Here Come the Judge!

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Text: 1 Corinthians 4:1-5

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The World is Full of Judges

We live in a world that is full of judges. Of course, there are those within the legal system. Then, there are all of the others. Sports are ruled by judges: a ref blows a call in the Super Bowl that cannot be reviewed by instant replay. In baseball, there’s one judge in the strike zone. Gymnastics have been the home of controversies in which judges have long been accused of favoring favorites and shaping their scores based on the shape of an athlete’s body. We are judged by our teachers, our employers, by our neighbors!

Then, there’s the court of public opinion – say no more! And, there’s a faceless, gold-plated judge who, tonight, will pass judgment on Hollywood and the entertainment industry it has created. Yep, the 83rd annual Academy Awards, where the entertainment industry will choose the best actors, directors, films, and technicians from among their ranks.

The judging won’t stop there – tomorrow morning, the television will be filled with judges who are judging the judges. Did they give away a makeup Oscar to an actor who should have won for her previous superior movie? Did a film receive Best Picture because it addressed the right liberal political issue? Was the true Best Director snubbed because he’s a beast to work with?

Let’s face it, our world is just full of things that pit us against one another. We’re continually evaluated by others — be they people above us in the corporate hierarchy or neighbors in the community. We’re judged in terms of our achievements, our competence, our personality, our looks, our social status, our children’s accomplishments, our bank accounts… anything that can be judged will be.

The Church is Full of Judges

Boy, it’s a good thing there’s no such judging and controversies in the church! Ok, I guess we DO have a little judging here. J

Actually, judging does go on in the church, and it’s something that we’re not always comfortable with. So many of us grew up being told that we shouldn’t judge others, because of what Jesus said in Matthew 7:1-2 – “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (NIV) And, in James’ letter – “Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it.” (James 4:11, NIV)

If you study what Paul has said, though, you’ll see that Christians ARE supposed to be judges! What we are NOT supposed to do is CONDEMN – which is for God alone to do. For example, Paul says that Christians may, or even should, make judgements:

  • Discerning spiritual truths (2:15)
  • Evaluating ungodly behavior of other believers, not unbelievers (5:12)
  • Deciding between two options (7:37)
  • Evaluating the truth of teachings (10:15)
  • Judging our own sin and motives (11:31)

Part of being faithful does involve judging. However: some things are off-limits.

Human vs. Divine Judgment

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1). The image He uses is that of having a 2×4 stuck in your eye while telling your neighbor about a speck of dust in his.

He’s not referring to ANY judging, but to the kind of judging that condemns. This is out of line because only God may condemn. Because human limitation keeps us from fully knowing the heart, motivation, and intentions of another person, we aren’t qualified to make judgements that condemn. Maybe we call someone an idiot – but haven’t we ourselves done idiotic things? We might think that someone is doing something to stir up trouble – but, haven’t we done that at some time? We might think that someone did something that’s really STUPID… but, hold on, have we never done anything stupid?

So what do we do? When another person judges or condemns us, we can confess our need for a good evaluation. We can make an honest self-evaluation to see if there are any truths we need to hear, and if the accusation that has been made is unfair, choose not to believe it – and remind ourselves of whom the REAL judge is!

To sum it up – All Christians are stewards — of God’s creation, our time, our relationships, the money God gives us, our gifts and talents. We are stewards of the whole of who we are and all God has given us. God doesn’t see just our outward actions. God knows us inside and out. God knows.

How to Live This Out?

Take Paul’s example. Shun the condemnation of others and cling to the commendation of God (v. 5). Define yourself with God’s perfect opinion of us. Not others’ opinions. Not even your own.

Secondly, live clean. God’s conviction is gracious and loving — meant to steer us toward a better and more satisfying way to live. So in the bright-light reminder that God sees all and judges all, what needs to change in us?

Let’s look where we need to look and work toward being found trustworthy.

Be a good Christian — pass judgment! Paul does it in this text. Just don’t play God, who already has a keen, loving eye on all of us.

Sources Consulted:

“Judging the Judges,” Homiletics, February 2011

Thayer and Smith’s NAS Bible Dictionary. “Greek Lexicon entry for “. 1999.