Some folks are like the fellow who was talking to his preacher and said he wasn’t much use in the church or the world because he had only one talent.
“Oh, that shouldn’t discourage you,” said the preacher. “What is your talent?”
“The talent of judging others.”
“Well, I’d advise you,” said the preacher, “to do with it what the one-talent man did–bury it.”
I suppose we all know some people like that man. They are hypercritical of others. Judging. Criticizing. And fault-finding. That seems to be their main focus in life. They violate the commandment Jesus issued to those who judged others, but were guilty of worse sins, “Judge not that you be not judged” (Matt 7:1)
Such was the case with the Jews Paul addressed in Romans chapter 2. Following his scathing denunciation of the pagan Gentile world for their head-long plunge into debauchery and their disguising, debasing deeds, he turns to the religious Jew.
“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.” (Rom. 2:1)
Judgment per se is not a sin. Jesus instructed, “Judge righteous judgment” (Jn 7:24). The word “judge” simply means “to distinguish” or “to determine.” We must separate good from evil. Right from wrong. And truth from error.
But the sin of judgment occurs when we self-righteously condemn others when we’re guilty of the same sins. Or even worse. One sage quipped, “We hate our own faults. Especially when we see them in others.”
The challenge for us is to read this chapter and not just interpret it to condemn the 1st century Jews but to apply it to ourselves in the 21st century. There are three major points we need to seriously consider.
(1) God’s Judgment is according to Truth.
God’s judgment is not based on our biased opinions. Tradition. Hearsay. Gossip. Or prejudice.
God’s Word is Truth (Jn 17:17). All of us will be judged equally on the basis of what the Bible says. There is not one standard for Americans and another for the rest of the world. Or one for the church of Christ and another for other churches. Or one for white people and another for black people. Or one for rich people and another for poor people.
(2) God’s Judgment is based on our own deeds.
The Jews thought their status as God’s chosen people in the Old Testament had “punched their ticket” to heaven. However, Paul affirms that God “will render to each one according to his works” (2:6).
Several times in this text we read expressions like these: “every soul.” “Each one.” “Every human being.” “Every man.” These speak to individual accountability and personal responsibility.
You may belong to a really good church that is active in ministry and zealous in evangelism, yet be inactive and indifferent. God will judge you, not as part of a group, but individually. Maybe you come from a deeply devoted, spiritual family. Your Daddy is a preacher. Your Papaw was a pastor. However, you will be judged based on your life and works, not theirs.
(3) God’s Judgment is Impartial.
Contrary to what the Jews thought, God was not partial to the Jews or prejudiced against the Gentiles. Paul clearly enunciated, “there is no partiality with God” (2:11).
This is hard for humans to truly understand. We all have our various prejudices. Some may be more pronounced that others. Some are subtle. Others may be more overt. But it is difficult to be completely impartial. All the time. With everyone. But God is.
When we read the Bible, let’s work to apply it to ourselves. Not others. When we participate in a Bible class, let’s see what it means to those present, not those who are absent. When we hear a sermon, let’s utilize the lesson to improve our lives instead of condemning others.
When we read (or write) a blog post like this, we each ought to ask, “Lord, Is it I?”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman