Weightier Matters of the Law: Judgment

Matthew 23 is an interesting chapter in which Jesus Christ rakes the scribes and Pharisees over the coals.

Let’s notice verse 23 where Jesus said, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone."

The Pharisees were very particular in tithing their herbs but were negligent when it came to the spiritual matters or the weightier matters of the Law. They omitted the important elements of judgment, mercy and faith.

Let’s focus in on judgment.

There are 2 Scriptures that seem to contradict each other regarding judgment.

Some use Matthew 7:1 as proof that we should do no judging whatsoever: "Judge not, that you be not judged. {2} "For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. {3} "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? {4} "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? {5} "Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

"Judge not, that you be not judged." Here, the Greek word for "judge" is krino, meaning to condemn, avenge, damn, sentence or levy a punishment. Jesus Christ says that if we condemn others, we will be condemned ourselves.

Notice verse 5, we are first to remove the plank from our own eye, repent of our sins, then we can see clearly to remove the speck from our brother's eye.

Jesus uses the same Greek words in Matthew 7:1 and John 7:24.

Now let’s look at John 7:24, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."

Here Jesus definitely tells us to judge with righteous judgment. To be righteous is to keep God’s commandments (Psalms 119 verse 172).

One important thing to remember about judgment is that "As you do unto others, so shall it be done unto you!"

As we analyze and judge what is right or wrong, we must base it on the mind of God as expressed in His Word. How we apply that judgment to others is important, for Christ will take the same attitude with us that we take with others.

In judging someone, we may not have confidence in that person, because having been around them and having observed them from a distance, we do not feel they use wisdom, discretion, self-control or kindness in their relationships. Thus, we make the decision to be careful around them. We may even form an unfavorable opinion of their competence or honesty. In short, we make a judgment, good or bad, of their character.

While the negative side of this may seem harsh—for we do not wish to "sit in judgment" or condemnation—the process is necessary. We do it every day. We weigh all the known factors of a person. Unless we correctly judge not only the circumstances, but the person, we may find ourselves sitting in church listening to a wolf in sheep's clothing who sounds like an angel of light. Is proper judgment important? Correctly spotting the wolf is one form of judgment.

Like it or not, life forces us to make judgments or decisions about people every day. These may deal with mundane physical things or with friendships or marriages that affect a lifetime.

The Pharisees made a major error in the area of judgment. They abandoned the proper measure for their basis of judgment. As Matthew 15:1-9 shows, they developed their own traditions that transgressed the law of God (verse 3). Their worship had become vain—worthless—as they substituted the doctrines of men for the doctrines of God (verse 9).

The Pharisees leaned on carnal reasoning, which always decided in their favor. Situation ethics ruled, rather than the precepts of God. They became very harsh in their dealings with the "little people," taking advantage of them simply because they could (Micah 2:1-2).

Decision-making, judging, discerning and evaluating fruits often become subjective. We base them on how they may affect our own well-being rather than render them impartially and objectively in the light of God's Word purified seven times (Psalm 12:6). Is it any wonder God gives us an average of 70 years to learn to make right judgments?

We are to use the whole Bible, "every word of God" (Matthew 4:4), "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27), to render justice.

Parents need to consider all the scriptures on childrearing, not just the ones that suit them. Where is the balance between applying the rod and showing mercy? What, today, is the best way to handle Junior to develop his personality, his character, and his integrity?

Christ singled out judgment, mercy and faith as the weightier matters of the law. Why is judgment so weighty? Though the law itself is very important, we can perhaps consider judgment or justice to be even weightier, for it is the aim and purpose of the law. The law's very purpose is to make sure justice is done!

Since God is the very embodiment of love and justice to all without partiality, He did not need the law codified for Himself. We need it because we do not yet have His mind. So He gave us the Bible, which contains enough of God's mind for us to strive toward perfection with it as our daily guide, helping us learn to judge righteous judgment. Which Scripture applies here and now? Do we answer this fool according to his folly or not (Proverbs 26:4-5)? Can we judge him a fool at all (Matthew 5:22)?

The problem is that we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). If justice were truly done, we would all die eternally, for the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). That is a harsh reality. But God is merciful and gives us time and help to correct our course.

The Pharisees tried to live sinless lives and came to judge anyone falling short of their expectations as far beneath them. Not only had they perverted justice through hypocrisy and partiality, but they had also completely lost the next weightier matter Christ urged them to consider: mercy. We will address that virtue next month.

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