LTS #3: Who Can I Judge?
“You are so judgmental!” a child declares. “I am not judging you,” I reply. “I am your mother, and it is my job to correct you when what I see does not line up with what God desires from you,” I explain.
Am I not supposed to judge my children? How do I correct behavior and train them if I can’t judge them? Monday we talked about a critical tongue. Plucking out our planks before we judge, which in reality stops us in our tracks. Yet I have been genuinely stumped when it comes to addressing obvious needs in my children without judging them. Then I attended a workshop on prayer. I wasn’t going to attend. My family was visiting churches, and I received an email about a women’s event at a church we had attended only once. I normally would have dismissed it right away, but the Holy Spirit clearly prompted me to go. No excuse would stand up against His nudge. So I registered and went. Not only did the Lord provide some desperately needed confirmation for a portion of my book with which I was struggling, but through the speaker, He solved my conundrum. I am so thankful for this simple gem shared that day:
We never have the right to judge another person’s character, only God can do that; and the only time we have the right to judge another person’s behavior is if we are in a position of authority over that person.
What does this have to do with curing Loose Tongue Syndrome (LTS)?!?! It has everything to do with the tongue, which has to do with the heart, for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). As such, my words do a pretty good job of revealing when I’ve crossed the line from behavioral correction to character judgment. Words that follow openers like, “You are so…” or “You are always…” or “You should…” or “Will you ever…” or “Your heart is so full of…” All a loose tongue.
So I’ve pondered. How do we know the difference? For me, it boils down to this: behavior has to do with specific actions; character has to do with the heart. Above all, we have to genuinely agree with God’s word that only the Lord judges righteously, testing the mind and heart (Jer. 11:20). As much as we want to think we can, we cannot know what’s in a person’s heart, even if we gave birth to them. Only God searches and knows the heart, theirs and ours. If I have authority over the person, and an action needs correction, then I can judge and correct the action. If not, not only can I do nothing, but really, I need to say nothing.
Blurring the lines are the motives of my heart. Proverbs 21:2 says, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” If my every way is right in my own eyes, how can I know when I’ve crossed the line from correction to condemnation, or when I’ve crossed the line and am judging someone over whom I have no authority?
FILTER ONE: If I have determined, in my opinion, that you are guilty or right or wrong, I am judging.
Luke 6:37, clearly instructs: “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Judge in the Greek means “to pronounce an opinion concerning right or wrong” (www.blueletterbible.com, Strong’s G2919, krinō). Condemn in the Greek means to “pronounce guilty” (www.blueletterbible.com, Strong’s G2613, katadikazō) by means of passing judgment on that person. Therefore, filter one.
FILTER TWO: If the guilt I’ve assigned addresses a person’s integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking, feeling, and acting, I am judging character.
Philippians 1:11 (NLT) exhorts, “May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation – the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ – for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” In the King James Version, character translates righteousness, which in the Greek means “integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking, feeling, and acting” (www.blueletterbible.com, Strong’s G1343, dikaiosynē). Therefore, filter two.
FILTER THREE: If I have the authority to correct, is there a scriptural basis for my correction?
Am I holding my crooked stick up to another’s crooked stick, as my pastor would say, or am I letting the straight stick of the word of God reveal crookedness? “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). This filter can be challenging, because it requires knowing what God’s word says and where to find it. However, it is worth every bit of effort.
I have found that sharing what GOD says makes it about His expectations and not mine, and through His word, He corrects character issues that are at the root of the behavior problems.
If I can hold scripture up to the behavior, and scripture condemns it as right or wrong, then it is God who has judged. When it comes to integrity, virtue, purity of heart, rightness and correctness of thinking, feeling, and acting, only the Holy Spirit can convict and change the heart. Proverbs is a great place to start! There are also scripture books you can buy at any Christian bookstore that catalog scriptures by topic. Coming soon, my book, Holy His: Hope for a Life and a Nation Wholly His, offers this type of catalog, as well.
So we correct with grace and let God do the rest. We put on “tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering” (Col. 3:12). And we check our motives. Jesus said in John 5:30, “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” When we have the authority to judge another person, are we seeking our own will or the will of the Father? In John 12:47, Jesus said, “And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” Is our goal salvation? Is our goal to lead others – those under our authority and those not – to the cross with every interaction we have with them? If Jesus didn’t come to judge, then what makes us think we can? He came to save. Through grace. Unmerited favor. Am I extending that same grace to my children, others under my authority, and even those who are not?
Today’s LTS symptom: condemnation.
Today’s antidote: correction with a humble heart and an enormous measure of the grace that’s been given to us.
Thank You, Jesus, that you came not to judge but to save. As we seek to be more wholly Yours today, Lord, please transform us by Your Holy Spirit, searching our hearts and correcting our errant ways.