, do not judge unbelievers, do not judge with condemnation, do not judge with unforgiveness, do not judge according to flesh, and so on. The imperative to not judge has more to do with the heart and motive of the person doing the judgment than for the act itself. To suggest otherwise is really a perversion from the original Word of God.

Do not judge as a moral imperative is a degenerate teaching of judging righteously. It focuses exclusively on the things to avoid in judging righteously and completely throws out the rest of the teachings. It has a form or godliness, but denies the moral imperatives of God to act righteously toward others. For example how can one defend the orphans and widows unless one has perceived and judged that there is one that is doing them harm? "Do not judge" is an abandonment of of our moral responsibilities to the world around us. "I cannot help, because I judge no one" is morally reprehensible to me.

Do not judge as a moral imperative is destructive. When church which is the body of individuals coming together under the headship and authority of Christ lose their ability to stand strong in times of moral chaos both the world and the body of Christ suffers. I think of:

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It's no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men.
Matthew 5:13 (HCSB)

We are salt 1) To arrest the decay of an immoral society, and 2) That we can bring goodness and light to a lost world. "Do not judge" is about as bland as one can get. It only requires one thing, to do nothing. There is no saltiness in such a teaching and so it is no longer good but to be trampled on by men. Perhaps that is why there is no reverence from society regarding the things of God; We have lost our saltiness. With the moral calling removed then decay and hopelessness set in without the possibility of redemption. "Do not judge" conceals sin by saying nothing about it.

The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy.
Proverbs 28:13 (HCSB)

I wonder how one would possibly come to a knowledge of sin without another first proclaiming what sin was. Yet the "do not judge" teaching prohibits such proclamations. They are after all passing judgment about the morality of others' behaviors.

Let me be clear, a gentle kind person with great sincerity could possibly bring forth the teaching of "do not judge." They could be very pious in every way. They could possibly even be a gentle and loving soul toward others. However, if they hold to the teaching "do not judge" they will destroy themselves and those that listen to them. In the end my assessment of such a scenario is that the teaching is evil.

With that being said, I do not believe nor does the Bible teach that all judgment is good. In fact the Bible has much to say about unrighteous judgment and we would be wise to learn what God's word says about this type of judgment. Let's take a look at that next.

Do you really speak righteously, you mighty ones? Do you judge people fairly? No, you practice injustice in your hearts; with your hands you weigh out violence in the land. The wicked go astray from the womb; liars err from birth.
Psalms 58:1-3 (HCSB)

"Do you really speak righteously?" That is among of the most important questions you can ask in this life. Our words really do matter and how we use our words reveals our heart:

A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.
Luke 6:45 (HCSB)

When we judge it has to be in a righteous manner. It must be in accordance to God's righteousness and not with our thoughts of what is right. God is the standard and we set ourselves to play God in others' lives when we ignore this fact.

The first way that we can fall into unrighteous judgment I have already covered, but it bears repeating. God hates hypocrisy.

Smooth lips with an evil heart are like glaze on an earthen vessel. A hateful person disguises himself with his speech and harbors deceit within. When he speaks graciously, don't believe him, for there are seven abominations in his heart. Though his hatred is concealed by deception, his evil will be revealed in the assembly.
Proverbs 26:23-26 (HCSB)

Do not drag me away with the wicked, with the evildoers, who speak in friendly ways with their neighbors while malice is in their hearts. Repay them according to what they have done- according to the evil of their deeds. Repay them according to the work of their hands; give them back what they deserve. Because they do not consider what the Lord has done or the work of His hands, He will tear them down and not rebuild them.
Psalms 28:3-5 (HCSB)

Jesus reserved his harshest words for those that dealt with others hypocritically.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men's bones and every impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Matthew 23:27-28 (HCSB)

And later in the passage he says:

Snakes! Brood of vipers! How can you escape being condemned to hell?
Matthew 23:33 (HCSB)

When we judge hypocritically we become the object of God's displeasure. Paul in speaking to the Romans and to us says:

Therefore, any one of you who judges is without excuse. For when you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things. We know that God's judgment on those who do such things is based on the truth. Do you really think-anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same-that you will escape God's judgment?
Romans 2:1-3 (HCSB)

Some might say then it is better not to judge then to fall under the severity of God's judgment. I say no. It a lukewarm response from a lukewarm Christian that says, "I do not judge, because to judge is hypocritical." and then does nothing. The first part to avoid hypocrisy is true enough, but the second part to do nothing is completely against God. Sometimes we see the sins in others, but what we really see when it is spiritually discerned is the sins in ourselves. Our response to sin in our own lives ought to be repentance. We need to deal with sin in our lives that we would be effective in ministry for God. Without repentance we are disqualifying ourselves from the Lord's work. I do not suspect that God will say, "well done, you really did nothing to Glorify Me, but at least you avoided hypocrisy."

