Criticism: Good or Bad
Matthew Chapter 7:1 says, "Judge not, that ye be not judged." I think that this verse is probably one of the most quoted Bible verses by both Christians and unbelievers as well as probably the most misunderstood or misinterpreted scripture.
In reading verses 1-6 carefully we can see that Jesus is telling the disciples that basically there are times in our Christian life that we must use good judgment, or discernment of things, about one another or situations. However, we should never use demeaning or destructive criticism or gossip, that's just plain wrong.
Passing judgement on others, such as salvation, is clearly something that we should not and cannot do. Such discernment would require us to see inside the heart of someone, their innermost thoughts, which of course we cannot do, but God can.
On down in Matthew Chapter 7 verse 20 Jesus says, "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." This scripture tells us how we can identify Christian character in others; it doesn't tell us that because you see someone living a Christian life, they are saved.
Think about it this way, when we see someone working on a car we might think they are a mechanic. But they could just be the driver checking the oil, and someone who really does not know anything about auto mechanics, maybe just someone cleaning the motor. But if someone is sitting in the car while someone else is working on the car, in most cases we'd think that this person probably isn't a mechanic either, although they still could be. We can see their character, which is the outside; not the inside!
It is true that many times we can see Christian character in other Christians, or at least should be able to. James tells us in the Book of James how our works and words are tied together as Christians and are a symbol of our true relationship with Christ. We know that we don't get to Heaven by works, but we do know that we can certainly grow spiritually by seeking after righteousness and working for Christ.
We cannot judge the heart or salvation of anyone. It is possible that one may be a Christian who has drifted in his/her relationship with Him. If we judged that person either negatively or positively, solely based on their works or outward appearances, we might see their character but we can see no deeper. Frankly it isn't for us to judge. Our judgment is flawed. We are not omniscient, but God is!
I think Chapter 7 of Matthew tells us that as Christians, we need to do the best we can, short of passing judgment on anyone, to carefully discern the qualifications and character of those Christians who might be called to do His work in the Church or in other particular situations. I think verse six alludes to this.
I also think on the other hand, this scripture clearly implies that we should not be going around shouting or telling things about our brothers and sisters to others like, "old so and so did this or that and so he/she can't be saved". That would no doubt be judging someone's salvation. That would be no different than what the scribes and Pharisees were doing while Jesus was here on the Mount teaching the disciples.
Verse five tells us to cast the beam out of our own eye then we can see clearly to cast the mote out of our brother's eye.
So don't be a hypocrite. Watch out for the boomerang. It can hurt when it comes back around. Sometimes it can be devastating.
Try to avoid gossip and especially judging other salvation or being critical of others. You've heard it said, "if you can't say something good about someone, don't say anything at all." That's really some good advice for us as Christians.
When a situation you are in requires your careful discernment of a person or situation, remember to be sure to make well thought out and informed decisions. Be sure to "think before you speak." Be extra careful not to demean others, and never judge another person's salvation. Keep any related information or statements in the confidence of only those who need to know. You'll be glad you did!
Gene Davis is Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church and was saved on October 24, 1976 at the Ellsinore First Baptist Church, Ellsinore, MO. and attended Baptist Bible College in Springfield, MO. He is a USMC Veteran. He loves to share his love for Christ with anyone willing to listen.