Are You Judgmental or Discerning?
Read Matthew 7:1-6
I think these verses on judging others in Matthew 7:1-6 are probably the hardest for Christians to tackle. Because whether we realize it or not, we always make snap judgments about people in one form or another. I once went into a jewellery store to buy my daughter a fancy present for Christmas. Three things you need to know first before I tell this story:
At the time, I used a walker to get around (I need a wheelchair now). When I stepped into that jewellery store, every person in the store turned to look at me. I mean, really, look at me. They looked me up and down and decided en masse that I was not worthy of their time. They judged me by my looks. They assumed I had no money to spend. I wasn't dressed appropriately for their "fine" establishment, and I certainly didn't fit the part of someone with money to spend. But I did have money to spend, yet no one in the store offered to help me or even said hello. Five sales clerks turned away from me as if I wasn't there. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.
And as Julia said, "They made a big mistake. Big. Huge." I went shopping somewhere else. Clearly, they judged me based on their standards. So these verses today got me wondering. How often do Christians do the same thing? John 7:24 says, "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment." That means we are to have discernment.
Discernment enables us to listen to our "Spidey senses" if we meet someone and feel immediately uncomfortable or unsafe. Discernment helps us when listening to a preacher who says something contrary to Scripture. Discernment does not create division or hatred. Discernment is listening to the Holy Spirit and acting accordingly. It is not hateful, spiteful, arrogant or pushy as judging someone can be.
But judging is when we try to force our views, expectations or opinions on someone else. Instead of judging by God's standards, we judge by our own standards and preferences, which often leads to disagreements within the church. This is not discernment. This is judging.
As I discussed in previous posts, the Pharisees were religious leaders. In his parables and sermons, Jesus liked to use them as examples of how not to behave. They judged people by the law's letter, not the spirit, and so they judged others based on their own behaviour and beliefs. But Jesus said in Matthew 7:2, and I'm paraphrasing here, "Don't judge people at all. Because if you judge people the way the Pharisees do, you will be judged with the same severity." Jesus' intent is seen by his use of the words "speck" and "plank" in Matthew 7:3-4. Judgmental people are arrogant, prideful, foolish and spiteful. They lack discernment. They can't see a person for who they really are. They may, like the Pharisees, "know" the Scriptures inside out, but they don't know how to "live" them.
An excellent example is a parable Jesus told of the Pharisee and the tax collector who went to the Temple to pray.
Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14, NKJV).
Jesus says in Matthew 7:6: "Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces." This verse is hard to understand coming after a discussion on judging others. What is Jesus really saying here?
What is holy in this case? Jesus has been talking about the Pharisees (hypocrites). They judge others according to their own standards and not the Word of God. The Word of God is what is sacred or holy in this case. The dogs and swine are those who do not believe nor accept God's Word as holy. We should not argue or defend ourselves before them using the Scriptures (what is holy) as our defence. We should not judge them based on the Scriptures because they don't accept them. In other words, we should not judge anyone who does not know the Lord. Period. Because ultimately, by expecting others to adhere to our values, we inadvertently judge them, using what is holy (the Scriptures) as our justification.
Discernment is used to correct or rebuke your brother or sister in Christ. For example, when they sin or believe in false doctrines. (2 John 1:9-10). When it is a believer, there are rules we follow laid out in the Scriptures on how we approach a sinning brother or sister in Christ (Mathew 18:15-17). But judging those who don't know Jesus? Only God is allowed to do that.
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