Then Sarai said to Abram, "My wrong be upon you! I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes. The Lord judge between you and me” (Gen. 16:5).
Judging here has to do with guilt and condemnation. While Sarai tried to put the guilt of the situation on Abraham (even though it was her idea), she did not cross the line of judging him for that guilt. She left that up to God. She apparently felt she had the authority to put the guilt on him, but not the authority to judge him for it. This seems to be a fine line she was not willing to cross.
“‘Therefore I have not sinned against you, but you wronged me by fighting against me. May the Lord, the Judge, render judgment this day between the children of Israel and the people of Ammon’” (Judges 11:27).
Here, Jephthah is asking God to judge between two parties who both claim to be in the right. He is obviously hoping God will condemn Ammon and send judgment on it. I have often had the experience of being in conflict with other brothers (or sisters) when both of us think we are in the right. I have this happen even as the result of going to someone who I felt had sinned against me. Several times this happened with the pastor of a church, who blasted me from the security of his pulpit without ever having come to me first to confront me. I certainly could not bring it to the church for judgment (as it says in Matt. 18) since the pastor was already violating the Scriptures; so I would then ask God to judge between us, being fully ready to accept any judgment He wanted to send on me if I was the one in the wrong, but also expecting God to discipline the other party if they were in the wrong.
When a Christian brother or sister sins against us we are not only allowed to confront them for their sin as the above verse shows; but we are commanded by Christ to do so, “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.”(Luke 17:3). Although Jephthah confronted the king of Ammon for his sin, he refused to judge him or take the authority to judge the sin. He left that to God. Certainly in the church, many people think that pointing out a sin to someone is judging. It is not.
Let the Lord judge between you and me, and let the Lord avenge me on you. But my hand shall not be against you (1 Sam. 24:12).
Here, David is asking the Lord to avenge him and get vengeance on Saul because he is refusing to do that himself. So here judging has to do with vengeance, which we are to leave up to the Lord and not take into our own hands. However, it is both an Old Testament and New Testament concept to ask the Lord to avenge us against injustice done to us. I can just hear someone saying, “Wait a minute brother Bob, where is that Scripture in the New Testament?” Right here:
Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, 'Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’” Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8).
I find it very interesting and somewhat shocking that the example Jesus uses in this parable for persistent prayer is someone praying for vengeance on their enemies. (I looked up the Greek words, and they certainly mean “vengeance” even though some translations try to soften them.) While it is not up to us to avenge ourselves in this age, Jesus is exhorting us to pray for Him to avenge us. Not only that but Jesus also associates someone praying for vengeance on those who treated them unjustly with faith, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”
Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself: for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God (Rom. 2:1).
Judging has to do with condemnation here. It is interesting that right before Paul says this, he just got through condemning several sins in the first chapter, including homosexuality. He was not condemning or judging the people, but the sins themselves. A casual reading of chapter one would have led me to believe he was condemning homosexuals among others. He is rather warning that God will judge sin and sinners. Warning people of God’s judgment is not judging others.
Judging is not discernment, criticism, or reproving; for as Christians sometimes we are to do these things to other Christians. However, these things are for their benefit, and we should only do them when we have a solution to their problem. If not, we are judging the same basic things in them as we have in our own lives for which we have not found the solution. Most of us need to repent for this type of judging of others.
Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand (Rom. 14:1-4).
Here, it seems that condemning and rejecting believers who do things we may not agree with but have the scriptural liberty to do is judging. Of course, not all things Christians do are allowed in the Bible, and in the church we have the obligation to point such things out.
Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord (1 Cor. 4:3).
In the broad context, considering the previous chapter, judging here has to do with the Corinthian church judging some workers as lesser or greater than others. Therefore, Paul says, Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:5-7). How many times do the people in the congregation judge the pastor and exalt him above everyone else in the church? This is a type of judging that is condemned in the Scriptures. We are all supposed to be merely servants of Christ.
Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another? (Jam. 4:11-12).
Here, James is actually giving a definition of judging: “speaking evil of a brother.” However, we know from the previous Scriptures as well as from my previous blog that this is not the only definition of judging.
In summary the type of judging we are not supposed to do can be summarized as follows:
Judging is passing a sentence. (We know this from the meaning of the word.)
Judging is assuming unbiblical authority over another in the church.
Judging is condemning.
Judging is avenging.
Judging is censuring (rejecting).
Judging is speaking evil of a brother.
Following are the types of judging we are supposed to do (see also previous blog):
We are commanded to discern, scrutinize, etc.
We are commanded to rebuke (often called judging).
We are commanded to warn others of sin and God’s judgment (often called judging).
We are commanded to confront sin (often called judging).
We are commanded to confront a person who sins against us (often called judging).
We are commanded to judge our own motives.
We are commanded to judge sin in our own lives.
Church leaders are commanded to judge and excommunicate sinners who refuse to repent.