Righteous Judgment (2)
Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” Luke 12.13, 14
Mind your own business
We must be diligent in the work of judging and judgment, caring enough to judge righteously, and doing so conscientiously, making the most of every opportunity for expressing God’s truth.
At the same time, we need to keep in mind that not everything is our business. The apostle Paul urges us to increase in love for our neighbor, which is the proper motivation for sound and righteous judgment. At the same time, he counsels us to “mind your own business” lest we overstep the bounds of our duty toward our neighbors and compromise our walk with the Lord (1 Thess. 4.9-12).
Jesus is the model of righteous judgment for us as it relates to judging discreetly. Asked to intervene in a family matter, Jesus rebuked His appellant, indicating that it was not His calling to take up such matters. Elders and judges existed in Israel to handle such affairs. His calling lay elsewhere.
We judge discreetly when we distinguish those matters which fall within the purview of our judgment from those that do not, and take care in our judging not to overstep our bounds. Thus, we exercise discretion in judging and judgment, so that we avoid causing unnecessary offense to others. By doing our best to avoid giving offense, we abide within the bounds of judging where God can be glorified (1 Cor. 10.31, 32).
How can we know?
Walking the line between diligence and discretion in judging can be tricky. On the one hand, we want to make the most of every opportunity for exercising righteous judgment, taking the initiative as often as possible. On the other hand, we don’t want to interfere with the lawful and reasonable responsibilities of others, lest we be seen to be meddlesome busybodies or fools (Prov. 26.17).
How can we know when a situation requiring righteous judgment is not our responsibility? Here are a couple of guidelines to follow.
First, make sure you know your jurisdiction. Your duty for judging with righteous judgment lies only within the purview of the places and people to whom God sends you each day. Of course, your sphere of influence includes larger, occasional matters of judgment – such as voting or responding to an emergency – that don’t typically show up in your Personal Mission Field. Our focus here is on those everyday situations requiring righteous judgment, and how we can judge discreetly, following Jesus and Paul.
Paul was careful not to transgress into others’ spheres of influence (2 Cor. 10.13). Part of being diligent in exercising righteous judgment is taking carethat we do not overstep the bounds of our appointed sphere. We are called to seek the Kingdom and glory of God within the relationships, roles, and responsibilities that fall to us. The more we review our Personal Mission Field in prayer, and the more careful and attentive we are to pursue our calling in love for God and neighbors, the easier it will be to discern when matters requiring righteous judgment are someone else’s business, rather than ours.
Second, we must at all times recognize the authority and responsibility of others for exercising judgment. This is obvious in matters of criminal justice. Courts and judges are appointed to render verdicts and issue judgments and sentences. We may not take the law into our own hands.
We must, however, encourage everyone in our sphere of influence – since all of us are responsible and bear certain authority – to take God’s Law in hand and learn to judge with righteous judgment.
Judgment belongs to the Lord
The progress and prosperity of the Kingdom of God do not ultimately hang on our work of judging and judgment. Salvation belongs to the Lord, and He alone is the righteous Judge. We must do our best to be diligent and discreet in exercising righteous judgment, but at the end of the day, we rest in the Lord and His mighty power. We may have failed to intervene in some situation, or we may have overstepped the bounds of our legitimate concern, and thus have compromised discretion in judgment.
We must rest all our acts of judging and judgment in the Lord’s hand, considering, undertaking, and reviewing them in prayer, and committing all needs for righteous judgment into the hands of the Lord.
As we seek the Lord in prayer concerning our calling to judge the world, He can help us to judge diligently and discreetly, and thus bring His shalom into the everyday situations of our lives, and at the same time, glorify Himself at the same time.
1. What do we mean by exercising diligencein judging with righteous judgment?
2. Can you think of a situation requiring righteous judgment that is beyond your responsibility or concern? Though you might not intervene here, how can you use prayer to address the situation?
3. What can you do to sharpen your focus on your proper jurisdiction for judging righteously – your Personal Mission Field?
Next steps – Preparation: Be sure to begin and end your day in prayer, keeping a primary focus on your Personal Mission Field, and to prayerfully consider all acts of judging and judgment before undertaking to judge. How can you remember to do that?
T. M. Moore
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This week’s study is part 3 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 3, Righteous Judgment.
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.