Judging Righteous Judgment

Righteousness is right.

When we get focused on determining what is right and wrong in others we become judgmental, especially if while we are judging others righteousness we are convinced of our own.

Righteousness is an attribute of God. The Law was an attempt to reveal the righteousness of God, maybe “attempt” isn’t the right word, it did reveal the righteousness of God, but Christ did it better.

The Law codified righteousness, listed out what it was, so we would get an idea of God’s righteousness. Jesus, God in the flesh, lived the righteousness of God because He was God and thus righteous.

We know righteousness now through Christ who revealed the righteousness of God apart from the Law. He revealed it, not in the deadness of the letter, but through the spirit of the law. He picked corn and healed on the Sabbath, both of which violated Pharisaic notions of God’s righteousness, but these acts did not violate the spirit of the Law.

When we have the deadness of the Law written on stone tablets, we are able to judge, “Yup, they did it.” or “Nope, they missed it.”

But if the spirit of the Law is our guide, judging slips away because you don’t know the heart. Judging is ultimately Christ’s work and He will do it well, as He is God and knows righteousness. We are to remain silent in self-righteous judging until then.

Easier said than done.

9 thoughts on “Judging Righteous Judgment”

  1. I’ve been thinking about this topic a bit lately. I believe that God wants us to judge, but He wants righteous judgment. He wants children who think and speak and act like He does.

    Sin is bondage. Righteousness is freedom. Therefore righteous judgment brings freedom, and separation between light and darkness.

    The Pharisees did not judge righteously. They condemned the innocent and justified the guilty. By their judgment sin was hidden under a cloak of pretended righteousness. But they claimed to be the representatives of the law, and therefore they made the law contemptible. By their example, the law seemed to lead to hypocrisy.

    Jesus came to “magnify the law” and make it “honorable” (Isa. 42:21). He showed in His life what true law-keeping looked like. It consisted in a great and undivided love to God, an unfailing love for all humanity, and firm adherence to the right way. He could not tolerate hypocrisy because it destroyed the knowledge of God and left men in bondage to sin.

    A simple example is the sabbath. By the Pharisees, the sabbath was interpreted as a day wherein God restricted us, so that He could test us to see how obedient we would be. This presented God’s character as self-centered. As men kept that kind of sabbath, they became self-centered also. And so the Jewish nation became proud, and looked upon other men as put on the earth simply to serve them and be subservient to them. They longed for the day when the hated Roman yoke would be thrown off.

    Jesus’ presentation of sabbath-keeping was marvelously selfless! God was presented as One who was a loving Father who wanted a special day with His children in which He could speak to them more clearly (without the obstructions of daily business and work), and in which they could participate in His work of mercy. The sabbath was a day to learn and practice selflessness.

    The laws given to guard the sabbath were meant to provide a help to man so that he would not be so involved in his business that he would lose touch with his need of God’s instruction, and of his real work, which was to minister the mercy of God. When the disciples picked some grain they did not transgress this law, because they were busy learning of Christ and doing the work of mercy. This was all God ever wanted man to learn on the sabbath. So to minister to their needs while they were doing God’s work was not at all against the sabbath law!

  2. I have another thought too, I hope I’m not exceeding my bounds!

    I was thinking about how essential it is to be able to discern between right and wrong. This is judgment. Satan wants to confuse this faculty, and so he tries to weaken it. One way is through wrong methods of education.

    When the method of teaching is largely memorization of some material that someone decided the students should learn, and it is largely impractical knowledge (which cannot be immediately used in the daily life), the result is that one part of the mind (memory) is over-taxed, while the faculties of judgment are under-used.

    The student, whose mind is weakened by being overburdened with unusable knowledge, lets others decide for him what is right and wrong. He is rewarded simply for doing what others tell him to do. They do the judging, he follows.

    This kind of teaching leads to followers, people who cannot discern between right and wrong, and in a crisis cannot stand for the right.

    It is used a lot in our educational system, and also in traditional religion (ie. “just learn the creeds and doctrines of our church, and you’re in”, or “just repeat this prayer, and you are saved.”).

    Instead of teaching this way, we should do what God did in the garden. He brought the animals to Adam and had him name them. Adam discerned what kind of character was in each animal, and gave them suitable names. For example, whatever word in his language meant “courageous leader”, that’s what the Lion would have been called!

    Instead, we put before the child a picture of a lion and have him memorize some human labels for each part of the body, and then when he can repeat it, we tell him that he is wise. But he has exercised no judgment, and knows not what the thought of God was in giving such an animal.

