"Anything beyond the limits and grasp of the human mind is either illusion or futility; and because your god having to be one or the other of the two, in the first instance I should be mad to believe in him, and in the second a fool."

- Marquis de Sade


Principles of God's judgment


"Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?...You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."

- Matthew 7:1-3, 5 NASB

"He who rejects Me, and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day."

- John 12:48 NASB

1. Civil and criminal matters

These are areas in which we are to judge. The Bible clearly and repeatedly gives parameters for judging legal and legislative disputes. One such verse comes from Leviticus 19:15 NIV: "Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly."

Humanity is free to make authoritative distinctions or judgments in the areas of civil and criminal matters when doing so by God's provisions as found in Scripture. These provisions are justice, impartiality, without bribery, and without hypocrisy. Along these guidelines, the act of judging actually glorifies God in that our judgments become a reflection of his own perfect attributes.

Civil and criminal judgment sets the all-important example of respecting authority. The respect of human authority both reminds us and teaches us to respect God's authority. Gods authority is ultimately to where human authority traces back its roots. Therefore in many cases, to obey earthly authority actually is to obey God's authority.

2. Ecclesiastical conduct

Ecclesiastical conduct refers to the words and actions of professing Christians within the church. This is another area in which we are to judge. (An area where far too little judgment is going on.) As the apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians (5:11-13 NIV),

But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. 'Expel the wicked man from among you.'

There are many material effects of the church failing to police her own ranks in this manner. They range from the accommodation of unrepentant hypocrisy, to divorce for unscriptural reasons, to the recent cover-ups in Catholic sects of predatory homosexuality, and more. All these problems plague the non-church world as well, of course, but God calls the church to stand out from the rest of the world. The church is to exercise an integrity which is so high and opposite the rest of the world that its purity draws the attention of all who see it; thereby acting as a natural in-road towards the Lord.

Judgment here, too, glorifies God by being an example of sanctification (the act of being set apart), by preserving the holiness of God's earthly church, and by executing the process of correction and repentance among God's people.

3. Right and wrong

This is an area in which we are not to judge; but care must be taken to understand this correctly. We are not to judge right and wrong because right and wrong have already been judged by God. God has judged them in the sense of defining them. Right is everything which is characteristic of his unchanging qualities (e.g., honesty, integrity, fidelity). These are qualities God specifically desires that we reflect.

How do we know what God's qualities are? God has revealed these through his dealings with man in the past and through Scripture. Therefore, it is good for us to judge, in terms of discern, right from wrong so that we might say and do that which is right. Yet, it is not our place to judge, i.e. authoritatively state, new definitions of right and wrong. If that were even possible, that would be falsifying the very character of God.

Nowhere do God's unchanging definitions of right and wrong apply more than in examining our own lives. Even though we may each be fully convinced in our minds that the things we personally say or do are right, it's not us but rather God who will make that final determination. Paul states in the same letter to the Corinthians (4:3-4 NIV): "I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself." Notice what he then adds: "My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me."

Even though Paul basically admits to not being conscience of any wrongdoing, he knows that the only definitions of right and wrong are those recognized by God. He knows that even with some knowledge of God, our human judgment is still imperfect. So the only guidelines by which we are allowed to decide right from wrong are God's guidelines, not any individual's.

4. Character declaration

We are also not to judge one another in terms of making authoritative declarations of the nature of one another's inward character. The passage in Luke 6:36-37 NIV that is so often only partially quoted goes: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."

Notice that there are two qualities here which we are exhorted to exercise (do be merciful, do forgive), and two other qualities we are to abstain from (do not judge, do not condemn). It is not that there is no such thing as judgment and condemnation - there are. But like vengeance, they belong to God and not to us.

To say or think something like "so-and-so is evil" or "so-and-so is going to hell" is to judge someone's heart and intentions. We cannot make this particular judgment because we are unqualified in at least three ways:

1) we have not been given the authority to do so;

2) we do not have the omnipotence to know what is in someone's heart; and...

3) our own hearts are not sufficiently free from the very same evils ("You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things" Romans 2:1 NIV).

In a sense, it is also wrongfully judgmental to say or think, "so-and-so is good" or "so-and-so is definitely going to heaven". For in the purest sense, only God is truly good: "A certain ruler asked him, 'Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?' 'Why do you call me good?' Jesus answered. 'No one is good - except God alone'" (Luke 18:18, 19 NIV). Even positive judgments of inward character are nonetheless judgments we are not qualified to make, much for the same reasons as those mentioned above.



See also:

Christians: Biased, bigoted, intolerant, and judgmental?

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Judgment among human beings is essentially a social tool. Like any other tool, it must be used with caution and in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations.

While some people tend to think that no judging should take place, others err in the opposite direction. I think this accurately documents the Bible's intended balance.

Areas we may judge:
1. Civil and criminal matters
2. Ecclesiastical conduct

Areas we may not judge:
3. Right and wrong
4. Character declarations