Common Sense in Judgment

Do not judge so that you will not be judged.  For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matt 7:1-5 (NASB)

When a judgment must be made the above passage tells us 2 things must be done first: First, you must take responsibility for any contribution you may have made to a problem. What is your responsibility here? How have you offended? Have you been clear or could you have been misunderstood?

Second, you must make a diligent effort to “see clearly,” that is, to accurately understand what someone else has done and why he or she did it. See the issue from their point of view. If you were on the receiving end of someone’s judgment, what would you want? Do you wish that others would think good of you, give you the benefit of the doubt? Listen to your side of the story before coming to a conclusion?

You cannot gloss over your own faults, assume facts, speculate on motives, or jump to conclusions about others.

Think of how many conflicts could be averted this way. Think of how many relationships could be salvaged in families, at work, in churches if we would just look for reasonable ways to think the best about each other! Jesus tells us to love one another and treat one another the way we would want to be treated.

But like all other principles in Scripture, we must be reasonable and use common sense when making charitable judgments. The principles in God’s Word are interconnected and one does not stand in opposition to another. There are times in our attempts to be charitable in our judgments we err on the side of blindness to sinfulness.  There are limits to charitable judgments. Anytime you have clear proof that something is sinful or wrong you can and must legitimately confront the person. That is the biblical way to handle it.

Giving the benefit of the doubt does not mean that we ignore clear and obvious evidence that things are not as they should be. It does not love and it is not charitable to ignore the brother or sister who is involved in sin. You must still investigate the matter, ask questions and get reliable information about the issue. Then you may come to a conclusion.

I often get women who come for counseling without their husbands. The women don’t want the husband there because they wish to “stack the deck” in their favor. They want to tell me all the rotten things he does without his being there to defend himself.

When this happens, I tell her that while I understand her marriage is not perfect, I cannot listen to her run the guy into the ground. It is unfair to him to allow her to go on and on about his flaws and faults without being there to challenge or correct what is being said about him. I will invariably have the woman turn to Proverbs 18:13, 15 and explain to her that I need knowledge about the situation from both points of view. I want to be able to make a righteous judgment and I can’t do that without all the information.  I explain that if I were to form a judgment about her husband without all the information I would be a fool. It would be unrighteous of me to draw a conclusion about him this way.

It would be an un-charitable judgment of this man who I never even met! I point to this final verse- Proverbs 18:17 The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him. (NASB)

This rather seals the deal with this kind of thing because it doesn’t get any clearer than this. She may sound completely reasonable; have all the right arguments, make a great case for her being a princess and her hubby a real drip. But remember I am only getting one side of the story! If I meet him I may learn all about how princess is really quite the wicked witch at home.

Think about how you would want to be confronted. Approach the person humbly and present the statements you want to make as questions instead of telling the person what they are thinking.

Actively listen to their responses to your questions! You may learn that you are wrong, and that your assumptions were off base. Questions give a person the change to clarify and sometimes they realize that something they did say came across wrong or was unclear. You are giving them the chance, every opportunity to make it right.

If you discover as a result of your questions that what you suspected was correct you will have the opportunity to help the person toward repentance, or to make it right, or do the right thing.  (Gal 6:1-2, James 5:19-20).