Judging: Some advice from Matthew Henry

"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" Matthew 7: 1, 2 (NIV).

"Don't judge me" is a common phrase nowadays. It is most often said when one person voices displeasure with or disagrees with the action of another. Seems you can't say anything anymore without someone complaining about being judged. In our society, judging is considered an insolent or impudent act worthy of censure and exclusion.

A long time ago, Jesus told his followers not to judge, but what did he mean? Did he mean that we were not supposed to develop opinions about right and wrong? That we weren't to determine that which is best for us and for those about whom we care?

Not forming an opinion goes directly against the context of Scripture. Forming an opinion is also called discernment. Having discernment helps us judge what is best. If we were not supposed to judge between right and wrong, we would be in a terrible mess. So how am I supposed to approach those with whom I disagree over lifestyle choices?

Matthew Henry, the Puritan preacher who wrote a commentary originally published in 1706, has some good thoughts on this subject. I'll paraphrase them because his language is a little antiquated.

Henry said first that we should only judge our own acts and intentions. We should not take this authority over others because we are supposed to be subject to one another. We must not speak evil of or despise anyone; we must not pass a judgment that results from jealousy, an "ill nature," or a "spirit of revenge."

We must not judge people because of one act, or because of the way they treat us, because (I love this) "in our own cause we are apt to be partial."

Henry also said that judging someone's intentions puts us on God's throne, a place where we definitely do not belong.

So what are we to do? Henry said, "Counsel him, and help him, but do not judge him." To do this, we have to let God kill the pride in our heart. Thinking that we are better than someone else causes us to judge. This is judgment based on sinful pridefulness rather than sensible or rational evaluation of a given fact pattern, and it is this kind of judgmentalism to which I believe Jesus referred. It is that pride that will cause us to fall and fall hard. We should work hard not to allow that pride to rise within us.