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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Judging

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JUDGING (Ethical). The subject of ethical judging meets us frequently in the NT. 1. It is the right and duty of a moral being to judge of the goodness or badness of actions and qualities ; and Christianity, by exalting the moral standard and quickening the conscience, makes ethical judgments more obligatory than before. In cases where our judgments are impersonal there is no difficulty as to the exercise of this right. As possessed of a conscience, a man is called upon to view the world in the discriminating light of the moral law ( Romans 2:14 ff., 2 Corinthians 4:2 ). As possessed of a Christian conscience, a Christian man must test everything by the law of Christ ( Philippians 1:10 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] , 1 Thessalonians 5:21 ). ‘He that is spiritual judgeth all things’ ( 1 Corinthians 2:15 ).

2. So far all is clear. But when we pass to the sphere of judgments regarding persons , the case is not so simple. It might seem at first almost as if in the NT all judgment of persons were forbidden. There is our Lord’s emphatic ‘Judge not’ ( Matthew 7:1 ). There is St. Paul’s demand, ‘Why dost thou judge thy brother?’ ( Romans 14:10 ), his injunction, ‘Let us not therefore judge one another’ ( Romans 14:13 ), his bold claim that he that is spiritual is judged of no man ( 1 Corinthians 2:15 ). There is the assertion of St. James that the man who judges his brother is making himself a judge of the law ( James 4:11 ), i.e. the royal law of love (cf. James 2:8 ). But it is impossible to judge of actions and qualities without passing on to judge the persons who perform them or in whom they inhere. If an action is sinful, the person who commits it is sinful; indeed, the moral quality of an action springs from its association with a moral personality. In condemning anything as wrong, we necessarily condemn the person who has been guilty of it. And when we look more closely at the teaching of the NT, we find that it is not judgment of others that is forbidden, but unfair judgment a judgment that is biassed or superficial or narrow or censorious and untouched with charity. ‘Judge not,’ said Jesus, ‘that ye be not judged’; and the context shows that His meaning was, ‘Do not judge others without first judging yourself.’ ‘Let us not judge one another,’ says St. Paul; but it is in the course of a plea for liberty in non-essentials and charity in all things. ‘He that is spiritual,’ he says again, ‘is judged of no man’; but his meaning is that the natural man is incompetent to judge the spiritual man in regard to spiritual things. And when St. James couples judging our brother with speaking against him, and represents both as infringements of the royal law, it seems evident that he refers to a kind of judging that is not charitable or even just, but is inspired by malice or springs from a carping habit. Ethical judgment of personal worth was a function freely exercised by Jesus Christ ( e.g. Matthew 16:23 ; Matthew 23:13 ff.||, Mark 10:21 , Luke 13:32 , John 1:47 ; John 6:70 ), and it is the privilege and duty of a Christian man. But if our judgments are to be pure reflexions of the mind of Christ, and not the verdicts of ignorance, prejudice, or selfishness, the following NT rules must be observed. We must (1) let our judgments begin with ourselves ( Matthew 7:3 ff.||, Romans 2:1 ); (2) not judge by appearances ( John 7:24 ; cf. John 8:15 ); (3) respect the liberty of our brother’s conscience ( Romans 14:1-23 , 1 Corinthians 10:29 ); (4) not seek to usurp the office of the final Judge ( 1 Corinthians 4:5 , Romans 14:10 ); (5) beware of the censorious spirit ( James 4:11 ).

J. C. Lambert.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Judging'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdb/j/judging.html. 1909.

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