The difference between “judging” and “judgment” is more than the difference between a gerund and a noun. A gerund is defined as a verb functioning as a noun as in, “Judging solos and ensembles is something I love to do.” Judgment is the ability to tell the good solos from the not-so-good ones. Jesus warns us about our judging, our critical assessment of people and things in our lives. His warning? Be careful about how you exercise your judgment. When you are called upon to judge, that is, duly deputized to give an informed opinion, do so gently with care not to offend but to inform and perhaps even to inspire.
“Judge not, that you be not judged.” This is one of the most often quoted statements of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount. It is usually used as a preemptive defense against someone who is about to be critical of us. We choose less dangerous words: assessment, evaluation, critique, etc. Even these kinder, gentler terms amount to the same thing: judging. We all get our turns both at being judged and being the judge. Jesus is warning us not to let the position of judging go to our heads, feeding the ego and making us brutal in our assessment. We must remember that our turn at being judged is coming.
The Judgmental Person
Jesus warns us against being a judgmental person, one who has a critical spirit. The critical spirit is rooted in shame, in deep feelings of personal inadequacy. We all know someone like this.
Nothing is ever good enough for them (though it is likely they could make no improvement.)
They are quick to point out the shortcomings they see (though they really have no better ideas.)
They criticize successful people behind their backs (though they smile and flatter them otherwise.)
They frown a lot as if they are looking down on lesser beings than themselves (though in truth they have little to contribute that is positive.)
They don’t hang around success if they cannot cut it to their size (though they attract the discontented and take some of them with them when they leave.)
They are bitter (though their bitterness may be cleverly disguised as sarcastic humor.)
This is no way to live yet many choose this pathway. They get in return what they have given: Criticism, bitterness, and public failure.
“…with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
What is the proper way to exercise judgment?
The first lesson about giving one’s opinion is simple: don’t. Nothing is more unwelcome than advice that has not been sought. On those occasions when experience or expertise we possess is called for, we must remember the warnings of Jesus to judge as gently and thoroughly as we would want to be judged. It is best to begin with positive assessments before suggesting areas for improvement. One of the most important things is this: be an encouragement! When we are called upon to assess something or someone in the service of the Lord, we must remember that doing anything for God requires courage. Do not drain courage from the one you judge. On the contrary, pour courage into them!
Judgment and Humility
Jesus links these two things when He talks about the speck in our brother’s eye which we would like to haughtily remove when we can’t see to do it because of the plank in our own eye. What is His point? Be humble when called upon to give a critique. We may be blind to something others can clearly see.
“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. “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.
Lord Jesus, make me bold to speak up for You when the moment calls for it and make me wise to keep my mouth shut when my opinion has not been sought. When I am called upon to issue my judgment, give me the grace to be gentle and encouraging. Lord, save me from a critical spirit. When I see things that are wrong and my judgment has not been requested, help me turn that judgment into a prayer. You can do more than I could ever do. Help me deal with others the way You deal with me, with grace, always with grace. Amen.
Grace Greater than Our Sin
1. Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt, yonder on Calvary’s mount out-poured, There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Refrain: Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that will pardon and cleanse within; Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that is greater than all our sin.
2. Dark is the stain that we cannot hide, What can avail to wash it away! Look! there is flowing a crimson tide; Whiter than snow you maybe today.
3. Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, Freely bestowed on all who believe; you that are longing to see his face, Will you this moment his grace receive?