Summary: What's the difference between an appraisal and a judgment? If the devil can't destroy us by making us apathetic, he'll try to do it by making us judgmental.
It’s hard to talk about judging others without sounding judgmental!
“Judge not lest ye be judged” is one of the most quoted and misunderstood verses in the Bible. People who never open a Bible, people who are biblically illiterate, still know this statement, and readily use it. The way it is used is to stop any discussion about the rightness or wrongness of behavior. The implication is that we should never say any behavior is wrong because we’re not to judge. Yet “without judgment, society cannot operate: we’d have to fire all umpires, no teacher could grade student performance, no citizen would sit on a jury or call a public leader to account” (Lewis Smedes).
Jesus is telling us not to pass judgment on others; in other words, not to condemn people. We’re to speak truth, and let God judge. This doesn’t mean we don’t appraise things. We have opinions. Everyone does. But we’re to “speak the truth in love.” If we point out sin, we do so with compassion, what I like to call “carefrontation.” To know when to speak and when to remain silent requires spiritual discernment.
Judging seems the easiest thing in the world to do. Jesus warns us to not be too quick to judge; but to judge with charity, to judge well. He adds a word of caution: “with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Another translation says, “Don’t jump on people’s failures, unless you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging” (the Message). If truth matters, if how people live matters, it matters to us as well. The judgments we give are the judgments we’ll get.
Jesus isn’t saying that we’re to never regard any behavior as wrong. Say, for instance, that someone is caught in a lie. Are we being judgmental is saying that person lied? It wasn’t just a “mistake.”
Jesus also tells us to forgive others…but in order to do so, we must first determine that they’ve done something wrong. We identify a behavior as wrong; otherwise it is impossible to forgive. When we fail to forgive, that is when we’re being judgmental. Unforgiveness is an act of condemnation.
What’s the difference between judging and appraising? To judge is to assume intent and condemn…to appraise is to evaluate or form an opinion. One shows discernment, the other hostility. Jesus is not forbidding us from expressing our opinions on matters of right and wrong, nor is He prohibiting constructive criticism. In John 7:24 Jesus says, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a righteous judgment.”
What are we saying about ourselves when we judge others? We’re implying that we’re better than them; we need to guard against an attitude of superiority…failing to see the “plank”. We all have faults; we all struggle with living the Christian walk. In offering someone constructive feedback, we need to admit we’re fellow-strugglers.