Tag Archives: Judge

Righteous Judge

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. [Matthew 5:25 ESV]

Your adversary is the one who has collected and examined the evidence against you and is ready to present this evidence to the judge for determination of guilt or innocence. In many places throughout Scripture our adversary is Satan, the accuser. Here, our adversary is the prosecuting attorney who is God and all of the evidence of our sin shows guilt. What is the evidence the Judge will examine? This Judge peers into the heart, knows the thoughts of all and sees everything whether done, possible, probable, hidden or blatant. He sees and knows the absolute corruption of sin.

Sin has bent away from righteousness the thinking of the hearts of those made in His image. Just as God wants to have a relationship with the complete person so too, Satan, the world and sin wants to corrupt the whole person. We associate the world with sin though sin is internal, coming from within the person, and not external. Eve was tempted by the Serpent when she “saw that the tree was good for food” and that the food “was a delight to the eyes” [Genesis 3:6 ESV]. Her adversary used the pleasures and attractions of the things of the world to tempt her internal self to rebel against God.

God made nothing which wasn’t good, declaring all He made “very good” [Genesis 1:31 ESV]. This includes the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and its fruit. As part of the world this tree, like every other tree and its fruit, was good. It was not sinful. There was nothing in and of itself which made the fruit of this tree poisonous or bad. It was made delicious. And it looked delicious. But the fruit of the tree was forbidden to them as food. Adam was told to not eat the fruit from this tree.

When we cling to the world we become vulnerable to the temptations of the world. Not everything in the world is wrong or sinful. It is our desires, when attached to the things of the world as having more personal value than they should rightfully have which develops sin in the thinking of our hearts. Rebellion is a condition of the thinking of the heart, not just the “thinking” which is the intelligence and not just the “heart,” or the moral emotional self. Living in the presence of the forbidden demands we obediently trust the Object of faith. That which is forbidden by God, whether a thing or person, may not of itself be sinful. It is desire which uses the thing or the person as a catalyst to bend us away from obedience to God’s command which is sinful. Desire unencumbered by discipline, responsibility and obedience twists our motivations, encouraging disobedience, which causes distrust, which kills faith.

Is desire wrong? Are we not created with desires? Desire to love, be loved, have meaningful relationships? Desire for anything forbidden by God is not automatically sinful. Yet, desire moved to action gives birth to sin which grows and takes over life and is stopped only by death. Eve’s desire was to have what God forbade. She had everything else. Sin and rebellion destroys relationships between God and others.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. [Genesis 3:1-6 ESV]

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions — is not from the Father but is from the world.

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. [1John 2:15-17 ESV]

God is the eternal Judge with authority to render sentence against all who rebel against Him. He sees the evidence of disobedience and has published the sentence for sinful rebellion. He then placed that sentence upon His Son and executed sentence fulfilling His eternal just and righteous requirements.

Now His command is all eat from the tree of Life and live. God’s will is all receive the grace given through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. Rejection of His grace is rebellion, sinful, and brings judgment and sentence.

Just and Unjust Judges

Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. [Matthew 5:25-26 ESV]

Do we have to stand before a Judge before admitting when we have done something wrong? Are Judges known for being compassionate? Do they forgive offenses, willful acts, crimes against men and the state? Is it not their responsibility to look at the evidence and determine culpability? Are they not charged with upholding the law which constrains them? What Judge is going to set aside law for personal preference? If they do then they are not a Judge but as much a criminal as those standing before them. Those Judges who are just will agonize over their decisions because they want truth and compassion, justice and righteousness.

Christians are faced with unjust judges daily. All those around us will judge our actions and words against their arbitrary standard or a predetermined measure. They will assess not only what is right and good but every wrong. For the unjust Judge will build a case regardless of the facts, no matter the evidence. Those being accused of doing something wrong may not have done anything wrong. Christians who suffer for righteousness’ sake face accusers who are judging them because of their relationship with Christ. In fact, they have probably done everything right.

However, I do not think this is what Jesus is speaking about in these verses.

I think he is telling us to judge ourselves against God’s standards so that those who do accuse us have no evidence to substantiate their claims. If they do have evidence because we have done something wrong then we are responsible for righting the wrong. Jesus is using the world’s unjust system as an illustration for God’s justice. We cannot expect non-Christians to act like Christians.

