By Zac Poonen
Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 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?
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? 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” ( Matt.7:1-5 ).
There is a need for all of us to be constantly reminded to judge ourselves always and never to judge others.
We must all have discernment – but discernment is a spiritual quality, vastly different from judging others, which is a carnal activity.
Romans 14 is a chapter that we must all meditate on frequently – so that we are reminded again and again of the freedom that God gives His children in many areas.
Here are a few examples of where we may be judging others – outwardly or inwardly. We should not pass opinions (or even have opinions in our minds) about others in such matters:
– Whether someone can own a car or not (or two cars!) – or what make it should be.
– How big or grand someone’s house should not be.
– Whether someone can have expensive gadgets in his home.
– What level of education someone should give his children.
– Whether someone can move elsewhere to get a higher salary, or migrate to another country.
– How much property someone can own or how much savings he should have in his bank account (Note: We are not to save up treasure for ourselves (Matt.6:19); but we are commanded to save up for our children (2 Cor.12:14; 1 Tim.5:8)).
– Whether someone can stay in (or eat in) expensive hotels/restaurants.
– Whether a sister can wear jewellery, or expensive sarees/dresses (Who is to decide how much is “expensive”??), or a salwar-kameez, or women’s pants. (The Bible commands women to be modestly dressed – and so we must warn sisters against wearing revealing, tight-fitting, provocative dresses).
– Whether men can have long hair. (Nature says “short hair”, but God doesn’t say anything about this -1 Cor.11:14. And who is to decide what length is “long” or ” short”).
– Whether women can have short hair. (Long hair is her glory, but this is not commanded by God -1 Cor.11:15. And who is to decide what length is “short” or “long”).
– Whether someone can dye his/her hair.
– Whether a sister can wear any type of make-up.
– Whether someone can watch sports on TV or not (Excessive watching will hinder a person’s walk with the Lord, for sport becomes an idol very easily – and we must warn people about this).
– Whether someone can have a TV or not (What he watches is the issue).
– Whether someone can consider social, economic and educational levels when choosing a marriage partner. [Note: Since there must be “an equal yoke” in all areas (spirit, soul and body), sensible believers will consider these “soul” factors as well.]
– Whether someone’s wedding was too lavish and grand.
– Etc., etc.,
These are just a few areas. I am sure there are many others. Many of these decisions depend on the income of each family – and income varies considerably among believers. A very simple car, house, education, job or wedding in a big city would be considered extravagant and luxurious by the standards of those living in a poor village. So we cannot judge one another.
The scale of a wedding is determined by the wealth as well as the wholeheartedness of parents on both sides. For the sake of peace, the opinion of even one half-hearted parent or bridegroom or bride may influence the final decision in this matter. So we must not judge anyone as to how he conducts a wedding.
We have a tendency to judge the lavishness of others only in those areas where we ourselves are simple. Many who judge others in one of the above areas often fall short themselves in one of the other areas – but because their judgmental spirit blinds them, they cannot see their own shortcomings. So it is best to avoid judging specks in the eyes of others.
We must learn to “mind our own business” and avoid telling others what they should do in such matters. Otherwise we will become self-righteous Pharisees who are “busybodies in other people’s affairs” (1 Pet.4:15). It is best to let each person act according to his/her own conscience.
In the church, we are to speak primarily against sin and against the love of money; and we need to give advice ONLY where someone asks us for it, unless of course, it is a matter of obviously sinful conduct that is affecting the church.
In financial matters however, we should encourage all believers to stay within their financial walls. Getting into debt is like breaking through the financial wall God has built around us. See Ecclesiastes 10:8b. [The Hebrew word used for “snake-bite” there is “nashak”, which is very similar to the Hebrew word for “debt” – “nasha”.] We must encourage believers to avoid debt, as far as possible, except where it is unavoidable (such as for emergencies and medical treatment, or when buying/building a house or buying a vehicle, etc.,). And if they do borrow, they must be encouraged to repay their debts as soon as possible (Rom.13:8).
This does not however mean that we should not teach clearly what the Bible teaches about matters such as:
– the church going through the tribulation – [See The Church And The Tribulation ],
– women wearing a head-covering when praying/prophesying – [See Head-Covering for Women and Head Coverings – Two Spiritual Statements]
If some believers have different views on these matters, we will not judge them. But we will still teach in the church what the Bible teaches clearly.
Consider Titus 2:4,5 which states clearly that wives should primarily be “workers at home”. We must teach that. But the Bible does not forbid a wife from working outside the home. So we must not forbid that either. There are many cases where a wife going to work becomes a necessity, because her husband is an invalid, or is unable to find employment, etc., So we should never judge a wife who goes to work.
Or consider the celebration of Christmas and Easter. We ourselves may be convinced about the pagan origin of these festivals. But some other believers may be totally ignorant of this fact.
[See Christmas And Easter – Christian Or Pagan? ]
We must hold on to our convictions. But we should not judge those who celebrate these days. Romans 14:4-6 states that very clearly.
Any church that does not give its members the freedom given us by the Holy Spirit in Romans 14 is legalistic.
It is important to note that judging is different from proclaiming the truths of God’s Word. We must preach the whole counsel of God in our churches. We must not keep quiet on any part of God’s truth, fearing that we will be labeled as “legalists”. But if some do not accept and practice what we teach on these non-central matters, we must not judge them. We must leave their judgment to God, unless their actions are affecting the church.
One great danger however is if we become more passionate about some of the non-central matters mentioned above than about Jesus Himself and conformity to His likeness.
The matters mentioned above are external matters. But God looks at the heart – and we cannot see that. Therefore we must fear God – and then we will not “judge by what our eyes see, or our ears hear, but will always judge with righteousness” (Isa.11:3, 4).
If we earnestly “pursue after love” (1 Cor.14:1) and earnestly seek to “learn humility” from our Lord ( Matt.11:29), we will be saved from this pitfall of judging others.
The happiest people in the world are those who always judge themselves and never judge others.