In John chapter five, the thirtieth verse, Jesus made a statement regarding His judgment (i.e. the criteria by which He evaluated personal conduct, including His own). He said that He knew, and everyone could know, that His judgment was righteous because it wasn’t based in any personal agenda or preferences. His judgment was based purely in His Father’s will. We can learn a great deal about judgment personal conduct, our own and those around us, according to righteousness.
The fist thing learned from Jesus’ statement is that judging is right and good as long as it is righteous judgment. The majority of people in the religious world think that it is wrong to judge. They claim that it is “self-righteous” or “pharisaical” to judge the conduct of others. However, if we would be Christ-like we must judge. Not only did Christ Himself judge but He also commanded His disciples to judge. “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24, NKJV). In the very same chapter that people cite to claim judging is wrong (Matt. 7:1), Jesus said that we must judge a tree by its fruit. Obviously, Jesus is talking about two different kinds of judging. One is self-righteous justification while the other is righteous examination of one’s teaching (Matt. 7:1-6, 15-20). So, it is not wrong to judge, it is wrong to judge according to appearance – or self-righteously based on your own standards. It is right and good to judge based on God’s righteous standards according to truth.
Righteous judgment is a true examination of personal conduct according to the standard of God’s word. Jesus likened it to inspecting the fruit of the tree to determine the health of the tree (Matt. 7:15-20). Jesus used the same argument when the Pharisees charged Him with working according to the power of Beelzebub (Matt. 12:24). In refuting their blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, He said that you can know a tree by its fruit (Matt. 12:33). The motivation of the Pharisees was “evil” (Matt. 12:34) because it was self-serving. Had they been judging Jesus based on the standards of God’s word – His revealed will – then they would have accepted Him as the Christ (John 5:36).
Righteous judgment is not self-seeking but seeks to the good of the one judged. Most of the time people want to complain about judging is when they are the ones being judged. They claim that the one doing the judging is being critical or hard-hearted. However, it is not being unjustly critical or hard-hearted when the judgment is motivated by a love and concern for the other. Was Jesus ever critical, even harshly so, toward others? The answer is, without a doubt, yes. He repeatedly called the self-righteous, self-serving, religious leaders of His day “blind” and “fools” and “hypocrites” (cf. Matt. 25). Usually, when this is pointed out about Jesus, people want to say that Jesus could do that because He knew their hearts. Yes, He did, and He told us how we could know their hearts also – by what comes out of their hearts (Matt. 12:35). The difference between the self-righteous judgment of the Pharisees and the righteous judgment of Jesus is partly based in the motivation for the judgment. Jesus sought the good of those He judged. He pointed out their shortcoming to bring them to repentance. Paul said love “does not seek its own…but rejoices in the truth” (1 Cor. 13:5, 6). Righteous judgment seeks the spiritual well-being of ourselves and others.
So, how can we know that our judgment is righteous and never self-righteous? If the standard of my judgment is the word of God, if it is based in factual information, if it is motivated by a desire for spiritual well-being, then it is likely right and good righteous judgment.