If you’ve stopped judging, get at it again. If you never judged, get started. If you are judging some, please increase judging now! If you have been or just starting judging, get better and better at it!
The Meaning of Words
Hearing differing discussions of criticism, judgment, and optimism, we first consider the meaning of words. Most of the time the meaning of words separates people in the discussion and leave a misunderstanding between them.
When you say, “Criticism is always bad,” you must define your terms lest you call Jesus, Paul, James, John – the Bible – and every decent kingdom leader of history “bad.” The difference between judgment in a condemning sense and judgment in a proving sense is considerable. In reality, the use of the word “judgment” is often as misleading as the fact that people have assumptions about it’s meaning: many assume any judgment means “punishment” when the word does not always mean condemnation.
Even then, the question of condemnation is simply that condemnation is built into creation. If we sin, our sin condemns us: we are already condemned. That’s why Jesus came to save us, not condemn us. We were already condemned.
People mistake the need for discipline with the need for punishment. Both are God designed but we don’t do punishment as parents or kingdom leaders. Punishment is for civil government and God in the ultimate sense. The question of punishment always comes back to pardon: we are punished for what is not pardoned.
Oswald Chambers: “Jesus’ instructions with regard to judging others is very simply put; He says, ‘Don’t.’ The average Christian is the most piercingly critical individual known. Criticism is one of the ordinary activities of people, but in the spiritual realm nothing is accomplished by it. The effect of criticism is the dividing up of the strengths of the one being criticized.”
Mr Chambers, as well as others, reads the word “judgment” in the sense of punishment or permanent condition. Ascribing to a person a set condition: You are a liar with the sense that “you will always be a liar” is much different than identifying that someone has told a lie. By definition, telling a lie makes someone a liar, but that doesn’t mean that “liar” should be carved on his or her forehead as if their lying is intrinsic to their identity.
Identifying a lie that identifies a liar isn’t judgment for punishment, at least, it isn’t forbidden to recognize a lie and recognize a liar. However, doing so is judgment.
Chambers continues: “The Holy Spirit is the only one in the proper position to criticize, and He alone is able to show what is wrong without hurting and wounding. It is impossible to enter into fellowship with God when you are in a critical mood. Criticism serves to make you harsh, vindictive, and cruel, and leaves you with the soothing and flattering idea that you are somehow superior to others. Jesus says that as His disciple you should cultivate a temperament that is never critical. This will not happen quickly but must be developed over a span of time. You must constantly beware of anything that causes you to think of yourself as a superior person.”
Here is powerful Biblical truth! The identification of the problem is different from the discipline of the behavior it produces. The work of Holy Spirit both internally within people and toward people through His operation in leaders and other believers takes people to places inside themselves they shouldn’t go without Him.
The ministry of freedom always engages in the discovery of hidden things, at the root of the behaviors they produce. Only Holy Spirit operating through leaders and within a person can provide the pathway of discovery so the grace of the Cross can be applied to the roots issues.
Discerning these spiritual conditions isn’t license to offer criticism but to wait for Holy Spirit to surface what He intends to heal, cleanse, break, and destroy that is foreign to spiritual wholeness.
On the other hand, this “trying of spirits” is critical mass for leadership because it is the stuff of kingdom leadership.
As Mr Chambers points out, the fear of man becomes a demanding desire, a motivation, for superiority, and the penchant to bite and devour in order to diminish others opens ways to elevate the person offering the criticism. This is the negative sense of the term “criticism.” We call this “blind criticism” because it doesn’t seek to apply critical thinking through spiritual discernment and revelation to the process. It merely wishes to find something to gripe about so the individual offering the destructive criticism can diminish others.
This condition we avoid through maturity and submission to Holy Spirit and leaders who examine our hearts: but, this process of maturity doesn’t assume that the work of Holy Spirit or leaders is “criticism.”
