As I was reading through 2 Thessalonians, I started wondering about what scripture really says about being judgmental. There are numerous verses throughout the New Testament that directly state that we should not judge others, and yet I’ve found others that seem to blur the line. I find myself constantly battling the tendency to judge others and I hate it. At the same time, though, is that not part of our ability to differentiate right from wrong? Isn’t it a byproduct of instinct? So, how do we apply the scriptural admonitions to avoid judging others? The passage below is probably not the best or most obvious example, but it still got me thinking about this problem.
- 2 Thessalonians 3:11-15: 11For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.13As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. 14If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. 15Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
Reading this passage, my thought was that Paul was being awfully judgmental… and instructing others to be the same. It seems to me the exhortation to have nothing to do with idle people and make them feel ashamed (punish them, in a sense) requires that one first judge that idle person. Compare to Romans 2: 1-5 (also, of course, written by Paul):
- 1Therefore 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. 2We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3Do 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? 4Or 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? 5But 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.
There is nothing wishy-washy about the words “…no excuse…. every one of you who judges.” This verse embodies the theme I’ve always taken from Christianity on the subject of judgment. It makes sense to me to leave it to God. Since we all fall short, we can hardly point fingers. Maybe there is a difference between passing judgment on someone and passing judgment on their actions? This one really confuses me, and likely I’m being incredibly obtuse. What is your take? Where do we draw the line?