A devotion of Psalm 94.
INTRODUCTION: Judgement and Wisdom
What is a sticky wicket? A wicket is the surface used in the sport of cricket. The ground gets ‘sticky’ with mud after rainfall renders it difficult to play in. A sticky wicket is a metaphor used to describe a delicate or difficult situation. In the world today, the concept of ‘judging’ is a sticky wicket.
“Don’t judge me,” is a line we have all heard defensively coming from someone who has been called out for some wrongdoing. You may have uttered it yourself. The book of First Corinthians dries out the judgement wicket and guides believers in this delicate responsibility. Psalm 94, which I’ve paralleled in the KJV and the New Living Translation (NLT) below, has judgement principles to teach us too.
“But judgment shall return unto righteousness: and all the upright in heart shall follow it. Ps. 94:15 KJV
“Judgment will again be founded on justice, and those with virtuous hearts will pursue it.” Ps. 94:15 NLT
Wisdom is the wicket upon which judging is played. As we studied Proverbs this year, we learned that wisdom or prudence means skill. Skill is developed by proper training and repeated practice. Judgement, anakrino, is a forensic term meaning to examine, judge, investigate, search, sift, question, scrutinize, discern, discriminate, determine excellence or defects. It also means to take apart, estimate, question, and search. Judging entails investigating, sentencing, and executing a case or matter.
According to the Apostle Paul, the wisdom to be used in judgement is not human wisdom but godly wisdom as described in 1 Corinthians 1. Human wisdom is based on experts (teachers, philosophers, scholars) and is manifested in eloquence, persuasive words, knowledge, and impressive backgrounds such as noble birth, as depicted in chapter 2. These are things that appeal to and impress human nature.
Today we will tackle four things: the source of wisdom for judging; what the outcome of our judging should be; the importance of labels or identity; and settle whether we are to judge or not to judge.
THE SOURCE OF WISDOM FOR JUDGING
Paul calls us to be competent in the skill of judging, (1 Cor. 6:2.) God, who is so much grander than man that his weakness is greater than our greatest strength, and his foolishness wiser than our wisdom views the wisdom of this world as foolish in his sight, (1 Cor. 3:19.) Jesus Christ is the epitome of the wisdom and power of God. 1 Cor. 1:30 states Christ became our wisdom, and this is demonstrated with Holy Spirit power. We are to judge based on Holy Spirit power and judgement is not handed over to those with a pedigree such as education and status, but even to “men of little account” in the church (1 Cor. 6:4).
RESULT OF YOUR JUDGING
Judging using God’s wisdom results in knowing God (1:21,) and in zero boasting except in the Lord (1:31; 3:19-21.) On the other hand, human wisdom and judgement elevates some people and tears others down, resulting in boasting (1 Cor. 1:29; 4:6.) Ultimately, God destroys and/or frustrates human wisdom (1:19) so it comes to nothing (2:6.) Believer, judge your judging: are people coming to know God better through your judging and wisdom or are you elevating a human being or human establishment?
Labels are a wonderful tool for organizing. They work great for beans in a jar but not so much for humans. Human nature likes labels because by them we think we can accurately judge others. This causes two problems. First, we use outward appearances or behaviors. We label each other broadly as male or female; white or brown; smokers or non-smokers; educated or uneducated; church attenders and non-attenders; etc.
Secondly, we use temporal standards or those made by man and therefore subject to change e.g. liberal or conservative; pro-this leader or that; rich or poor; vaccinated or unvaccinated; immigrants versus natives; etc. We then attach incredibly heavy predefined weights to each of those and judge accordingly. As a result, we deem some people as desirable and others as not, some are called idiots and others ignorant; some superior, others inferior.
As believers the labels we are to use towards our fellow brothers and sisters are numerous as outlined in Scripture. Here is a small handful just from First Corinthians:
- Sanctified in Christ Jesus (1:2, 6:11))
- Called to be his holy people (1:2)
- Washed (6:11)
- Justified (6:11)
- Bought with a price therefore not your own (6:20, 7:23)
Note well that these are gifted by grace so that no one can boast. Furthermore, they cannot be taken away from you, even based on “bad behavior,” however one may define that. These labels are the only ones that should be coming out of our mouths regarding believers for whom Christ died.
ARE BELIEVERS TO TO JUDGE OR NOT TO JUDGE?
Here are 10 Principles to go by:
- God is the ultimate judge
“O LORD, the God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, let your glorious justice shine forth!” Ps. 94:1 NLT. Further, he has handed this role off to Christ: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgement to the Son,” Jn 5:22. Paul says in 1 Cor. 4:4b it is the Lord who judges me.
2. There is an appointed time for final judgement (1 Cor. 4:5.)
Many walk around today trying to determine who is a believer and who is not. Not only is this not our role, it also is not the time for that. Our job is to reach as many as possible with the saving gospel of Christ.
3. Judge yourself before you judge others
“But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world,” (1 Cor. 11:31, 32.) While this passage refers to taking communion in an unworthy manner, scripture is chock full of examples calling us to examine ourselves and our hearts, which can be very deceitful.