Then, Mr Chambers offers this: “There is no escaping the penetrating search of my life by Jesus. If I see the little speck in your eye, it means that I have a plank of timber in my own (see Matthew 7:3-5). Every wrong thing that I see in you, God finds in me. [Emphasis mine.] Every time I judge, I condemn myself (see Romans 2:17-24).
“Stop having a measuring stick for other people. There is always at least one more fact, which we know nothing about, in every person’s situation. The first thing God does is to give us a thorough spiritual cleaning. After that, there is no possibility of pride remaining in us. I have never met a person I could despair of, or lose all hope for, after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God.”
Powerful! “I have never met a person I could despair of!” That means I see the power of the Cross, not that I become blind either in criticism or denial of root issues.
Of course, applying Mr Chambers’s words generally to leadership dynamics negates clear Scriptural instruction, but his analysis of blind criticism is powerful. His conclusion should be our conclusion: if I reach a place of despair with any person, I have missed the meaning of “judge not,” and “without the measure you use to measure, you will also be measured.”
Critical thinking and blind criticism helps us reach the meaning of Jesus’ words. Our definition of “criticism” and “judge” may be inadequate if they become generalizations that contradict with Bible thinking.
Prove by Test
When I “prove the spirit to be of God,” I do not criticize in the sense of “blind criticism.” I use critical thinking with spiritual discernment to reach a SpiritFirst conclusion and decision. I assess, as a form of judgment, with no regard for punishment, only discipline.
My goal is to agree with God’s assessment, to recognize God by distinguishing other spiritual sources. John is giving instruction about this to others because he has a history of expertise and experience about this very thing.
Note that John is functioning at the level and scope of his leadership, and he is asking those to whom he addresses this inspired teaching to do the same. He isn’t saying, “You are responsible for everything spiritual thing in the universe. You are responsible for the spirits that influence you at whatever level you live. “Don’t trust everything spiritual.” Not everything spiritual is good.
The critical thinking applied here doesn’t involve punishment since we aren’t authorized to punish spirits that are not of God. John speaks of the critical thinking that produces discipline.
Discipline means I embrace or reject, as a process of training and practice, what should be included and avoided by separation, making a decision or solving a problem about what should be given permission to influence my life.
This is a critical spiritual exercise, especially one for kingdom leaders since it is a measurement of their leadership.
We prove the spiritual sources so that we trust what comes from God and reject what comes through the influences available in the cosmic system (the world) controlled by the enemy of the Father.
Proving and Testing
The Bible gives clear instructions for proving. Proving and testing require critical thinking, not blind criticism. The Bible word translates, dokimazo, a term meaning, “test, prove, examine; distinguish by testing, approve after testing; determine to be fit by a process.”
Here are some Bible examples:
We prove the leaders sent to us by what the leaders who prepared and positioned have to say about them. [2 Corinthians 8:22 and others.] We prove leaders that we allow into leadership and send to other as leaders. [For example, those that serve, as in 1 Timothy 3:10, and others.]
We prove all (in the sense that we are responsible to test whatever comes into our level and scope of authority and responsibility). [Ephesians 5:10] We prove God’s good, acceptable, and complete will. [Romans 12:2]
Immediately we engage in proving and testing, we operate in discernment and revelation from Holy Spirit, and use critical thinking to organize our thoughts with the information we receive to reach conclusions. With this critical thinking, we make decisions and solve problems. That’s leadership at any level and scope: personal, family, and kingdom, cultural, spiritual.
“The Measure by Which You Measure”
Jesus didn’t have any problem mentioning to the woman at the well that she had had several husbands and the man she was with at that time wasn’t. He didn’t do that to judge her, but He did make a judgment decision when He spoke those words. He didn’t contradict His own, “Judge not,” but He did make a decision to speak those words that certainly assessed her present condition.
Did He judge her? No. Did He judge her? Yes. It is inescapable that He judged her by the proper definition of the word, but He didn’t judge her in the sense that He was about to punish her with everlasting judgment. He wasn’t condemning her because she was already condemned. He was judging the reality of her previous decisions and present situation however, in the sense of critical thinking, not blind criticism.
