Beware the 5 instinctive ways we judge others
We live in a world where everyone feels entitled to their own opinion. In the process, we inadvertently critique and put others down based on our perspective. From God’s perspective, however, there is only one Person entitled to judge any human being because He has purchased all of us with His blood. That Person is Jesus Christ. At the same time, believers are told to judge sin within the church. How do we distinguish between different types of judgments and whether they honour Jesus or not?
John 5:22 NLT In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge,
1 Peter 1:18 NLT For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.
Being judgmental is a condition of the heart. We do not need to vocalise our judgements for God to see and know the secret workings of our hearts. One day, He will bring every secret thought, word, and deed out into the open for judgment. Will we stand ashamed of all the things we privately thought about other people or will we pass the test? The answer depends on what type of judgment we have practiced.
Matthew 12:34 NLT … For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak.
Ecclesiastes 12:14 ESV For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
Judgment that honours Jesus
The Bible shows us that we are to judge “anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people.” We see that it is not those outside the church whom we should judge, but rather those on the inside.
1 Corinthians 5:9-13 NLT When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.”
There is, however, a godly way to approach this.
We are told to seek to “restore them in a spirit of gentleness” by first approaching them privately. If they will not listen, we are to give them another chance by speaking with them again in the presence of one or two other God-fearing believers as witnesses. If they still refuse to repent and choose to persist in their sins, we are told to “rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.”
Galatians 6:1 ESV if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
Matthew 18:15-17 ESV “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
1 Timothy 5:20 ESV As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.
God’s Word calls any Christian who refuses to give up their sinful patterns, despite repeated counsel from fellow believers, a “wicked” person because they have chosen to blatantly dishonour Jesus’ sacrifice for their sins. We are even told to stop associating with them.
1 Corinthians 5:6-7 NLT Your boasting about this is terrible. Don’t you realize that this sin is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old “yeast” by removing this wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us.
So, we see that the type of judgment that is encouraged amongst Christians:
- Honours Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins
- Turns believers away from their sins
- Saves them from spiritual death
- Protects the church from the spread of sin
James 5:19-20 ESV My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
Please also see Judgment and the abuse of wisdom.
Judgments that dishonour Jesus
Judgment that does not follow kingdom principles share certain characteristics. For example, they tend to dishonor Jesus because they are based on:
- Our worldly standards
- Our gifts and talents
- Our personal laws
- Our spiritual pride in using God’s Word
- Our hurts
1. Our worldly standards
We spend a lot of time assessing and evaluating other people. We judge them on how they look, how they talk, what they wear, who they know, what work they do, how much money they have, and so forth. These are all based on worldly standards. We even judge pastors this way.
The Bible warns us not to judge others by outward appearances. When Jesus was on earth, He didn’t adhere to worldly standards. He was not good looking (Isaiah 53:2), He lacked elite credentials (Mark 6:3), He came from a place of poor repute (John 1:45-46), He was homeless (Matthew 8:20), and He didn’t fight back “like a man” when people reviled Him (Isaiah 53:7-8). His own family thought He had gone insane (Mark 3:21).
John 7:24 ESV Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
When we judge other people based on outward appearances, we miss seeing what God sees and judges first and foremost – which is our attitudes towards others.
Jeremiah 17:10 ESV “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
What is worse is that we indirectly judge God for their state in life. We imply that “God is unfair, He is incapable, He makes mistakes,” and so forth. No one can know and understand God’s plans for each individual and community, we cannot presume we know what is best. How can we, when we are only on this earth during our limited life spans while God sees across all of eternity, past, present and future?
Action step: Let us repent for judging God’s creation and judging God Himself.
2. Our talents and gifts
God created every one of us with different talents and spiritual gifts that are meant to build up His people, the church.
1 Corinthians 14:12 NIV So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.
We are all members of one body. The challenge for each member is that our talents and gifts can be so second-nature to us that we may not even be cognizant of them. We think everyone should have the same abilities as us. Therefore, someone who is naturally talented in one area may be tempted to judge another who is less talented so as being “incapable, slow, or dumb.”
