Daily Devotional

Judging Others in the Church

by Simon Whitton

1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 "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?
4 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?
Matthew 7:1-4 (NIV)

When someone is critical of another's behavior, it's quite common to hear a bystander add a comment like, "Do not judge lest you be judged".  That phrase originates in scripture and it's true for many situations, but it's not a blanket statement for all circumstances.  Sometimes judging is approved of and encouraged in the bible, other times it's condemned.

The key here is the reference to a 'speck' in your brother's eye.  It is a small thing, and although it may be irritating and may not be right, we should avoid blowing these things out of proportion and judging others over minor issues.  A judgmental and critical spirit is worse than the minor problems it finds so offensive; it's a plank compared to a speck of sawdust.  We should extend grace to others just as the Lord extends grace to us.

Here is another scripture where we are warned not to judge other Christians:

10 You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat.
11 It is written: "'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'"
12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.
Romans 14:10-13 (NIV)

The key to this scripture is the context.  If you read the whole chapter you will discover that it's all about disputes over which foods are unclean or which day is most sacred.  Indeed the chapter starts with, 'Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.'   In other words, we should not judge others in the church that choose to worship differently from us or who go about the personal conviction of their faith in a manner we can't relate to.

In contrast, the following scripture tells us that there are circumstances to judge people inside the church:

11 But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler.  With such a man do not even eat.
12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?  Are you not to judge those inside?
13 God will judge those outside.  "Expel the wicked man from among you."
1 Corinthians 5:11-13 (NIV)

The clear difference here is the severity of the offense.  The concern is not a 'speck' and not a disputable matter of faith, it's blatant sin of a serious nature. This is the sort of behavior that can't be accepted inside the church and should be judged.  If unrepentant, the person should actually be put out of the church. If they acknowledge they have a problem and it's something they are struggling with, then they should be restored gently.

Spend some time in prayer, and ask the Lord to give you a heart of love for your brothers and sisters in the church.  Pray for the discernment to see the difference between 'disputable matters' and 'wickedness'; for the grace to overlook the one and the wisdom to handle the other.

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