Judge Not? (2)
“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7.3-5
The Christian does not have to attain some formal position in order to do the work of judging the world. One need not be an elder or pastor or civil magistrate for the work of judging, to which we are called begins in our own souls. Judging the world requires neither a college degree nor a library of erudite, books. Judging the world is our calling, privilege, and duty merely by virtue of our belonging to Jesus Christ.
We will not be able to judge the world for the shalom of God unless we maintain a careful watch over our own lives. Jesus taught that we must first clear ourselves of all obstructions, so that we “see clearly” to judge others and the world. He does not forbid us to judge; He only requires that our judgment consist of the character of love for God and neighbors. To ensure that this is the case, believers must exercise judgment over our own lives.
Judging ourselves must be a continuous activity. Paul says we should “walk circumspectly” at every moment, making sure that in all the time of our lives we’re living like those who possess the wisdom of the Lord, and not like fools (Eph. 5.15-17). If we want to edify others and lead them into the shalom of the Lord, then we must keep a continuous watch over ourselves in all aspects of our lives (1 Tim. 4.16).
This work of judging ourselves begins in prayer, where we yield to the Word and Spirit of God, and wait on the Lord to point out any thoughts, attitudes, or ways that are not in line with His Word (Ps. 139.23, 24). Judging ourselves continues as we walk in the Spirit, rather than in the flesh, and listen for His teaching, guiding, and conviction during the normal course of our daily lives (Gal. 5.16-23; Jn. 16.8-11). It also requires that we be willing to listen to others when they express concerns about any matters in our lives (Gal. 6.1, 2).
We need to pay careful attention to our own lives, and to exercise the kind of judgment that will keep us in the way of the Lord (Ps. 119.59, 60). What does this entail?
Focus for self-judging
In Proverbs 4.20-27, Solomon offered his son a concise catalog of what to watch out for in our lives. Only by exercising vigilance over all the areas he mentioned can we hope to escape the snares of evil, be filled with the life of God, and do and judge all things for edification and shalom.
First, Solomon insists that we must give careful attention to the Word of God and listen well to all the Spirit teaches (v. 20). We’ll need to make sure that our daily time in the Word is of sufficient length and quality to help us in gaining the mind of Christ about all matters. Where our thoughts and lives are not in line with Christ’s Word, we must take them captive and make them obedient with all diligence (2 Cor. 10.3-5). We must keep the Word in mind at all times, and discipline our hearts to love its teaching above anything else, for only thus will we be in position to enjoy life and health from the Lord (vv. 21, 22).
Next, we must examine our hearts (v. 23). The heart is the seat of the affections – all our loves, desires, aspirations, attitudes, and hopes. The heart is the heart of the matter in the life of faith, and if we harbor sin and impurity in our heart, we will not be fit to judge others for edification and shalom.
Solomon next instructs us to watch over our words, that they be always true, never deceitful, and never perverse in any way (v. 24). Paul would add that all our words must be seasoned with grace (Col. 4.6) and designed to build others up in the Lord (Eph. 4.29). We should think about what we’re going to say before we say it, and spend some time at the end of the day reviewing the words we have spoken, so that we may give thanks, and confess and repent as necessary.
Finally, Solomon calls us to pay attention to our path, our daily walk with the Lord (vv. 25-27). We should plan to use our time wisely each day, and to focus on glorifying God in all our work (Ps. 90.12, 16, 17). The time of our lives is God’s time, and we need to invest our best efforts at bringing God glory in everything we do (1 Cor. 10.31). Watching over our path requires that we preview our day before the Lord in prayer, and review it at the end of the day, waiting on Him to show us any areas where we can improve the use we make of the time He gives us each day.
A continuous duty
Exercising this self-watch – judging ourselves and every aspect of our lives – is a continuous duty, like monitoring your speed while you’re driving, and paying careful attention to the road.
But we will not do this throughoutthe day if we do not do it at the beginning and end of the day. As we grow in our understanding of God’s Word, and of the righteous judgment His Word teaches, we will be more sensitive to whenever a speck or log has managed to lodge in our soul or life. And we will not be afraid to deal with this hindrance, confessing our sin and declaring our intention of repenting of it, because we know that God does not condemn us, but only seeks to draw us up to higher levels of life in Christ.
Solomon rejoiced in the fact that “the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day” (Prov. 4.18). When we walk in the light, as Jesus is in the light, then we know the warmth, safety, and joy of the Lord’s shalom, and we will be in a better position to help others know that “perfect day” whenever it becomes necessary for us to exercise sound judgment in the name of the Lord.
Mastering the self-watch is one of the most important disciplines of the life of faith, as Jesus, Paul, and Solomon make clear. We will need to give careful and ongoing attention to this duty if we are going to fulfill our calling to judge the world for the shalom of the Lord.
1. Do you currently practice a self-watch? Of what does it consist? Could you improve this discipline?
2. Why is it important to maintain an attitude of prayer in exercising a self-watch? Can we be effective in judging ourselves if we are not diligent in reading and studying God’s Word? Explain.
3. How can believers help one another in this matter? Meditate on Hebrews 10.24. How does this obligate you in helping your fellow Christians maintain an effective self-watch?
Next steps – Preparation: Review your own practice of the self-watch and make any improvements you find necessary.
T. M. Moore
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This week’s study is part 2 of a 4-part series, To Judge the World. Each part consists of seven lessons and is available as a free PDF download at the end of the study. In the tag for part 7, we’ll give you a link to download part 2, Judge Not?
An excellent companion to this series is our book, The Ground for Christian Ethics. Here you’ll discover the basis on which Christians learn to judge with righteous judgment. You can order a copy by clicking here.And when you order, we’ll send you a free copy of Bricks and Rungs: Poems on Calling.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.