Romans 12:4-8 ESV For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Here are several dangers of this way of thinking:
- We subconsciously exalt ourselves and our God-given abilities – instead of giving Him glory for our gifts. | Isaiah 43:7 NLT Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.’”
- We fail to make allowances for another person’s weaknesses – instead of building them up | 1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
- Our perspectives become warped – we become blind to the talents and gifts that God has blessed them with and fail to see our own shortcomings compared to their strengths | Romans 12:3 ESV For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
- God Himself gives greater honour to the parts of the body that are weaker and less presentable – and so should we. | 1 Corinthians 12:24-25 ESV … But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
- God first looks at the heart, not the talents and gifts He has given us – by judging someone in our hearts, we sin against God. | 1 Samuel 16:7 NLT … The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
God gives greater honour to the weak, despised, and unpresentable, so that there should be no division between us. God’s Word specifically says that He intentionally chooses the foolish, weak, low and despised to shame those of us who consider ourselves wiser, stronger, and more respectable. Therefore, let us honour all people equally regardless of their strengths or weaknesses.
1 Corinthians 1:27-28 ESV But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,
Action step: Let us repent for elevating our abilities and judging others based on ours.
3. Our personal laws
All of God’s Word rests on two commandments; that is to love God and love people.
Matthew 22:36-40 ESV “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
The challenge for us is we have set up many rules for ourselves since small, whether influenced by our family, teachers, society, and experiences. These tend to be based on our fleshly instincts and run contrary to God’s Word and the Holy Spirit’s leading.
Galatians 5:17-18 ESV For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Here are just three examples:
- “I must be liked. I must avoid being rejected or hated by others.” | Mark 13:13 ESV And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
- “I must make money in order to gain (earthly) security.” | Matthew 6:19-20 NLT “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.
- “I must always please my parents and follow their wishes first.” | Matthew 10:37 ESV Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Because these beliefs feel so fundamental to us, having been ingrained in us for so long, we tend to judge those whose values and views are contrary to or feel like a threat to our personal laws. Instead of obeying God’s commandment to love them, we judge them. Based on the three examples above, we may be tempted to think;
- “They aren’t as nice to me as I want them to be… they are cruel, insensitive people.”
- “They aren’t as driven as I am to earn more money … they are lazy.”
- “These believers are encouraging me to stop following my parents to worship our ancestors… they are disrespectful and legalistic.”
Action step: Let us renounce our personal laws and inner vows, replace with the eternal truths from the Bible (as illustrated by the three examples above) and repent of judging others based on our own imperfect personal laws.
4. Our spiritual pride in using God’s Word
God’s Word is described as “sharper than any two-edged sword” that pierces into the issues inside our hearts. In our spiritual pride, however, we can use the Bible to wound others. God’s Word may help us identify the sins of other people but more importantly, it should point out our own sins and need for repentance.
Hebrews 4:12 ESV For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
There will no doubt be times where we need to quote the Bible to convict a fellow follower of Christ that they have been straying away from God. Human beings, however, do not always have the wisdom to wield the “sword of the Holy Spirit (which is the word of God)” in a loving and righteous way. We need the Holy Spirit’s guidance. After all, He knows their real issues and will lead them to the truth.
Ephesians 6:17 ESV … the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,
Action step: Let us repent of any time we have used God’s Word to judge and condemn others instead of inviting the Holy Spirit to teach us how to speak His truth in love.
Ephesians 4:15 ESV Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
5. Our hurts
Fear and pain tempt us to withdraw into positions of judgment in order to protect, comfort, and justify ourselves. Such self-defence is based on the flesh, not the Holy Spirit. Anything that is based on the flesh brings spiritual death.
Romans 8:13 ESV For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
People who do thoughtless, vile, and cruel things do deserve judgment and retribution. Their actions cause visible and/or invisible wounds and bring long-lasting damage. Yet despite all our justifications to discredit and condemn them, we are not qualified to judge them.
It requires Someone who has lived a perfect, sinless life that has first paid for their sins by dying for them. Only Jesus has fulfilled those conditions. Even God the Father Himself has left all judgement to His Son. How can we place ourselves above God the Father?
