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Judge Not

FAITH AT WORK: Devotions through the book of James

“There is only one lawgiver and judge.” (James 4:12, ESV) 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” James tells us how to avoid sabotaging that noble goal. “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers” (Jas. 4:11). 

Speaking evil can be toxic to a relationship, introducing a pollutant that can poison the waters and be difficult to clean up, and even once cleaned up can leave traces that might never be purged. We might think in terms of slander or berating another.   

James describes this evil-speak as emanating from someone who has assumed the position of a judge. Jesus also addressed the matter in the Sermon on the Mount when He said, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1). 

How many times have we heard people excuse and enable wrong behavior by saying that the Bible tells us not to judge? But the Bible doesn’t say that. In fact, we are enjoined to judge (1 Cor. 5:12), including providing a kingdom assessment of the righteousness or unrighteousness of actions (Mt. 18:15-20). 

What the Bible does say is that we are not to judge with differing weights. We are not to hold one standard for ourselves and another standard for someone else. That’s called hypocrisy. People quote “Judge not, that you be not judged,” but neglect the rest of the story: “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:2–3) 

In other words, we are not to judge as the Judge. We both, the judged and the judging, find ourselves under the same Lord. As James put it, “There is only one lawgiver and judge” (4:2), to whom all of us must give account. In a Christian family it is not only the children who must abide by the law of God but the parents must as well, even though they are the ones who exercise discipline. 

We are all sinners in need of grace. None of us occupies the high moral ground. Any judgment on our part must be rendered with humility, in full knowledge that we stand only by the grace of the One who is able to save and to destroy (Jas. 4:12). 

1. How would you respond to someone who insists Jesus said not to judge?

2. What sort of judging does the Bible call for? 

“Father, help me to take the log out of my own eye that blinds me to my sin.”

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and nine grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.
Books by Stan Gale

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