To Judge or Not to Judge

Posted: September 24, 2011 in Uncategorized
Originally posted 11/11/10
The following is my answer to a question posed by a mother concerning her daughter and whether she could pass judgment on her friends.   A couple of things to keep in mind as you read this.  1. I tend to paraphrase scripture, so you may not agree with my interpretation.  2. I was speaking to a fundamentalist Christian, and for that reason I used the masculine pronoun when referring to God.  I don’t believe God has a specific gender, but it is easier to just use the accepted forms than to try to explain that each time I speak.
Luke 6:37-42 speaks to this issue best of any I have seen.  Judge not, so you won’t be judged.  Don’t condemn and you won’t be condemned.  Forgive and you will be forgiven.  Give and you will be given to. The criteria you use to judge, condemn, forgive or give to others is the same criteria which will be used to judge, condemn, forgive or give to you.  It occurs to me that, knowing these things, I may want to be very careful judging or condemning.  This passage also has a great parable about the blind leading the blind and the specks and/or planks in our eyes.  Matthew 7:1-5 says the same things.
1 Corinthians 4:5 says to judge nothing before the Lord returns.  The Lord will know the motives of your heart and so will be equipped to judge correctly.  This indicates to me that motive is important in knowing if a wrong has been committed.   Even in our own system of justice it is very difficult to convict someone of a crime if you are unable to determine his motive.  In society, we must be free to speculate about motive in order to maintain order and punish crime.  But in truth, only the person doing the deed and God, can know for certain what his motive is for committing the deed.  For this reason we cannot judge anyone.  It is not our job.  It is God’s job, and He has sole discretion over what constitutes sin, and He has sole discretion over what the punishment might be if He determines that a sin has been committed.
It is a dilemma, because you want your kids to make wise choices based on your values and morals.  Yet if they make the choice only because they know you want it, whose values are they displaying?  They need to make the choice because it is the right thing to do and they need to be able to understand why this is right and that is wrong.  As a young seeker I read a book called “Why I Believe”.    The only thing it taught me was that the author’s reason for believing was not a good reason for me to believe.  I needed a bit more evidence than this author presented.  As a small child all that is necessary is “Mom or Dad says so and if I disobey it hurts”.  As the child grows up he/she needs to have reasons which make sense for doing this as opposed to that.  It is the job of the parent to see that the reasons are in place when needed, and that they are logical.
Another thing that occurs to me is in something you said about the mother and daughter wanting not to judge, lest they be judged.  It seems immature to simply not want to judge because you don’t want to be judged.  That is simple self preservation.   We don’t judge because we are not qualified to judge and our judgment may be incorrect or unjust.  It’s the old “don’t judge me till you have walked a mile in my shoes” metaphor.
John 12:47 tells us that even Jesus was not going to judge us.  He came to save us not to judge us.  So how can we presume to judge others when even Jesus won’t.

There are some obvious paradoxes here.  If we look down on those who judge, are we judging them?  As with any aphorism or metaphor, you can carry it out only so far until it turns into nonsense.

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