John 5:22 NLT In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge,
In God’s eyes, a sinner cannot judge another sinner. He gives that right and absolute authority to Jesus alone.
The challenge with enduring the injustices from others is that we tend to only recognise their sins against us and not our own sins. We incorrectly believe we are good by comparison and will not be subject to God’s judgment ourselves.
Romans 2:3-4 NIV So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
Let us take a look at a few examples of what God’s Word shows us about our true human condition.
- Have we judged one of our parents for having an affair outside marriage? If we have ever looked at someone with lust, we have committed adultery too. | Matthew 5:28 ESV But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
- Have we judged someone for taking something that rightfully belongs to us or our family? If we have ever coveted somebody else’s possessions, we are equally sinful. | Colossians 3:5 ESV Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
- Have we judged someone for lying to us and betraying our trust? if we don’t obey God’s commandments, God’s Word calls us liars too. | 1 John 2:4 ESV Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,
The warning in Romans 2:1 rings true for all of us.
Romans 2:1 ESV Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.
Thankfully, God doesn’t ignore our pain and suffering. He sent Jesus His Son to take on all the cruelties that mankind can do to one another so that He can carry our burdens, take on our pain, heal our broken hearts, and assure us that He understands our traumas.
Isaiah 53:3 ESV He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Isaiah 61:1-3 ESV The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
|Physical abuse, danger, and discomfort
|Emotional anguish and pain
Because Jesus has endured so much for our sakes, He personally understands pain and suffering 100%. He is called our High Priest who Himself was also “beset with weakness” and so “can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward” because He sympathises with our weaknesses.
Hebrews 4:15 ESV For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Hebrews 5:1-2 ESV For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.
Action step: Let us repent of any time we have taken over Jesus’ Judgement Seat and judged those who have hurt and wronged us. This also means that we are to cancel out every judgement we have pronounced and leave our grievances to the Judge who presides over the Highest Court in the entire universe. We can trust Jesus to execute justice righteously on our behalf on Judgment Day.
Acts 17:30-31 ESV The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Psalm 142:2 NLT I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my troubles.
** This is not to discount the criminal justice system or nullify the condemnation of sin within the church. When we are called to deliver criminals to court or unrepentant sinners for church discipline, we need to do with pure hearts and a clear conscience.
1 Timothy 1:5 NLT The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.
“I grew up in a family where there was a lack of emotional regulation and nurturing.
During any family conflict, my sister would explode with anger and vent lots of emotions. My parents never learnt how to discipline her or to talk to her. My mom is also very “jumpy” and would react to the smallest things and take offence quite quickly.
Even though I have learnt to forgive them and accept the fact that God has given them to me as my family members (knowing that I can’t choose my family members and they were placed in my life by God), deep down I had resentment. I would often “roll my eyes” when I see them behaving badly or unreasonably.
A Christian sister observed my social interactions with people in my church group and saw that I would also overreact and jump at rather minor matters. She pointed out that because I have judged my mom and my sister, I have somehow become just like them.
One of the spiritual laws that I heard of before says that one will become unable to see that we are just like those we judge!
Romans 2:1 NIV You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
I realise that by judging others, we have usurped the position of God. He is the only One who has the authority to judge any one of us. God has called us to love and not to judge.
Even though I am quite good with maintaining a civilised face on the outside, deep down I would often roll my eyes and would quite easily resent or curse them in my heart. I realise that in order for me to really become compassionate, it really would require God to do some surgery on my heart and overwhelm me with His love, so as to remove this judgemental attitude that I have towards others.
I now realise how often and how easy it is for me to “roll my eyes” at people in general and how deeply corrupted I am. Learning how hard it is to truly look upon others’ bad behaviour with a compassionate pair of eyes, I found myself always needing to repent and ask God to forgive my lack of compassion and my judgements towards others. This is a new season for me in loving God and loving others.”
How to escape God’s judgment for judging others
Unhealed trauma affects our spiritual growth
Rejection can lead us to form idols out of pain
The importance of emotional healing
Parent wounds need to be healed
Emotional suppression is ungodly and harmful
Uprooting trapped toxic emotions and their bad fruit
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