Judge Not

Honoring and respecting others, treating them with kindness and dignity regardless of their behavior, is a given for me, and it goes without saying that I can’t approve or condone their sin. (Jud 1:23) It’s also clear to me that I am to esteem others better than myself (Php 2:3), to consider others morally superior to myself. But what does it mean to not judge? (Mt 7:1)

Perhaps judging means to pass a sentence of some sort, as a judge; perhaps it’s taking that extra step, to go beyond simply observing that someone is breaking God’s law, and making a determination of how culpable and morally guilty they are in their sin, deciding how depraved and corrupt someone is and what they deserve for their sin. Perhaps it’s here, where we mortals are forbidden to go.

What tools do we have to evaluate moral goodness or badness in ourselves or others? How can I compare myself with another on moral grounds? If God were to ask me to rate my own goodness on a scale of 0 to 100, 0 being absolute and total wickedness and 100 being absolute perfection, what grounds do I have to rate myself with any specific positive value? Is 1.0 low enough? How about 0.0001? Isn’t it naked presumption to give myself anything above zero(Ga 6:3)

I have some idea what absolute perfection looks like in Yeshua, and I know I don’t measure up, but in attempting to determine how close I am to His perfection, or how far away someone else is, I find myself in strange and unfamiliar territory, trying to make measurements in a space where I have no means to calibrate distance.

Perhaps this is why Paul put so little stock in the moral evaluations of others, even his own, calling it “very small thing.” (1Co 4:3) We cannot see another’s motives, why they’re doing what they are. We can’t know all of their wounds and insecurities and baggage, what makes them tick. It’s impossible for us to determine the moral quality of someone else’s heart; it’s a space where we just don’t belong; God occupies it well enough, all on His own.

So, God is telling me to refrain from any attempt to measure or evaluate others on moral grounds. This posture doesn’t actually condone or enable anyone else’s sin, it’s simply the only default position that makes sense when I’m not equipped to make any kind of moral evaluation. Judgement is God’s job, and He doesn’t need my help.

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10 thoughts on “Judge Not”

  1. Is it contradictory for God to forbid judging others, while requiring us to esteem others better than ourselves?

    Everyone’s unique, so no two people are exactly morally equivalent. Since it’s presumptuous to rank one’s self above another, and since we cannot be equivalent to anyone else, the only rational option is for each of us to esteem all others to be morally superior to ourselves.

    This is exactly what Paul does (“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” 1Ti 1:15), and God calls us all to emulate him. (“Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” Php 4:9)

  2. It’s impossible to tell how much better than myself anyone else is, or to rank others in moral goodness. I am blind in this space, unable to make moral measurements or assessments. Therefore He says, “Judge not.”

    I’m not to concern myself with how good or bad others are. I’m limited to acknowledging when others are willfully, persistently, and flagrantly violating Torah, and if these are in the church, to join with my brothers and sisters in praying them out.

  3. Tim,

    Reminded me of 2 Corinthians 10

    For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.

    stephen

  4. From a friend, after discussing this concept: “The worst thing anyone could ever say about me, God’s already said it: of myself, I’m desperately wicked.

    “The best thing anyone could ever say about me, God’s already said it: God’s adopted me as His son.”

  5. Thinking I might be the worst person on the planet might discourage me from trying to be good; just give up and give in to the enemy. But I cannot forget that every sin grieves God, and is harmful to myself and others. I must try to minimize God’s pain, and our pain, no matter where I am in His ranking.

  6. Most of my wickedness is unknown to me, for God’s restraining me, holding me back from sin. So my true moral nature isn’t necessarily practical or evident, but theoretical, yet no less real. Only the infinite, omniscient God knows what I would be like without His grace.

  7. Being (likely) the most wicked person on Earth doesn’t excuse me to be anything but my very best self, or to neglect God’s gifts to me, equipping me for service. I don’t serve because I’m worthy, but because He’s worthy.

  8. Those in Mt 7 who boast of their “wonderful works” evidently never grasped this concept of pride and humility, revealing their wickedness even in the midst of their boasting.

  9. Another temptation here is to take sin lightly since I have so very much of it.

    Though I cannot measure it, I can still try to avoid it as much as I can and hate it.

    When I see molten steel I can and should avoid being burned any more by it without knowing exactly how hot it is or how much I am already harmed by it.

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