    Such kind of people the world is full of now, who have some knowledge, but no moral power to use it right. They do not discern between right and wrong and so are easily led to misuse their power to cause suffering for others. When they try to make a moral decision, they inevitably choose the wrong.

    We find this also in war time. The people generally just go along with the whatever their leaders decide. So if you were in Germany, and Hitler was in power, then you went to war for Hitler. Most people did not think it was their moral responsibility to decide whether it was right or wrong for them to do so. They left the leaders to be judges for themselves, and so participated in massive crimes.

  3. Good point with the education. That is a tough one. “Knowledge puffs up” is what the Bible says, and it’s said in a very general way, as in, any kind of knowledge puffs up. Knowledge of righteousness especially puffs up. One of the hardest things for the flesh creature to do is be righteous and humble at the same time! Christ demonstrated it perfectly, showing that true righteousness was meek, but it’s tough for us to be right and humble at the same time.

    Teaching the ability to think and be discerning with humility is tough too. I think the only answer is to come to Christ, take his yoke upon y0ou and learn of him.

  4. Jeff,
    One good remedy to being puffed up by knowledge of righteousness is to come face to face with sin, like the disciples with the possessed boy at the foot of the Mount of Transfiguration. With all their knowledge they were utterly helpless!

    I’m more and more convinced though that the “toughness” and “difficulty” of finding the right balance is all because of sin and our old training. Why did the disciples have such a struggle over “who was the greatest”? Was it because Christ’s teaching puffed them up? No, it was because of their wrong understanding of what the kingdom of God was going to be like, combined with the wrong spirit that supported this idea.

    This wrong spirit was corrected in part by the foot washing, and in full by the cross of Christ. The wrong ideas were partly corrected by this also, and further by the instruction of Christ after the resurrection. Once the “light finally came on” they were like needles of a compass to the pole.

    Christ’s yoke is easy and his burden light. The more we learn of that way, the easier and more natural our lives will be. Why? Because we were made to live righteously, that’s how God designed our nature. Put a plant or animal in it’s natural environment and what happens? It thrives.

    By the way, about the education part. There is a TED talk which I found helpful: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_meyer_math_curriculum_makeover.html

    He talks about why Math class is boring to most students, and then suggests a new way. I like his thoughts, as far as they go. But to really inspire students to judge rightly requires more than just individual initiative or responsibility.

    There are plenty of “problem-solvers” in the world today who have no real dependence on God. Without that dependence they will eventually use their knowledge to destruction. They need to be taught at the foot of Christ, and learn the principles of His law. Love to God and love to man does not come by mere mental activity or human enactments. It is only the soul that is free which can give true freedom to others.

  5. Jeff,
    I just had an idea. Why don’t you take this concept presented by Dan Meyer, and test it out on your congregation? Instead of giving them a sermon where you do all the thinking for them, give them a single problem or thought. Then let them work it out. I’d like to be there if you do this! :-)

  6. I watched the video. I always hated math because it took forever! He’s right. Will have to think about how to incorporate that into a sermon! Any thoughts about how to do it?

  7. Jeff,
    I would follow the example in the TED talk. Instead of laying out the whole problem with all the necessary information and then giving them the solution, just lay out the basic problem, leaving out some of the details. Then let them think about it and discuss how they think God would solve the problem. Of course you may have to guide them into making the right decision, but let them wrestle with it for a bit.

    I’m trying to think of a Biblical example. A few come to mind (other than God asking Adam to name the animals, which has already been mentioned).

    First when Jesus was in the temple as a boy, it says he “asked questions.” Of course he knew the answers already, but in order to help the leaders see where their interpretations were not right, he simply pointed to different scriptures and asked questions. I imagine Isaiah 53 would have been one of those scriptures.

    I like the walk to Emmaus. Jesus secretly joins two disciples and has them lay out the whole problem and difficulty. Then one by one introduces certain scriptures and gets them to think about how they fit to the problem. He did it so subtly that they didn’t realize it was him until he blessed the bread.

    There’s the case where Jesus talked to the lawyer in Luke 10:25 and on. He really tried to make the lawyer think and judge for himself.

    I think many of Jesus’ parables fit this ideal. He sometimes didn’t even give the interpretation until the disciples asked Him later.

    Also the way the Bible is organized, with a bit of truth here a connecting bit over there, is all designed to make us search, think, and judge. God doesn’t just hand us the whole solution on a silver platter! But He does help us find it as we search and wrestle.

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