Saturday, February 28, 2009

Judgment and Judgmentalism

I am preparing a Sunday School lesson on the Seventh Chapter of Matthew, the last part of the Sermon on the Mount. The first five verses of this chapter tell us to "judge not lest we be judged." We hear about getting logs out of our own eyes before we try to take specks out of others' eyes.

But then, in the very next verse, Jesus tells us not to cast pearls before swine, not to give what is sacred to dogs. Unless you take Him extraordinarily literally, He is not talking about literal canines and hogs. He is telling us how to deal with those people who are, for some reason, dogs and pigs.

In other words, He is asking us to exercise some judgment and to evaluate the people with whom we come into contact. Interesting.

Is it contradictory? Does Jesus tell us not to judge and then immediately tell us to judge?

No. There is a big difference. In the former, He warns us against judging the worthiness of others. That is God's to do. We have enough problems in our own lives - enough logs in our own eyes - to keep ourselves busy. In the latter, He is talking about exercising judgment to discriminate concerning the readiness of others to hear what we have to say.

Worthiness vs. readiness. Very different concepts. One we are able to tell; the other is way out of our league.

We have to exercise judgment - if we don't, we will give money to every cold caller who telephones. If we don't, we will marry the wrong person, take the wrong job, etc....

And when we deal with other people, there are times to disciminate, to exercise judgment. When looking for the right opportunity to "cast our pearls," to share our spiritual sacred things with others, we don't just grab every person we see by the neck and force our testimony down their throats. If we do, we will have very little success and will do a whole lot of damage to the cause of Christ. Hopefully, what we do is cultivate relationships with others so that they will be ready to hear and receive our "pearls." The time for that becomes a judgment call.

I am afraid that many confuse the two. I am afraid that some are so afraid of "judging" in a specks/logs sense that they fail to exercise the judgment God calls them to employ. On the other hand, I am afraid that some are so anxious to find the dogs and the swine that they are judging left and right, looking for and calling out specks, logs, stains, sins, and failures wherever they think they see them. And they tend to do it loudly.

Jesus tells us not to judge as God judges, but to exercise judgment arising out of the common sense He has given us.

Don't get the two confused. Our language is finite - we have a limited number of words. But "judging" in a Matthew 7:1-5 sense simply cannot mean the same things as exercising "judgment," making judgment calls, discriminating rightly, and using our brains.

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