He brings up the subject, and she doesn’t feel condemnation from Jesus even though His words uncover her root issues.
Beware the rather ridiculous assumption that awareness of a person’s condition is criticism and judgment. To identify a liar isn’t to judge him or her even though a person who lies is a liar: to act as if they tell the truth or they can be trusted or they are honest so you avoid being judgmental is purely ridiculous!
Judgment has to do with decision-making, and redemption affords all kingdom leaders with the glorious privilege of providing good news. “You are indeed messed up, but God can clean up your mess. I’m here to help and lead you through that process.”
Beware the modern mistake of assuming the only way to avoid judging people is to ignore sin, the devil, or call it good through some weird mental gymnastic that helps you say, “You don’t know that God loves you and as soon as you figure that out all will be well. God is here now to ignore your condition into oblivion. He is the great denier of reality.” Duh.
There is no Gospel of the kingdom in that!
Let’s hear Jesus speak before we tell Jesus what He means by what He says.
“Judge not that you be not judged. For by what judgment you judge, you will be judged, and by what measure you measure, you will be measured.”
Actually, Jesus doesn’t say, “Judge not.”
Reading Mr Chambers above, however, I firmly agree. With regard to judging, Jesus is clear, “Don’t.” Of course, Mr Chambers goes on to make it clear that he defines “judge” in this sense as “blind judgment,” not critical thinking that reaches a conclusion. He says, “The effect of criticism is the dividing up of the strengths of the one being criticized.” That is blind criticism.
What Jesus actually says is, “Judge not if you can’t be judged by the same judgment, for judging exposes more you as well as others, and the measurement by which you measure will measure you.”
Mr Chambers immediately sees this conclusion in the matter as well: “There is no escaping the penetrating search of my life by Jesus.” We always judge from a position in which the process penetrates our own lives with Truth because we are using SpiritFirst critical thinking. We always destroy ourselves with deception when we engage in blind criticism because we further cover the sin that needs cleansing.
Consider the “restore the one who errs with meekness lest you also be tested” phrase from Galatians in this context. You cannot restore someone who sins if you cannot decide that he has does so, but the process of restoration engages critical thinking and your own heart must be examined by the other person’s failure to pass the test.
Blind criticism would simply identify the person. Critical thinking engages the process of restoration, discipline, leadership, and reconciliation. Decisions must be made, but punishment is never in the framework of the process.
In my experience, the people carrying the “Judge not” signs in the protest parade are the ones engaging in the blind criticism most. They judge those they consider to be judging. They measure those they accuse of measuring. They dishonor those they accuse of dishonor. They hate those they accuse of not loving. This is the mark of blind criticism. It is destructive to the person engaging in the process because they are not positioned to function or refuse to function in critical thinking according to God’s order.
In other words, we see kingdom leaders consistently and constantly engaged in critical thinking in order to make decisions and solve problems. They make judgments and enforce judgments, but they never punish. Unlike government and God, kingdom leaders do not punish: punishment comes only where there is not pardon.
In terms of kingdom leadership, both in the family and the kingdom per se, the roles and responsibilities of leaders include critical thinking, discipline, measurements, testing, and proving. They command and demand, but they never put you in jail if you don’t follow orders; disobedience requires no such punishment in the kingdom because the rebellious simply disqualify themselves from the process. Then, we behave toward them as illegitimate children or outsiders to the kingdom, beginning the process of evangelizing them all over again.
Those who engage in blind criticism punish those they judge and measure with biting words designed to diminish and destroy them. They poison people with pain. They bite and devour to intimidate. They manipulate and mangle, overcompensating their sense of powerlessness by attacking others in what they perceive to be or actually are areas of weakness.
We judge using critical thinking, “intelligent comparison and contrast based on God’s word” [Thayer], arriving at conclusions by which we approve (prefer above another option) what is correct and reject what is inferior not preferred in the conclusions we’ve reached.
