In John 7:24, Yeshua tells us not to judge according to appearances, but to judge with righteous judgment.
Yochanan (John) 7:24
24 “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
There is both righteous and unrighteous judgment, and we have to be careful which one we use. In Matthew 7:1-6 Yeshua teaches us that if we judge righteously Yahweh will judge us as being righteous, but if we judge unrighteously Yahweh will judge us as unrighteous.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 7:1-5
1 “Judge not [unrighteously], that you be not judged [as being unrighteous].
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.”
Many Christians believe this passage means we should never judge anyone ever, but this is plainly contrary to the Torah, and also to the Apostle Shaul’s (Paul’s) writings.
Scripture tells us that Moshe (Moses) served the nation as a judge.
Shemote (Exodus) 18:13
13 And so it was, on the next day, that Moshe sat to judge the people; and the people stood before Moshe from morning until evening.
Was Moshe a Torah-breaker, in that he sat to judge the people? Let it not be! For Moshe’s father-in-law Yithro (Jethro) saw that he was doing this not to the people, but for the people.
Shemote (Exodus) 18:14-16
14 So when Moshe’s father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?”
15 And Moshe said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of Elohim.
16 When they have a difficulty, they come to me, and I judge between one and another; and I make known the statutes of Elohim and His instructions.”
Moshe’s father-in-law saw that what Moshe was doing was good, in that it helped the people to apply Yahweh’s instructions to their lives. The only problem was that Moshe was trying to do it all alone. Therefore, Moshe’s father-in-law told Moshe to appoint other ethical men to serve as judges and rulers beneath him, so that the service of judging the people could be carried out more efficiently. That would serve all the people better.
Shemote (Exodus) 18:17-26
17 So Moshe’s father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good.
18 Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself.
19 Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and Elohim will be with you: Stand before Elohim for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to Elohim.
20 And you shall teach them the statutes and the instructions, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do.
21 Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear Elohim, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.
22 And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you.
23 If you do this thing, and Elohim so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.”
24 So Moshe heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said.
25 And Moshe chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people: rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.
26 So they judged the people at all times; the hard cases they brought to Moses, but they judged every small case themselves.
We know that Yahweh wants us to appoint judges and officers in all of our gates because He tells us to. Only, He wants us to appoint righteous judges and officers (and not unrighteous ones), so that the people will be judged with just (and not unjust) judgment.
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 16:18
18 “You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which Yahweh your Elohim gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment.”
Christianity teaches us that it is almost a sin to judge our neighbors. However, this is contrary to the Torah, which tells us to judge our neighbors in righteousness.
Vayiqra (Leviticus) 19:15
15 “You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor.”
Isaiah tells us to seek judgment (משפט), and even tells us to judge (שִׁפְטוּ) the fatherless. What is that about?
|Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 1:17
17 “Learn to do good;
Rebuke the oppressor;
Judge the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.”
|(17) לִמְדוּ הֵיטֵב דִּרְשׁוּ מִשְׁפָּט אַשְּׁרוּ חָמוֹץ | שִׁפְטוּ יָתוֹם רִיבוּ אַלְמָנָה|
The Hebrew word for justice (משפט) is the same as the Hebrew word for judgment (משפט), and the English terms can be used interchangeably with regard to the Hebrew word. It speaks of giving Yahweh’s verdict.
OT:4941 mishpat (mish-pawt’); from OT:8199; properly, a verdict (favorable or unfavorable) pronounced judicially, especially a sentence or formal decree (human or [participant’s] divine law, individual or collective), including the act, the place, the suit, the crime, and the penalty; abstractly, justice, including a participant’s right or privilege (statutory or customary), or even a style:
KJV – adversary, ceremony, charge, crime, custom, desert, determination, discretion, disposing, due, fashion, form, to be judged, judgment, just (-ice, -ly), (manner of) law (-ful), manner, measure, (due) order, ordinance, right, sentence, usest, worthy, wrong.
Do we want justice (משפט) for the fatherless? If so then we need to judge them (שִׁפְטוּ). We need to make known Yahweh’s verdict. By extension, this is also to govern righteously for them (on their behalf).
OT:8199 shaphat (shaw-fat’); a primitive root; to judge, i.e. pronounce sentence (for or against); by implication, to vindicate or punish; by extension, to govern; passively, to litigate (literally or figuratively):
KJV – avenge, that condemn, contend, defend, execute (judgment), (be a) judge (-ment), needs, plead, reason, rule.
It is ironic that the Christian conception of judgment is so negative, because the Hebraic concept of judgment is that of making Yahweh’s ways and His judgments known. This is something Yahweh wants us to do.
Yehezqel (Ezekiel) 20:4
4 “Will you judge them, son of man, will you judge
them? Then make known to them the abominations of their fathers.”
If people live according to Torah, then why would they fear His judgment/justice? Why would we not be eager to have Yahweh’s judgments proclaimed in the body?
Yahweh sometimes sends prophets (such as Jonah) to warn those out in the nations to repent and turn back to Him. However, if the nations do not repent and turn back to Yahweh (as evidenced by their submission to His authority), then there is really no way to judge (deliver justice to) them. Only those who are inside of Israel (and who submit to Elohim’s authority) can be judged (served with justice).
Shaul applies this same principle in his letter to the Corinthians, telling them that we are not to judge those who are outside the body, but only to judge those who are inside (and who claim to submit to Yahweh).
Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 5:9-13
9 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people.
10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.
11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner — not even to eat with such a person.
