Three Questions to Ask Yourself Before you Judge

Is it ok to judge the behavior or the attitudes of other people?

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Whether it’s ok or not, we do it.  All the time.

Here are three important questions to ask ourselves before we judge.

1)  According to what or whose standard do we judge?

Honestly, we judge others by our own standards.  For example, environmentalist might evaluate according to “green” standards, Christians use a biblical benchmark, and secularists claim a criterion of reason.  We will not likely agree on a common basis for our judgments.  It is helpful to recognize that fact.

As a Christian, I believe the Bible is the yardstick against which I should measure my life.  However, I can’t expect non-Christians to acknowledge it as authoritative in their lives.

Paul, whose letters to early churches comprise almost half of the New Testament, regularly challenged believers to live according to God’s standard, but he did not judge unbelievers.  He wrote this to Corinthian Christians, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside of the church?  Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside.”  (I Cor. 5:12-13)

2) Do we consistently apply the same standard to ourselves?

Logs in our eyesThe short answer is: No.  We humans are born pre-programmed to evaluate ourselves with gentle mercy and others with harsh precision.  That’s what Jesus was getting at when he said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and will the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  (Matt. 7:1-2)

Double standards abound, but that doesn’t mean we should indulge in them ourselves.

3) Do we form well-reasoned opinions or pronounce judgment?

The first two meanings of the verb “judge” from Merriam-Webster illustrate this distinction:

1: to form an opinion about through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises

2: to sit in judgment on

We all judge in the sense that we form opinions.  If only they were always the result of “careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises.”  Too often we swallow the opinions of others and call them our own  (I digress…).

We are not necessarily authorized to sit in judgment. 

For example, the world recently expressed collective condemnation of an act of inexcusable violence: the gang rape of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi.

Public opinion evaluated the behavior and judged it to be wrong.

An attorney representing several of the suspects obviously uses a different standard.  He blamed the victim and advised a not guilty plea.  India’s justice system will decide.

We are entitled to our well-reasoned opinions, but only those with the authority to judge are qualified to pronounce a sentence. 

And God is the final authority.

Therefore, it is my goal (emphasis on goal – I frequently fail) to live according to God’s truth, to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to do the same, and to form wise and well-reasoned opinions.  I’ll leave the judging to God.

What do you think?

13 thoughts on “Three Questions to Ask Yourself Before you Judge

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  1. Interesting subject, Judy.

    If you don’t mind a long winded comment I’d love to share a little something. Coincidentally I have been looking at judgement too in my life over the last several weeks.. Lately I’ve been noticing when I judge people for their actions. I do it a lot. I think it has been a misguided attempt to behave better myself. I look at others doing things I disapprove of and underline in my head that I disapprove. Often I’ll say it out loud to those around me. I’ve noticed that when I do this it drowns out all other feelings except for the negativity. I am filled with things like condescension, pride, anger, disdain…..on and on. But how to break this pattern, because after all, we notice some pretty disagreeable stuff every day? And i do disagree with much of it. One can’t help forming negative judgements, they just happen.

    Two weekends ago I saw “Silver Linings Playbook”. If you haven’t seen it I recommend it. It’s a quirky story of a quirky family afflicted with OCD and bipolar depression. The main character, played by Bradley Cooper, is trying to overcome the effects of this disease in his life and win back his wife. At one point his “perfect” brother is highlighting publicly all the many ways he has been successful where his flawed brother in contrast was not. A whole room of people were wincing as they heard this and were waiting for Bradley’s anger to flare. After an excruciating pause as Bradley had his brother by the shoulders and was looking intently into his eyes, he said, “brother, I have nothing but love for you”. The entire room sighed and smiled. It was a beautiful scene and it stuck with me. I thought about that a lot.

    I decided to to to try to catch myself in the inevitable act of judgement. I was going to try to replace the negative feelings and words in my head with: ” I have only love in my heart for…..”. It may sound hokey and contrived but I have to tell you, things started to change for me! The last thought in my head was not judgement, it was love. I found myself enjoying an inward sigh of relief just like the family in the movie did. It feels good to cover over judgement with love. That’ s what Christ did for all of us. It seems right that we should do it for others. Not by wiping out our judging thoughts or pretending that they don’t exist- that is impossible. But by covering the judgement with a blanket of love! Pretty wonderful example we have in Christ and I do believes he provides all the help we need when it gets really hard. He has helped me!

