Righteous Judgment

‘Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?’ (Psalm 94:16)

There are two extremes that one may encounter when it comes to the issue of judgment: Not being judmental at all, and over-judging. Both are dangerous extremes, and both are unbiblical. In the Bible, we read Jesus’s statement, ‘Judge with righteous judgment.’ (John 7:24). We can judge, then, as long as our judgment is righteous, as long as it is honest, and as long as it is without hypocrisy. We are subject, of course, to the same judgment with which we judge others. We are condemned in the same way. If we say, ‘You should not commit adultery,’ but do it ourselves, we have condemned ourselves by our judgment towards others. We need to be careful then, to truly judge in a ‘righteous way,’ as Jesus says we should.

Eventually, by the way, we will all be tested in those things with which we have judged others at any point in our lives. It may not happen immediately, but we will be tested. Hence, you will notice that, in general, the man who has been overly critical in his life, and whose general ‘habit’ is one of judgment and condemnation towards others, will be a man who also experiences a great deal of pain and turmoil and bitterness in his life. Still, having said this, it is hard to discern what judgment comes from having been judgmental ourselves, so we need to leave that area of ‘judgment’ in God’s court (remember Job’s accusers were quick to blame him. In reality, he was being tested for something which only God, to this day, really understands).

Today, it appears, we have gotten so far away from any tendency to want to judge others, that we have fallen into the extreme of ‘not being judgment at all’ (case 1 mentioned above). We have desired not to offend, and, it appears to me, we have made a literal idol out of this notion ‘do not judge.’ We have taken Matthew 7:1 and following out of its original context, which says not to judge unrighteously (it does not say not to judge at all). Again, if Matthew 7:1 and following says not to judge at all, then John 7:24 is inconsistent with this. But we know that the Bible itself is not contradictory. Again, I point you towards the book of James, in which James states, ‘Mercy triumphs over judgment.’ (James 2:13). But does James himself exercise ‘judgment’ in his book? Yes, he does! He condemns rich, oppressive, people, in no uncertain terms! ‘But you have despised the poor!’ (James 2:6)

What is James’s secret in being able to judge, but at the same time exhorting us to prefer mercy over judgment? Simply this: James condemns the oppressor, while having mercy on the oppressed. It is always this way in God’s kingdom. Jesus did it (remember the cleansing of the temple?). Paul did it (remember the man caught in sin in 1 Corinthians 5?). Elijah did it (remember his denuciation of King Ahab?). We are to ‘condemn the guilty,’ then, while having mercy on the innocent and the oppressed. This is always the way it is in God’s kingdom. Jesus condemned the hypocrites selling items in the temple, but had mercy on the woman caught in adultery. She ‘fell’ on the ‘side’ of the oppressed, in this instance (though not all people caught in adultery do!). She was being oppressed by hypocritical leaders, who were trying to justify themselves — they were not ones whose tendency and habit was to have mercy, but rather judgment.

How then can we condemn the guilty? We must be known as people who, in general, prefer mercy over judgment, as James says. In that case, when our judgment lands, it will land as ‘righteous judgment’ on those who really ‘need’ to hear it. We will have been ‘God’s spokesman for executing his righteous judgment’ at his appointed time.

‘Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?’ (Psalm 94:16)