It’s amazing how often the verb “judge” or the adjective “judgmental” are used negatively, even in Christian circles, when Scripture calls the Lord Jesus Christ a “righteous judge” (2 Timothy. 4:8). Teenagers seem especially prone to complaints (we could even say “judgments”) about how people judge them.
As we look at the distinctives of, necessity of, and contrasts to righteous judgment, hopefully we’ll be better equipped not only to judge righteously but also to effectively communicate the difference between righteous and unrighteous judgments.
Distinctives of Righteous Judgment
Righteous judgment is, by its very definition, the kind of judgment given by God Himself. As the very epitome of righteousness, we can safely echo His Words as we judge our own actions and motives, as well as those of others. While judging others, in general, is not explicitly commanded in Scripture, it is implied that we will naturally assess one another, but we should do so according to God’s standards (Proverbs 20:11, Matthew 7:20, 1 Corinthians 5:12).
Our kids need to learn to discriminate carefully between good and evil, and that starts with knowing the standards of the Righteous Judge. Skillful application of His truths to their lives requires practice, though. As parents, part of our role is to talk through the reasons we make judgments and dole out consequences, helping our teens to ultimately develop the tools to parent themselves in a righteous way.
Necessity of Righteous Judgment
Why is judgment necessary? Besides the obvious practical reasons, our judgments are important because someday we will all stand before the ultimate Judge, where we will be held accountable for our actions (Revelation 20).
Perhaps even more importantly, without learning to rightly judge our own actions and attitudes, we won’t see the need for a Savior or appreciate our standing in Christ, allowing us the gracious position of being judged based on His perfect righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).
Ultimately, the law cannot save us, but it can be a tool used to awaken us to our need for saving and to recognize our own inadequacies. The kind of humble gratitude that realization awakens in us is a beautiful thing!
Contrasts to Righteous Judgment
Three main alternatives to righteous judgment are lack of any judgment, false judgments, and unrighteous judgments.
Lack of judgment thwarts spiritual growth and prosperity (Proverbs 28:13). Sometimes parading as “grace,” this kind of overlooking of sin is far from helpful to anyone.
The two types of judgment that equally contradict the righteous kind are likely what make teens and others have a negative view of judgment altogether.
Judging falsely usually includes assuming that a person’s outward appearances or behavior betray a particular kind of sinful motivation, when wisdom should dictate greater investigation before drawing conclusions.
Judging unrighteously can include using the wrong standards, such as our faltering human logic, instead of God’s Word, as the measuring stick. Another type of unrighteous judgment is all-too-common: Ungracious, or unloving judgmentalism.
The chief aim in judging should always be to see restoration, not to exact the deserved penalty, even when such a response is appropriate.