Today, most people seem to think that the most wonderful thing is to not judge anyone else. We’re told that morality is like personal preference… you just choose what you like. There is no standard of morality that exists objectively, in the same way as mathematics or logic exists. And besides, even if there were, the only reason to judge someone else would be to hurt them. Right?
I found an interesting article about judging from Christian apologist Timothy Fox, on the Freethinking Ministries web site. He starts out right away with one very good reason for judging – judging allows people who have experience and demonstrated ability to help those who are making mistakes to get better.
When you study to be an educator, you have to spend a certain number of hours as a student teacher, under the guidance of a veteran teacher. I remember my cooperating teacher telling me one of my strengths was that I took criticism well and was very open to it. I was shocked to hear this! I wanted to tell him he was crazy and that I hate criticism! But I was also well aware that he was the master and I was the apprentice and that it was his responsibility to help me to be the best teacher I could be. So I needed his criticism. (And I received a lot of it!) Whenever he gave me feedback, positive or negative, it wasn’t intended to stroke my ego or hurt my feelings. It was so I can learn and improve, to keep doing the good and to change the bad.
The same goes for many other things, such as sports. Athletes have coaches that train and guide. But what about normal, everyday life? That’s when we want people to leave us alone. Don’t tell me how to live. Don’t judge me.
In my life, I’ve been able to have success at a few things. Education for sure – I have a BS and MS in computer science which has allowed me to earn a good living. Finances… well, I’ve made a lot of mistakes with investing, but I was able to succeed (eventually!) just by maxing out my 401K and Roth IRA contributions every year. And I’m just starting on my 23rd year of full time work. So when I give people advice, it’s usually in those areas, or maybe in apologetics.
But that advice is not always well-received. Usually, the people I’m advising just find themselves some nice yes-men and yes-women who will agree with them that having fun “in the moment” won’t close any doors down the road. It doesn’t work, but that’s how judging is received. Cut off the judge, and find yourself some yes-men and yes-women. And when your plan doesn’t work, just say that it wasn’t your fault. Blame other people for the predictable consequences of your own actions.
People often cite a passage in the Bible about not making judgments, Matthew 7:1-6. But does it really say that?
1“Do not judge so that you will not be judged.
2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
3 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?
4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?
5 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.
6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
Here’s what Timothy Fox had to say about those verses:
Jesus’ point is not not to judge (note the double negative). It’s “Don’t be a hypocrite!” Verse 5 commands us to clean up our own junk, then to help clean up your friends’. He’s stating the obvious, that when you criticize people, they will turn around and criticize you back. So make sure your closet is clean first! And how do you know who the “dogs” and “pigs” are (v. 6)? Wouldn’t you have to judge them?
And then there is John 7:24: “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” Here Jesus is differentiating between proper and improper judgement. But he still commands to judge!
The reason for many of Paul’s letters is to correct some kind of nonsense going on in a church. In 1 Corinthians 5, he writes angrily that the church is not judging sin in their midst (and it’s quite the sin – go read it!). In verse 12, he rhetorically asks “Are you not to judge those inside [the church]?” And in the following verse, he plainly states to remove the “wicked person” from their midst. Here Paul is criticizing the church for not judging when they should have, even to the extent of excommunicating an unrepentant church member.
More often than not, the ones who cry “Don’t judge me!” the loudest are the ones who need it the most, whether it’s due to insecurity, pride, or flat-out rebellion. But let us not forget that Jesus was full of truth and grace. We desperately need both in our dealings with our brothers and sisters in Christ, when we give correction as well as when we receive it. It’s never pleasant to hear some hard (but loving) truth, but remember the first half of Proverbs 27:6: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” Do we like it? Of course not. But we need it. And more than that, the Bible commands it.
Obviously, it doesn’t feel good to admit you’re wrong, but if you want to achieve results, then the quickest way to do that is to listen to people who have already achieved results. The world isn’t as “random” as many people want to believe. You get to make choices, and there are best practices. When you see someone failing to achieve their goals, it doesn’t do them any good to tell them to follow their hearts and it’s not their fault when they fail. The best thing to do is to show them what to do differently, and help them to do it.