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What does the Bible Say About … JUDGMENTALISM?

Why are some believers so judgmental?

The Return of the King

On June 7, 1944, after V-day in Normandy, King Leopold the Third, King of Belgium, was deported to Germany with his family under suspicion of collaboration with the Germans. On September 8, 1944 the Belgian population celebrated the return of their government from London, and twelve days later, that same government appointed Prince Charles, King Leopold’s brother, as regent of Belgium.

Six years later, on March 12, 1950, a referendum was held. The subject in question? Whether or not Leopold the Third should be reinstated as King of Belgium. 57.68% of the population voted in favor of his reinstatement, and on July 22, 1950, the king finally returned home.

Not everybody was happy, however. Protests began everywhere with many demanding that the king step down. Although these complainers were in the minority, their criticism was vicious, and a year later, when Boudewijn, Leopold the Third’s son, came of age, they got their wish. Leopold the Third stepped down and Boudewijn was appointed king of Belgium.

Why are there so many judgmental people, even among believers?

We have to remind ourselves that even Jesus was not exempt from criticism. He even endured horrible criticism while he hung from the cross! (See Mat 27:41-44)

Jesus Himself gives us a look at such judgmental believers on two different occasions:

1. “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee (Pastor or Priest in now-a-days term) and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14 NIV)

Clearly the judgmental one had two reasons for his attitude: He was proud that he wasn’t like the others, and he delighted in putting himself in the lime light of good works. Legalists (otherwise called those who are judgmental) love to attack other people’s character and motives. They consider themselves superior to others, and often rank their churches above others as well. Brotherly love is completely non-existent.

Obviously the one who went home justified is the one who searched for mercy from above. Not the one who was self-satisfied.

2. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matt 7:1-5 NIV)

In other words, judging others is clearly wrong! (See 1 Cor 4:5) It drives people away from God and the one judging is undoubtedly lacking in love.

In all reality it might seem strange, but legalists do not see themselves as judgmental. They really believe they are trying to help their brothers and sisters turn from their sin, and they don’t realize that their condemnation is actually what compels that brother or sister towards that very same sin! “Sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire.” (Rom 7:8 NIV)

But condemnation never works. Only grace can convict someone to do the right thing: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:11-12 NIV)

Honestly, because of sin in their own lives, those who judge are completely disqualified from the task of trying to straighten someone else out. How could it be otherwise? Superiority and lack of love prevent them from being able to clearly see other people and their needs! They end up whacking others in the head, but all the while they have a two-by-four sticking out of their own eye! Ouch! Not quite effective for removing specks, is it?

We can’t help others unless our own issues of judgmental superiority and lack of love are addressed. Our coldness and harshness are far bigger issues than the speck we notice in others! Only in humility and with tender loving care can we help others on their way to real living. Legalism is not the solution! In fact love is the primal requirement for being able to see without prejudice, and to being able to serve others effectively! (See Phil 1:9-11)

Judgmental people generally do not know the true God of love. Although they truly believe they worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, they falsely see God as being critical and overbearing, ever waiting to jump on them for doing the least little thing wrong. Unfortunately, rather than becoming like the God of love clearly portrayed in the Scriptures, they become like the false image they have of God! The plank in their eye prevents them from seeing clearly their own condition!

This is the folly of legalism, friends. It creates its very own god, one who is a harsh, merciless enforcer of rules and precepts, then it treats people the way they envision God as treating them. They have become just like those who built their own gods with their very own hands (See Ps 115:4-8 NIV)

Jesus came from above and showed us the way (See John 14:6). He never displayed a “holier than thou” attitude. He loved people and wanted them to know how much God loves them (See John 3:16). The only ones He rebuked were the ones He called ‘hypocrites” (Pharisees, Sadducees and teachers of the law), and that only because they were driving people away from the One who loves them unconditionally: God Himself!

We may not like these legalists very much, but they give us the opportunity to love them by word and action as well as in prayer. They need God as much, if not more, than anyone else.

Let’s not follow in their footsteps. Instead, let’s focus on Jesus and on Him alone. He will lift us up, loving us completely and unconditionally, just the way we are.

If kings and kingdoms can crumble under criticism, we also will crumble, unless we discover who God truly is!

Rob Chaffart