Question: How should we collectively view the concept of judgement?

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Question: How should we collectively view the concept of judgement?

Introduction to Question

The concept of judgement is misunderstood by most of the world. What can we learn from the scriptures about it?

The concept of judgement is probably one of the most frequently misunderstood facets of Christian ethics and religious life in general in today’s world.

Frequently, the concept is brought up in discussions where one person is attempting to give correction to another in light of Christian/Latter-day Saint moral values. The person who rejects correction will usually cite the scripture where Jesus tells his followers “judge not that ye be not judged.”

This article will correct a few misconceptions surrounding this concept.

Response to Question

Scripture Holistically

It will be best to cite the relevant scriptural data in full so as to get a better understanding of this. In the scriptural canon there are over 1300 combined uses of the words “judge,” “judged,” “judges,” “judgest,” “judgeth,” “judging,” “judgement,” “judgements,” “judgement-hall,” “judgement-seat,” and “judgement- seats.” A sizeable number of these have to do with God as our Eternal Judge, sitting on his judgement-seat, ready to enact judgement against those who have sinned without repentance at the last day.

There are upwards of 15 different Greek and Hebrew words that the canon uses to translate the above 11 words. Readers are encouraged to purchase a concordance for the scriptures or search these terms using the search function in the Gospel Library App and explore each use.[1]

What can we learn from this data? One thing we can learn is that judgement is not an inherently bad thing. Indeed, if it were, God would be sinning and, as a religious truism, God is perfect.

The real problem, then, can’t be judgement itself, but perhaps who is doing the judging. But even this has some problems as will be demonstrated.

Scripture in Context

Let’s take the most important scripture of this debate and reproduce it in full for analysis.

Matthew 7:1-5

1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

What are some of the lessons that we can draw from these verses? The first thing we might learn is that Jesus’ condemnation of judgement does not have to do with judgement itself. It is the way and time at which judgement is used. Jesus condemns hypocrisy with judgement. After we remove hypocrisy from ourselves, then we will be able to better cast out the mote in our brother’s eye. Indeed, Jesus even commands his followers to judge righteous judgement (John 7:24)! How could we even do missionary work or invite anyone to repent (Doctrine and Covenants 88:81) if we cannot recognize weaknesses or other sins in others and help them address them?

But what are some of the ways in which we judge unrighteously? Jesus has some things to say about this as well. In this scripture, it is heavily implied that we often have a greater weakness than our brother. Indeed, Jesus makes this clear by making a contrast between a mote (like a speck of dust) and a beam (a large piece of wood). So, we should examine ourselves and see if we have that same weakness. If we do, then we will be judged by our brother and, likely, God too. We should repent if we have that weakness. If we have fully repented, then we will have the opportunity to see the mote in our brother’s eye more clearly and be able to help him or her address it. When we do, we should do it in a spirit of meekness, humility, lowliness of heart, and love unfeigned. We should not seek to gain a sense of spiritual superiority by our helping others with their weaknesses. Indeed, we are all ultimately fallen men and women (Mosiah 3:19). This is what really upsets the person receiving correction: not judgement itself, but the way in which others judge. Does a person’s judgement lead them to help the other person receiving correction to only feel shame that produces self-loathing? Or does it inspire the other to see greater blessings in keeping the commandments?

Another way we judge unrighteously is by overlooking important details when judging someone's moral character (John 7:24).

In other articles we will explore the concepts of shame and harm and see how these might round out discussion of this important concept.

Conclusion

It is clear that there is something to learn of everyone regarding judgement. If others have better scriptural exegesis or philosophical considerations, they are welcome to send some of those disagreements to FAIR volunteers so that this article might improve if necessary. Continued meditation on this will almost certainly bring greater understanding to it.


Notes

  1. For a concordance of the King James Bible, see James Strong, ed., Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009). For the triple combination, see Eldon Ricks, ed., Eldin Ricks's Thorough Concordance of the LDS Standard Works (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1995).