Jesus says, “I am not empowered to do things of Myself. I judge only as I hear, and My judgment is just, for I seek not to please Myself but Him who sent Me.” (John 5:30)
Consider the discussion points above now in this light: Jesus is authorized to judge by His Father, but He makes it clear that He represents the Father and Jesus judges only by SpiritFirst critical thinking using discernment and revelation.
“Judge” comes from the sense of making distinction, separating, assessment, and may be applied in several ways to what happens when distinction are being made the leaders role of the person making them.
Parents judge every day, as do kingdom leaders. Government leaders judge every day but applied the conclusions of the critical thinking in very different ways because of their role in society.
So, the application of judging depends upon the role of the person, who has authorized them, and the level and scope of their authority and responsibility. When we step out of that place, we encounter the response of judgment equal to what we have released.
For example, if a parent judges the behavior of a child for the purpose of nurture, training, and discipline, the child has no recourse but obedience or disobedience in terms of receiving their decision and problem solving. If the child judges his parents, he immediately steps into judgment at the level and scope of decision making and problem solving he judges. He suddenly finds himself judged as if he were the adult, the parent, the person positioned by God to rear children. He cannot do that and maintain honor, so he breaks the commandment and condemns himself by his decision.
In this same light we can better understand Paul’s comments in discussion of dealing with the man living in matrimonial perversion: ‘deliver this man over to satan for the destruction of his fleshly nature.’
At first glance, we are left to wonder about what that means! Yet, we understand that this man refuses to receive discipline, mocks marriage, and is called a brother, so the discipline necessary comes from Jesus, Paul being present in spirit, and the action taken positions this man to be judged by the judgment that he has used to judge his leaders.
He instantly experiences the nature of his own condemnation; his sin condemns him already, and punishment comes only from lack of pardon.
Paul says, “I have already judged this man.”
The man’s sin already condemns him. God has already made a decision about this kind of immorality, severe enough that the entire Ecclesia should be ashamed that someone continues to be identified as a brother while committing this sin. The judgment comes from God’s previous decision, and with the power of Jesus present, and Paul visiting in spiritual reality, the leaders are to do a delivery that bring judgment distinction to the situation. The result desired will be the full restoration of this man to the faith as he ceases this sinful behavior. This is not punishment but redemptive response!
Basic meaning of “Judge not so that you will not be judged” would be, “Don’t position yourself to make a judgment when that position will judge you as well.” Don’t be a hypocrite, by the modern meaning of the terms.
First of all, Jesus never says, “Judge not.” He always says, “If you wish to avoid what judging will produce in your own life, don’t do it.” [In both the Matthew and Luke recordings, at two different times of teaching.] He never says that no one can judge except God in the sense that no one can know what God thinks about someone or something.
Second, we can know for sure what God thinks about a lot of things because God has already told us His judgment decisions and opinions in His Word. God is also actively involved in the judging process here and now and has sent representatives through whom His decisions and opinions are communicated and enforced.
Third, judging means “distinguishing, separating, assessing, and deciding” with these various meanings being used based upon the level and scope of the person’s leadership and the nature of the critical thinking being applied to a persons or situation. So, we have distinct instances of God, Jesus, and their human representatives judging throughout Scripture.
Fourth, the statement, “only God can judge” does not ultimate significance in that God is the Source of judgment both here and now and the ultimate sense. But, that is a million miles from the idea that no judgment is going on here and now or that only God has any business making decisions and solving problems. God is the One who has given humans leaders to do exactly that in the family, kingdom, and cultures of man.
Fifth, the concept that all judgment was done at the Cross leaves a big whole to be filled with explanation, so I don’t jump to the conclusion that a person who makes the statement means to spout a slogan. I don’t know what each person who makes that statement means by it. If the idea here is that punishment and judgment is the same thing, we have an inadequate definition of both. If we are using this concept to say that no one can properly correct, confront, discipline, lead, train, love, honor, protect, nurture – well, you get the idea – we can’t do anything to lead without making decisions and solving problems. Judgment is critical thinking applied through leadership that ultimately comes from God and ultimately returns to God for final outcomes.