    Love you!

    Sent from my iPad

    1. This is beautiful, Jan. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your heart and your experience. “I have only love in my heart for…” is a powerful and transformative thought that I will apply immediately! I too, as I suspect we all do, struggle to keep critical and judgmental thoughts from taking over my thinking. (And that movie is definitely on my list:) Love you!

  2. Thank you, Judy, for your thought provoking posts! You don’t do easy ones, do you? 🙂 I read this and tried to remember something I heard on the radio recently. My brain is not cooperating. But, I think the basis was that we have come to think of ‘judging’ as a bad thing, but there are many ways in which it is good . .and something that we have to do. I think the Holy Spirit will lead us and convict us when we are judge-y in a bad way and help us to judge situations that we need to, . .maybe more of a discernment, so we know how to pray and act.
    God bless you!

    1. I agree Debbie. Judging in itself is not a bad thng. We get it wrong when we nurture a judgmental character or judge hypocritically or without authority. And it’s not always easy to recognize when we do that. Thanks for your comment, Debbie. Bless you back!

  3. Hmmm, this is very interesting, Judy–that non-believers shouldn’t be judged by Christian principles/values. That seemed to make things easier for me at first, but then I thought of that murky muddy group who self-identify as Christians, but may define that by the fact they were born in the USA, rather than that they’ve made a decision to accept Jesus Christ as Lord/Savior. So then, that would be a heart issue, right?–so I couldn’t judge because that’s God’s venue…maybe I’m reading/pondering this too late at night. I love that you always make me think hard!! God bless you–love, sis Caddo

    1. Hi Caddo, That’s some pretty good late night pondering:) You point out why this is a difficult issue – we can’t see the truth of another’s heart or intentions (unless, as Debbie said, it’s revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.) Another aspect to this is a distinction between speaking truth, which I realize is often interpreted as judging, and actually judging. Thinking about Larry’s comments, perhaps Christians are called to wisely, gently and appropriately speak truth in a culture, which isn’t necessarily the same as judging. You know that all this thinking was sparked by your question, don’t you:). I love it! God bless you back, Caddo!

  4. It really depends what is being judged. If it’s an individual’s heart, we certainly can’t be the judge. That’s God’s area, not ours. But if it’s sin, aren’t we called to judge it as sin? I believe we are. Then, I think we need to act in the spirit of gentleness according to Galatians 6:1

    1. We are in agreement that only God judges the heart. “But if it’s sin, aren’t we called to judge it as sin?” I’ve been thinking about that Larry. Under what circumstances is that ok? Paul did not heistate to call out early churches for their sins, but I find it very interesting that he didn’t direct his judgment to the Roman culture. Today, Christians have a tendency to “judge” the culture and let each other off the hook. It’s a tricky issue, I realize, and I’m still processing it. And I agree that if and when it’s necessary, any correction should always be done in gentleness, humility and love. Thanks, as always, for your thoughts, Larry.

      1. Jonah went to a pagan city and told them their city would be destroyed because of their sin. Should Jonah have remained quiet? Jesus prophesied Jerusalem’s destruction because of their many sins, many of whom were not believers. Should Jesus have remained quiet?

        Everyone quotes Matthew 7:1-2, but the following three verses should also be considered, which states we Christians need our own hearts cleaned up before we point out the sins in others.

        The sins I’m referring to our the ones called iniquities in the Bible. These cause cities and nations to be judged by God, but at the same time, we are called to do this in love and meekness.

        1. No, Jonah obviously should not have kept quiet, and God made sure that he didn’t! So, is a prophetic word to a culture at God’s direct command the same thing as judging? I suppose that depends on how it’s interpreted. (See Caddo’s comment and my response.). And, yes, Jesus did foretell of Jerusalem’s destruction, but once again he was speaking to his followers and the reason for the judgment was Israel’s failure to follow God’s Law. He didn’t condemn the sin in the Roman culture (although I’m sure he recognized it and knew it would be dealt with as well) but expected God’s people to know better. I appreciate your perspective, Larry, for I know you have a heart and a call to speak prophetically to our nation.

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