Appropriate Judging

by Dr. Ken Matto

(John 7:24 KJV) Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

Don’t Judge me! Who are you to judge? We have all heard these comebacks from people we try to help. The first thing they do is accuse us of judging. How many times in church we are told that we should not judge others. Our verse above tells us that when we do judge, we are to judge righteous judgments. The word “righteous” in this verse is the Greek word “dikaios” which carries with it the meanings of “righteous, right, or impartial.” In other words, when we make a judgment, it is not to be made with a biased mindset, in other words a prejudicial judgment. The type of judgment which is forbidden in Scripture is the type of judgment that would denigrate or tear somebody down.

When we make a judgment, it must be done with full knowledge and not with speculation. Circumstantial judging will always be incorrect. Let me give an example, we see someone in church who seems always to be broke and right away we speculate that they are squandering the Lord’s money and doesn’t know how to budget. So as good pew warmers, we pass a comment which denigrates the character of that person. The problem is later on we find that this person is taking care of their elderly parents and must spend much money in their care. You see, we made a judgment on circumstance and not on fact. Now if we knew, in fact, that this person was playing the lottery, then we can be a little bit more bold in saying they are squandering the Lord’s money. Judging other people on speculation or gossip, is always on dangerous ground and is not of Christian character. A true judgment requires true facts.

Now when it is correct to judge? The verse above tells us that we are not to judge according to appearance. The word “appearance” in the Greek carries with it the meaning of “sight.” We want to make an impartial judgment according to facts and not according to sight. I remember some years ago hearing a true story about a minister whose daughter was a prostitute and the only way he was able to see her was if he went to her place of work and paid to see her. Now if some of the church people saw him going into that place, what would they think? They would think that he was committing adultery with a prostitute until they would know the real truth. That would be judging according to appearance but seeing something like that would need to be investigated by the Elders of that church. It would have to be brought to them privately.

In this world we make judgments all the time. What to have for lunch, which way do I drive to work, what clothes we should wear, what church to attend, where to go on vacation, etc. We make many mini-decisions every day, some with only temporary effects. Some judgments we make have long term effects, such as who do I marry, where should I invest my money, where should I work, what college should I attend, should I attend college, etc. So the truth is that we make judgments everyday which affect our lives and those around us, especially if you are a parent and making decisions for your children. The word “judgment” in the Greek carries with it the meaning of “decision.” The truth is that we make many decisions every single day of our lives.

One area of our lives where it is imperative that we make decisions is in the spiritual realm. As Christians we must be constantly vigilant as to the type of teachings we are hearing and who we are hearing. If we are hearing a certain teacher teach a false doctrine, then it behooves us to mark that person and also to warn others.
(Eph 5:11 KJV) And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. And (Rom 16:17 KJV) Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. Here we have two admonitions from Scripture that we are expose the works of darkness. We must realize that false teachings are the works of darkness, no matter who is doing the teaching.

The Bible also commands us to mark those who cause the division. The word “mark” in the Greek carries with it the meaning of “to look, watch, or note.” There are many today who are teaching false gospels from the pulpits, the radio, and the TV, and we are to note those people. If they are teaching a false gospel, then as Christians it is our responsibility to warn others about them so they will not be supported.
(Gal 6:1 KJV) Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. The word “fault “in this verse may also be understood as “sin but rather missing the right“, it can also carry with it the meaning of “a falling aside.” It also definitely carries the meaning of falling into a sin or a misdeed.

Now we always look at Galatians 6:1 and quickly attach it to the single idea that when a Christian falls into sin, then we are to do what we can to help them, and that is a correct meaning. However, we need to understand in the wider sense of the essence of this verse that if a Christian falls under the false teaching of someone, then it is our duty to try and help restore them. A Christian under the teachings of a false teacher or doctrine needs to be restored as well as a Christian who has fallen into sin. In this day and age, many Christians have fallen prey to eloquent teachers who hold to false teachings, many right in the church. If we know someone who is under false teachings, then we must make a decision or judgment to help them see the false teaching they are under. Now if they tell us to get lost, then we get lost. You can only help a person if they want to be helped.

Unfortunately there will be many times that we will make a proper judgment and then be unable to implement it. This is very frustrating but we cannot live anyone else’s life, only ours. Sometimes a person may see the false teaching and will want the information you have, and if they do and they come out from under the false teaching, then you have won them. This is why it is so important that if you make a judgment, that you have all the information available for the other person, so they can make an informed proper decision or judgment. If you tell somebody they are wrong and have nothing to back it up, you will lose credibility and you may not get a second hearing. This is why the Lord said that we are to make a righteous judgment. That righteous judgment will be sufficient to help another Christian. If they refuse it, you have done what you can and there is no need to feel any guilt. Making judgments is a hard part of the Christian walk but it is a necessary one, not only for ourselves but for those around us too.   (7/30/04)