4. Don’t judge based on conviction
Many people believe that because they feel strongly about a matter and therefore have a strong conviction, gut feeling, or burning in the bosom, their decision is the right one and so they can proceed with a clear conscience. This is yet another case of human wisdom, incorrectly but frequently robed by immature believers as God’s wisdom. Paul says, “My conscience is clear but that does not make me innocent,” 4:4a. This leads to people saying, “God told me.” Do you know that the penalty for saying that falsely was death by stoning? Why not rather say, “I believe,” or “I think.” This will actually earn you respect in the long run as people come to trust your lines of thought over time.
5. Don’t judge others’ spiritual standing or motives
As a human being, you do not have all the information or capacity to judge whether others are saved or not. You also must not judge others’ motives. By observation or experience, we think we know. “The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know,” (1 Cor. 8:2.) God alone knows the heart and its intentions. He “will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and expose the motives of men’s hearts.” He will then reward accordingly. (1 Cor. 4:5b.)
6. There are times we are to judge
“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you, (1 Cor. 5:12, 13.) When there is ungodly behavior, the body of Christ is to call it that and seek to restore the sinning brother to fellowship with God. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough, (1 Cor 5:6.) We are then to follow Christ’s mandate, if you notice something out of line, you approach a brother in love and humility. If he does not hear you or repent of obvious wrong, you take another brother or sister with you and meet with him again. If he won’t respond to that the whole church is to be involved. If he still won’t repent, excommunicate him.
This form of church discipline is rarely practiced. Note well that its goal is restoration to fellowship, not just to shame and ostracize a brother or sister from the body. The expulsion is like a sacrament, symbolic of the spiritual state of the brother who has turned his back to God by his behavior. Reconciliation will then symbolize a return to spiritual fellowship with God and others.
7. What about our rights?
Paul is clear on the importance of the Christian’s rights. First, we are completely free and therefore have all the rights in the world. Second, we are to constantly give up our rights for the sake of the gospel. “Would you rather not be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” (1 Cor. 6:7) This pertains to matters of dragging Christ’s name and image through the mud in the world’s eyes. We are not to sue one another but rather to have the church adjudicate our issues.
“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings,” (1 Cor. 9:19-23.) Note that he is not doing this because he is a doormat but strategically to win the lost.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body,” (1 Cor. 6:12, 13.)
8. Let love override knowledge
“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God, (1 Cor. 8:1b – 3.) It is knowledge that leads us to call each other names such as idiots or ignorant on any given matter. Remember the labels we are to call and think of each other by. These are based on love, primarily the love of Jesus and his finished work on the cross. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell,” (Mt. 5:21-22.)
9. Does the matter bring one closer to God?
Paul said, “food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do,” (1 Cor. 8:8.) Because we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places, the focus of these scriptures is on our spiritual lives. Earthly things are gifted to us to use for spiritual purposes. Even something as basic as food is at our disposable to use to gain energy to do God’s work. You are free to eat whatever you want. Be wise about it though, knowing full well it affects you in many ways.
“Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them… “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean,” (Mark 7:14-15, 18, 19.) “You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both,” (1 Cor. 6:13a.)
10. Invite people to judge you.
Iron sharpens iron. I may be smart but I’m only 5th grade smart. I love my Monday night group and in it I find myself iron among diamonds. They help me take apart my thinking and examine its elements. We must constantly surround ourselves with believers and invite them to speak into our lives. That goes for encouragement and for correction. How teachable are you? Are you open to being corrected? By anyone? We say we are but jump down our spouses’ throats when they correct us. Practice saying a simple thank you instead of the reflexive, “Well, you’re one to talk…”
“I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say,” (1 Cor. 10:15.) Live a life of open accountability.
CONCLUSION: Judge in humility
Anyone that knows me well is justified in calling me the nutty professor. I can never find my keys or my phone. You probably don’t want to carpool with me because I am quite likely to leave you, stranded, wherever we go. Even as a child, my mother said to me, “Teacher, I hope you work hard so when you grow up you can afford to pay people to follow you around and pick up after you.” So, we can blame her for this, God rest her soul. (See what I did there? 😉) I vex my husband to no end by forgetting to empty the K-cup in the coffee maker. He even wrote me a sign on it saying, “Remember?” You can only imagine the sublimity of my joy when, twice a year, he forgets to empty his K-cup and I send him a glorious text saying, “Remember?”
If you gain any pleasure in judging and confronting others, stop. Paul says we are to, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace,” (Ephesians 4:2-4.) Confrontation needs to hurt you as much or more than it will hurt the recipient. Don’t jump on people every single time they commit an offense. Recovery from ungodly behavior can take time. Be patient. To judge a person is to take them apart somewhat and affects their dignity, their pride, their reputation, their way of doing things, etc. During and after your confrontation, help put them back together. Restore them to internal unity. Whatever calls for the confrontation is driving a wedge between them and you. Restore them to unity with you and then as much as you can, restore them to others. Prayerfully let Holy Spirit drive and direct you in all this.
But judgment shall return unto righteousness: and all the upright in heart shall follow it.Psalm 95:15
“Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others,” (1 Cor 10:23), especially their salvation.
Paul teaches, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence,” (Col. 2:16-23.)