We can expect Christians, or those who say they are Christians, to act according to God’s known will. We must say sin is sin. Jesus is direct in His statements about a brother confronting a brother about sin.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. [Matthew 1815-17 ESV]

Again, I do not think this is what Jesus is speaking to in these verses (Matthew 5:25-26), though they are related. I think He is telling us to admit when we are wrong, confess sin, repent and turn away from sin, before being hauled in front of a Judge. We should not have to be told when we are wrong. A Judge will not be nice. God is loving and compassionate but not nice.

One of the underlying principles of the Sermon on the Mount is the desire of God to make those who are His whole. For the individual, wholeness means being remade, recreated by God into the likeness of His Son. We are created in His image, bent and corrupted by sin, then recreated by His Spirit and fit for here as witnesses and for eternity as citizens. God changes the person immediately but takes His time disciplining and developing the person for eternity. He makes the person whole intellectually, morally and emotionally and willfully. He molds those who are His into people who act obediently as His servants.

I hate the process for it demands I see myself as God sees me, as Christ sees me and as the Holy Spirit sees me. God sees me covered with the blood of Christ. Jesus sees me as one He is willing to die for and did. He who lives in the Christian, the Holy Spirit, sees me as a citizen-student being fit by Him for eternity.

This is important. Christians must not view themselves as they see themselves in the world. God trains us, when we are obedient, to see ourselves as He sees us, covered with the blood of Christ. We stand before Him, and before the world, in His grace.

Have you ever tried to defend, rationalize or excuse your wrong actions and attitudes before an impartial Judge? He will not let you. Either we judge our sin or God does and He may use a human judge which will carry much pain. There is an eternal difference between remorse and repentance.

Judgment

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother (some manuscripts insert “without cause”) will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. [Matthew 5:22 ESV]

I know no one who is not quick to judge. Even the quiet non-judgmental types make spur of the moment judgments. All judge the actions of others assuming they understand their intent and motives. Often we judge another’s intellectual ability based upon our judgment of the motives behind their actions. All of these judgments are measured against our personal standards and expectations.

That’s a judgmental statement.

We learned the standards we use from those who raised us and who influenced our thinking. They are still our own standards. Because of the absolute corruption of sin our judgments are bent toward evil though we say they are good. No one judges according to God’s eternal standard without His direct intervention. We cannot. Our quickness to judge will itself be judged by the Judge. Our actions and intents, our motivations and judgments will be exposed by Him.

Read Paul’s assessment of both those declared righteous by God and those who are self-righteous.

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man – you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself – that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. [Romans 2:1-11 ESV]

Jesus has told us unrighteous anger brings judgment equating it to murder. Unjustly taking another’s life is an offense against God who created that person in His image. He created both the murdered and the murderer in His image and as Creator has the eternal right to judge according to the standards found within Himself. We usurp His authority when we judge another using our own standards and not His. Jesus condemns denigrating comments and thoughts which are not true that we hold against another, which place us over them and which make us the ultimate judge and not God.

We do not have the right to insult anyone. An insult is defined as “the act of leaping upon” in order to abuse, to treat another with contempt in order to triumph over them. It connotes raising oneself up, over or above, by lower another. Jesus uses the word raca, which means “empty one” and “worthless.” It is a word borrowed from the Chaldean, maybe left over from the exile and may have been considered a curse. Raca carries the idea the person has no value intellectually and thus no ability to add to society. In fact, the person insulted is considered a drain, taking away from society as a whole.

Jesus’ remarks not only encompass unjustified judgment of a person’s intellectual abilities and value to society but their moral character. When anyone judges the moral character of a person based upon sinful, arbitrary standards, they are pronouncing sentence without having the authority to execute sentence. They have tried to wrench away from God something which is only His prerogative. Declaring someone a “fool” is a moral judgment based upon the evidence of their lives as measured by the arbitrary standards of the individual. Worse is listening and believing the judgments pronounced by another without having actually witnessed the evidence of the life judged. Such a far reaching pronouncement of a sentence endangers the eternal place of the person judging before the God, the Judge. “Whoever says, ‘You fool’’ will be liable to the hell of fire” [Matthew 5:22 ESV].

Does any of this mean we are to not judge? We are given the Holy Spirit who “will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” [John 16:13 ESV]. We are commanded to focus our attention on Christ and the promptings of the Holy Spirit every moment of our lives. We need constant awareness of what we are thinking, how we are feeling, the words we speak and our actions, allowing God to continue to change us into the likeness of His Son, as He prepares us for eternity. We are still His witnesses before this world.