Necessary and Unnecessary Judgments
I'm judgmental. So are you. In fact, we're all judgmental. We can't help ourselves. We have been giving a brain that makes deductions and based on those deductions makes judgment calls. So in some ways, we can't help ourselves.
Add to that the confusion that stems from what seems to be some mixed messages in scripture on judgment. On the one hand, it seems like throughout scripture, we are asked by God to judge between certain things and whether or not they are right or wrong. And yet within those same pages of scripture, we find verses like Matthew 7:1, imploring us to judge others at risk of being judged ourselves.
So why the mixed messages? In truth, I don't think there really are any mixed messages. There's just a misunderstanding of our terms. There's such a thing as necessary and unnecessary judgment. One is, well, necessary. The other is not only unneeded, it is the kind that God's word implores us to avoid.
The truth is that we can't live without making judgments. We judge whether or not it's safe to cross the street and what we should eat for breakfast. We make judgments about what should get our attention each day. And yes, we make judgment calls about what is right and wrong, and what we should and should not do.
We even have to make judgments about people sometimes. It's not evil to have a talent show, or to participate in sports where there are winners and losers. I also retain the right as an employer to screen my employees. I am making judgment calls about people are their abilities, as well as whether or not they will be a good fit on our team. These are all necessary judgments. This is not what Jesus is talking about.
But there is another type of judgment that is completely uncalled for. We all know it. We have all felt it. We've all been hurt by it. And I don't mean hurt like when you lose a ball game or don't get a job. That hurts because we wanted to be chosen and we weren't. Yes it's hard, but it's also unintentional.
The judgment I am talking about is judgment born of a spirit of criticism. The purpose of this type of judgment is to tear people down and condemn them. To put people in their place. It's goal is to put someone down so that you can be elevated. This kind of judgment is all about finding fault and casting blame. This is the unnecessary judgment that Matthew 7 is speaking out against and that the Golden Rule speaks to us about.
You see, there is a difference between making a judgment call and calling someone out with a spirit of judgment. There is a difference between judging what's right in a situation and being judgmental towards and individual or group of people. One is necessary and one is not. And the difference between the two comes down to intentions. Are you just seeking to make a judgment call, or are you seeking to play judge, jury and executioner? If you want to follow Jesus, you have to look at where you are in terms of judging others. There is enough of the Pharisee in every one of us that needs us to take this seriously.