Theology Thursday: Judging With the Right Intentions

By Numa Gomez, Faculty, College of Theology

father properly judging son

“Judging” is often misunderstood as being “judgmental,” but these are not (or should not be) synonymous. Judging requires discernment and even wisdom. Being judgmental is often associated with self-righteousness and, perhaps, even bigotry. ‘Judgmental’ is almost always thought of as a negative attitude. We might even say of one who is judgmental that they can be negative or toxic. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.”

Judging Qualified

Did Jesus really mean that we should never judge others? He goes on to suggest that it's not the act of judging but the attitude with which we do it that God is most concerned about. We can be certain that this was not an injunction against making judgments on others because a few verses later (Matthew 7:6) he states, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs…”. From the context we understand Jesus was not referring to the animals, dogs and pigs, but to human beings!

It may appear Jesus had just contradicted himself, but this was not the case. In addition, in John 7:24, Jesus debating the religious leaders of his day states, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” In these two strong statements, Jesus was challenging folks to dig deeper — get to the real story — not to avoid judgment altogether.

Our Responsibility In Light of Jesus’ Message

First of all, whether we like to admit this or not, making judgments is part and parcel to being human. To judge something is not fundamentally negative, but instead, it means to form an opinion or evaluation. The capacity for judging is at the center of moral competence. The lack of moral evaluation may lead to further moral laxity, and this is not what Jesus, nor any New Testament writer, ever taught.

Second of all, a neutral stance concerning the moral behavior of other individuals and their questionable actions is not always a sign of admirable open-mindedness, but could point to a deeper issue, a corresponding unwillingness to apply morality to one’s own choices as well. Being non-judgmental and overly judgmental are both negative and neither accomplish “judging righteously.”

Third of all, the point of the passages in Matthew 7 and John 7 is to judge properly, to judge fairly, and to judge honestly. It indicates care and the well-being of others. It develops others and could develop community among those close to us.

Responsible Community Accountability

It is important to understand how are we to distinguish who Jesus meant were ‘dogs’ and ‘pigs.’ We can come to understand this through God’s Word and being guided by His Spirit. If we ask God, He will open our eyes and our heart. Common sense suggests that if no one ever judged other people, there would be no real human community. In a sinful world, no community can exist for long where nobody is ever held accountable: no teacher would grade a student's performance; no citizen would sit on a jury or call a failed leader to account.

We judge everything — our own motives and actions and those of others. We must tread carefully, but in all things distinguish between right and wrong. We must use caution in judging, but not avoidance. There are many commands in Scripture that warn the believer to use great care in how we judge. Even Paul the Apostle wrote concerning the avoidance of judging. He chastised the church in Corinth about not using wise judgment concerning serious moral issues (1 Corinthians 5).

Humility In Giving and Receiving

If I am walking in error, I want someone to tell me (nicely, with love and care) that I am in error and possibly injuring myself or others, either physically or spiritually. Judging, when done properly, displays loving care toward others. I would suggest that, in our day and age, we need more, not less, judgment. In all judgments, we should take the advice of John Wesley: “We should be rigorous in judging ourselves and gracious in judging others.”1

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Retrieved From:

1 John Wesley quote: "we should be rigorous in judging ourselves and gracious in judging others.". Quotefancy in June, 2022.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.