Today I’ll try to wrap up this topic – at least for now – of right judging vs. sinful judging. There are some judgments that you and I, as Christ-followers, must make on a regular basis. When we “judge” in these ways, we are not violating Jesus’ prohibition of a judgmental spirit (Matthew 7:1).
1. I must make those judgments which are a normal and necessary part of everyday life.
The word “judge” can mean simply “decide” or “distinguish” – and it would be impossible for any of us to get through our daily responsibilities without judging in that sense of the word. We might call this sanctified common sense. This morning I decided that Joshua should not wear shorts to school. The temperature was 28. Shorts were a possibility in his mind, but I decided they weren’t the best option. I made a judgment.
2. I must distinguish between truth and error.
You can’t make it out of Matthew 7 (note especially 7:15-20) without discovering that a significant portion of our Christian responsibility is, in fact, to recognize false teaching and to identify it for what it is. We call this process discernment. That word simply means that we’re analyzing a situation (example: “What kind of fruit is this tree producing?) and making an appropriate judgment.
3. I must know right from wrong.
The Apostle Paul (in First Thessalonians 5:21) tells us to “test everything; hold fast what is good.” We must learn to discern! That’s how the Thessalonians were going to “abstain from every form of evil” (5:22).
4. I must recognize godliness in direct contrast with worldliness.
Paul told the Corinthian Church (from First Corinthians 2:6-16): “… among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age … But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory … these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit … Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God … The spiritual person judges all things … we have the mind of Christ.”
Wow! We can barely imagine the extent of our responsibility to rightly discern in light of all that we’ve been given in Jesus Christ! We’ve been given the very Spirit of the living God!
Beloved brothers and sisters, Biblical discernment has fallen on hard times. In Matthew 7:6 – where Jesus says, “Don’t throw your pearls before pigs” – what does He mean? I think He’s calling for our wisdom in making sound judgments. Something like this: “Don’t keep on offering what is sacred to those who have no appreciation for it. Such a gift will be contaminated and despised. You will be rebuffed and maybe openly attacked.” In that instance, Jesus wasn’t very complimentary toward dogs or pigs, but the allegorical language He used refers to worldly people.
You and I are stewards of God’s good gifts, and we must use them wisely. Jesus will reinforce this later in Matthew (10:16): “… I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Guess what that involves – all along the way? Making wise judgments.
There’s only one way we can do this – it’s the way to which the entire Sermon on the Mount points – and that is that we maintain a right view of eternity. Way back in the 1700’s, Jonathan Edwards preached one of the greatest sermons ever preached in America. It was so powerful that the people fell off their seats and clung to the pillars that were holding up the gallery. Before Edwards preached that day, he prayed over and over again: “O God, stamp eternity on my eyeballs.”
Not a bad prayer for us.
(By the way, today’s somewhat blurry photo is a picture of me from 5th grade. After his mother’s death not too long ago, a friend from elementary school sent the pic to me from among his mom’s belongings. It was taken at the 4-H Camp dance. I’m the blonde kid sporting the plaid polyester pants, the totally non-coordinating shirt, and the white belt. The moral of the story is simply this: Sometimes your bad judgments will haunt you years later, so make good judgments instead.)