The second class of unrighteous judgments is with partiality. The most common way to show partiality is with money. In it's most gross form unrighteous judgment occurs when a person takes a bribe to pervert justice. However, it can also occur when we give personal preference based on social class or some other outward measure of a person. We can be guilty of judging with harsher judgment those that are unlike us without really examining the facts and discerning righteously. God shows no partiality and desires that we do the same. When partiality comes into play it distorts our judgment and perverts justice.

A third class of unrighteous judgment is according to outward appearances. Jesus said:

Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather judge according to righteous judgment.
John 7:24 (HCSB)

He was responding to the Pharisees for criticizing Jesus for "working" on the Sabbath. His work was healing a person. We can become so consumed in our judgment that we allow our judgment to blind us to the good that is going on. In this case Jesus is saying is it more imperative that we follow the letter of the Law or that we follow the spirit of the Law in order that we might do good. This is not an excusing of sin, but at times we have many things at play and judging for the higher good sometimes means that we need to look beyond the appearance of things.

The forth class of judgment would be judging according to the flesh. Jesus said:

Ye according to the flesh do judge; I do not judge any one, and even if I do judge my judgment is true, because I am not alone, but I and the Father who sent me;
John 8:15-16 (YLT)

When we judge according to our own flesh or according to human standards and leave God out then we judge unrighteously. This type of judgment is looking at a situation or person through the lens of human judgment. We can fall into this trap when we allow our personal preferences, or our personal ideas of the right or wrong way to do things to become the standard for our judgment. Yet Paul clearly explains:

For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it.
Romans 7:18 (HCSB)


For the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God's law, for it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Romans 8:7-8 (HCSB)

When we judge according to the flesh it is my understanding, in light of Romans 7 and 8 that we cannot please God and are hostile to God. We must keep our flesh in check if we are to judge righteously.

A fifth type of unrighteous judgment is judging according to ascetic practices, foolish debates, or according to doubtful things. Paul says:

Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.
Romans 14:1 (NKJV)

Oh how often we are led into great disturbances over doubtful things. Sad really it seems that as I survey the landscape of Christianity including my own life I find that we pay far more attention to doubtful things than to the things of God. When we judge a brother on doubtful things then we judge unrighteously. We also become a stumbling block to our brother or sister in Christ. Our judgment becomes their downfall. This type of judgment is unrighteous then on two counts, first that we are placing importance on doubtful things and two that we cause our brother or sister to stumble. In Romans 14 Paul lists food, drink, and day that is observed to the Lord as doubtful things. To this we can add to the list: particular religious observances, ascetic practices, severe treatment of the body, foolish debates, arguing over words, genealogies, jealous quarrels. These are promoted by a false sense of humility and righteousness, but have no power in and of themselves to curb our sinful nature according to Paul's letter to the Colossians 2.

I wonder though if there could possibly be other doubtful things that we pass judgment on and become a stumbling block to others. I actually have many things that come to mind as I reflect on this. I do not want to share them keeping with Paul's admonishment to not enter into disputes over these things I believe it is better in this case to keep my opinion to myself. One way I believe that we can determine if a thing is doubtful is whether or not the Bible specifically addresses a topic or there is a principle that is taught in the Bible that can be brought to bear on that situation. The specific topics and principles of the Bible cannot be doubtful and must be upheld. All other things are doubtful and it probably best that we do not dispute over these things. Not that we cannot appreciate or even enjoy doubtful things, but to argue with a brother or sister over it is destructive.

The final class of unrighteous judgment that I would like to cover is speaking evil of others. This evil speaking is a type of judgment that is condemning and against the other person. This type of judgment has very little if any grace and it not really with the intent of restoring a brother or sister. It is raw running a person down condemnation. This is evil speaking. It is often slanderous and derogatory. Speaking evil can also be about someone and not to someone. However, speaking evil of someone behind their back is not any better than speaking evil to their face. In one way it is worse, because you add the sin of gossip to the sin of unrighteous judgment.