12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?
13 But those who are outside Elohim judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”
Shaul also told the Colossians only to let the body of Messiah judge (i.e., teach or lead) us with regards to what foods we eat, and what festival days we keep (seeing as these things have prophetic implications).
Qolossim (Colossians) 2:16-17
16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths,
17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the Body of Messiah.
Most English versions alter the language of Colossians 2:16-17 (above). This may be due to the fact that most Christian churches do not understand that in Hebraic thought, to judge is to provide justice (and leadership). Shaul tells us that we need to provide this kind of leadership and judgment in house, so that our people do not need to seek it in the outside world.
Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 6:1-6
1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the set-apart ones?
2 Do you not know that the set-part ones will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
3 Do you not know that we shall judge messengers [angels]? How much more, things that pertain to this life?
4 If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the assembly to judge?
5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?
6 But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!
In verse 2 Shaul tells us the set-apart ones will judge the world, and in verse 3 he tells us we will even judge the messengers (angels). But if we will even judge the messengers, then why should we look outside the assembly for just judgment? Is there no one among us who speaks according to Yahweh’s voice?
In the study “About Speaking in Tongues,” in Nazarene Scripture Studies, Volume One, we explain both types of prophecy. What both types of prophecy have in common is the requirement to speak according to Yahweh’s voice (rather than our flesh). When we die to our flesh and speak according to His voice, then our judgments will be righteous and true because we will speak only His words. However, when we judge according to the flesh, we cannot help but judge unjustly because the flesh is incapable of perfection. We will almost invariably project ourselves into the picture.
Romim (Romans) 2:1-3
1 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge [according to the flesh], for in whatever you judge another [according to the flesh] you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things [because you project your own flaws onto the other person].
2 But we know that the [righteous] judgment of Elohim is according to truth against those who practice such things.
3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of Elohim?
Many of us have listened as a friend criticized another person, only to notice that the charges seem to apply to both parties. Psychologists call this phenomenon of painting our own attributes onto others projection, and it is common whenever we speak according to our emotions (and our own spirit), rather than listening for His words, and speaking according to His voice.
Yahweh’s Spirit can lead one to say both complimentary and uncomplimentary things, but either way it takes a conscious, disciplined effort to put aside one’s own thoughts, and speak according to the Spirit.
Matthew 12:33-37 tells us that trees (i.e., men) are known by their fruit. If we speak according to His voice, then our fruit/speech is good (serves Him); but if we speak our own words, our tree is not good because our speech is idle (does not serve Him).
Mattityahu (Matthew) 12:33-37
33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.
34 Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.
36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the Day of Judgment.
37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Our purpose in judgment is never to condemn others, but only to help our brothers and sisters learn and grow in Him. If our purpose in judging another is to condemn (rather than to help a brother who is lost), then we do not know what spirit we are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.
Luqa (Luke) 9:54-56
54 And when His disciples Ya’akov and Yochanan saw this, they said, “Adon, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Eliyahu did?”
55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.
56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.
As we explain in “The Matthew 18 Process” (included in Covenant Relationships), the purpose of judgment is not to find anyone guilty, or to kick them out of the assembly. Rather, the purpose is to help our brothers and sisters get into a right standing with their Creator, so that things will go better for them on the Day of Judgment. There will be times that we have to put outside the assembly those who refuse to play by the rules, but the process itself should be like that of a loving father talking with his children, and helping them correct their attitudes. If the children refuse to behave correctly, then they lose some of their privileges (and in this case it is typically the privilege to assemble); but as soon as they repent and make restitution according to the Torah (and set all of their relationships right), their assembly privileges can resume.
Earlier we saw that when the man in Corinth was committing sexual immorality with his father’s wife, Shaul wrote to the assembly in Corinth and told them to put the man outside (1 Corinthians 5). However, once the man had repented of his sin, he came back into right standing with Yahweh; and so Shaul wrote to the Corinthians again, and told them to let him back in.
Qorintim Bet (2 Corinthians) 2:6-11
6 This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man,
7 so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow.
8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.
9 For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things.
10 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Messiah,
11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.
Shaul was clearly acting as a judge here, but he was judging according to the Spirit. His purpose was to build up Yahweh’s people (and thereby build up Yahweh’s kingdom) by insisting that Yahweh’s standards be upheld. It was righteous judgment, and although it may not have been pleasant at the time, it led to the best end result for all parties.
In the article “Lashon Hara: the Evil Tongue” (in the Covenant Relationships study), we explain that righteous speech builds up and edifies Yahweh’s people. Sometimes we must say negative things in the short term in order to set things right. However, if we just go about speaking badly of other people without an intention of correcting a wrong situation, then that speech is not glorifying, and it constitutes unjust judgment.
Ya’akov (James) 4:11-12
11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother [according to his emotions] speaks evil of the Torah and judges the Torah. But if you judge the Torah, you are not a doer of the Torah but a judge.
12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another [after the flesh]?
The ideal is to speak according to His Spirit at all times, whether we are saying good or saying bad. Ideally, we should take all of our own thoughts captive to the obedience of the Messiah, so we can hear and speak according to His voice, and thus partake of the tree of life.
Qorintim Bet (2 Corinthians) 10:3-7
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in Elohim for pulling down strongholds,
5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of Elohim, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Messiah,
6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
Taking every thought into captivity to the obedience of the Messiah is the walk of a lifetime, but it yields great rewards, and is tremendously pleasing to our good heavenly Father and His Son.