So what then? With all these types of unrighteous judgment it would seem that it is better not to judge. However doing nothing in the face of great evil does not seem to be an admirable quality. So how is it that we can judge righteously? Righteous judgment is accomplished by upholding God's Righteousness, in fairness, with wisdom, with forgiveness, redemption, and reconciliation as motives, and moved by the Holy Spirit.

The action of our judgment will change based on who we are dealing with as well. Whether we are witnessing to unbelievers, dealing with hostile unbelievers, confronting false teachers, addressing self-proclaimed believers that continue in gross immorality, or a brother or sister that has recently fallen into sin. To address all the nuances that each of these situations would bring up would take quite a bit of time and possibly several sermons, but for the sake of time let me just briefly go over what generally constitutes Righteous Judgment.

We must first and foremost hold up God's righteousness. Injustice under God's law is a threat to justice everywhere. We have to recognize that God's justice is higher than our justice, God's law is higher than our law, God's righteousness is higher than our righteousness. In the end God is higher than any feeble attempt on our part to accomplish anything of worth. That is why we need to judge righteously according to the righteousness of God. The standard for this righteousness is the very word of God. Before we start casting stones though we must understand the complete record of God both New and Old Testaments and how God is calling his church to manifest His righteousness which is quite different than the way that He appointed Israel to manifest His righteousness. This will require regular study of the Bible.

We must examining our own self first. If we judge without a serious self-examination then we will become like the hypocrites that God despises. But if we have an attitude of,

Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won't be tempted.
Galatians 6:1 (HCSB)

Then we will judge righteously.

We must be fair and impartial. The moment we become partial and do not defend the defenseless and make our judgment conform to our personal preferences we pervert justice and our judgment is not true.

We must be wise. The beginning of wisdom is the respect and honor and fear of the Lord. Judgment is not to be rushed into as fools are known to do. But rather is to be graciously weighed out and contemplated. Not that we stand in indecision. We have whole body's of believers and denominations that in the effort to weigh things out put off making a judgment on issues that are plainly addressed in God's word as if were not clear. Indecision is not wise.

In judgment forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation, and health of the Body of Christ (Church) must be central to our motivation. These can be summed up in that we are to love others. At times love requires judgment. In fact not judging can be one of the most unloving acts one can do. Simply stated if I am unwilling to let you know you are about to fall into a pit for fear of do not judge and let you fall into it then I have not loved you. Love in this case requires sound judgment. On the other hand if condemnation is our way then we put ourselves in God's role of judge, become self-righteous, and God's grace is not in us. We should always speak in a since desire to see reconciliation. Even when we have to move to discipline.

And if anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take note of that person; don't associate with him, so that he may be ashamed. Yet don't treat him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 (HCSB)

Finally, but certainly not least our judgment must be moved by the Holy Spirit.

Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man that is in him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God's Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually. The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone. For who has known the Lord's mind, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:10-16 (HCSB)

In the end to judge moved by the Holy Spirit is to have the mind of Christ.

There is much more that I desire to share with you, but I fear that if I continue you would not hear what I have to say. This has been a longer sermon so let me just sum up a few points before we move to a time of invitation and commitment.

First "Do not judge" as a moral imperative is evil because it is self-contradictory, perverts the original meaning in God's word, it abandons our moral responsibility to the world, and becomes destructive to the world around us as well as the church.

Second, we judge unrighteously when we judge with hypocrisy, with partiality, according to appearances, according to the flesh, in deputes over doubtful things, or to speak evil to or about others.

Finally if we want to judge righteously then we must judge, according to God's righteousness, examining our own self first, with fairness and impartiality, with wisdom, motivated by redemption and love, and moved by the Holy spirit.

Dear friends we live in a time that the world will label us intolerant and judgmental. To escape this label our natural tendency will be to either not judge or to judge unrighteous. We must on the other hand chose to stay the narrow course of Righteousness.

Let me close with this

I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and because of His appearing and His kingdom: Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths. But as for you, be serious about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
2 Timothy 4:1-5 (HCSB)

And now let Paul's Charge to Timothy become our charge that we might fulfill the ministry that God has set out before us. Now is not the time to shy away. Let's pray!