Judge Nothing Before the Time

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Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
Greetings fellow sinners,

I recently had a family situation where the limitation of our inability to know the heart played an important part. It made me think of how common, even universal, this tendency to judge the heart of others can be.

As a young (30-year-old) newly elected elder, I was blessed with older and wiser men who often reminded me that our job was strictly an external matter. That we only deal with the outward words and actions of fellow men. We are not to judge the heart. In fact, we are entirely unable to do so–that it is God’s prerogative alone to know the heart of every man.

So, my intention in writing this is teaching and a correction for all of us who find it difficult to stop playing God in our interactions with each other.

Take careful notice of the two passages below as examples, of which many more could be given, of man’s limitation of heart knowledge.

The Lord gives a little rebuke in the following verse from 1 Samuel, for Samuel made the same mistake by judging Saul by outward appearance. But the second part of the verse, “for the LORD seeth not as man seeth,” is not part of the rebuke. Instead, the Lord is stating what the case is; a universal truth about all men–both good and bad–that they are unable to know the heart of another person.

1 Samuel 16:7 (KJV)​
But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

1 Kings 8:38–39 (ESV)​
38 whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart and stretching out his hands toward this house,
39 then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways (for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind),

Doctrine:
The minds of all men living, Christians and non-Christians alike (albeit to a lesser extent), daily spend much time in their minds, judging others while excusing themselves. So common is this double standard that we are seldom conscious of this inner work of the soul.

Correction:
A little reminder that even the very best of the best saints are still ill-equipped to understand and judge their hearts and actions thoroughly. We all tend to see the faults (real or imagined) in others while we are blind to those things in ourselves.

1. Observe the Godly Apostle Paul who probably knew his heart better than any man living. Just look at Romans 7 (below) for his opinion of his inner self.

1 Corinthians 4:1-5 (especially vs. 3b & 4)​
1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.
2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.
3 But with me, it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.
4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.
5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

2. There are limits to how well you can know even your own heart. Be ye ever so diligent in heart work, no matter how much sin you discover; no man can ever get to the full depths of his sinful nature. But praise God, there is One only who knows it all and still loves you zealously. This is good news indeed.

Jerimiah 17:9 in its context (verses 5-10).​
5 Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.
6 He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.
7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.
8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
10 “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

Romans 7:14–25 (NASB95)​
14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.
15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.
16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.
17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.
20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.
22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,
23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?
25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself, with my mind, am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

A Final Warning:
We need to guard our hearts even from judging the outward words of men. (We are so flawed)
Consider these two wisdom verses that warn us of the words we both speak and hear from others. The old adage, “take it with a grain of salt,” comes to mind.

James 3:6 (of course you will recognize the context, I quote only this verse)​
And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.

And my favorite is:

Ecclesiastes 7:21 (KJV)​
Also, take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee:

Now, what does this mean?

A paraphrase
Since we know that we all are prone to thoughtless and harsh words that we do not entirely mean, don’t take everything you hear so seriously. If you do so, you will misjudge even those who are true friends, “thy servant,” who is devoted to you.

Let’s all strive to extend the same mercy to others that we do to our own faults. I seem to remember a verse somewhere that tells us to consider others better than ourselves. [hint: Philippians 2:3]

Tell me where I went wrong.
Don’t spoil me by telling me what I said right.

Sincerely,

Ed Walsh
 

Jeri Tanner

Administrator
Staff member
Tell me where I went wrong.
Don’t spoil me by telling me what I said right.
You have made it impossible to comment! ;)

I’ll just say that the fear (of the Lord) in misjudging others (and myself, by thinking too highly of my own opinions) is something being pressed home to my heart, for sure. It’s bad enough in real life relationships and interactions; in online interactions it’s built-in.

I really appreciate your whole post as it stands, sorry. :) I think it’s timely and these observations and this doctrine is much needed. Maybe can comment further later.
 

Ethan

Puritan Board Freshman
Great thoughts. This reminds me of what Sproul, citing Edwards’ Charity and its Fruits, calls “the judgment of charity.” I’ve been thinking over it a lot since we covered it a few weeks back in Sunday school.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
You have made it impossible to comment! ;)

I’ll just say that the fear (of the Lord) in misjudging others (and myself, by thinking too highly of my own opinions) is something being pressed home to my heart, for sure. It’s bad enough in real life relationships and interactions; in online interactions it’s built-in.

I really appreciate your whole post as it stands, sorry. :) I think it’s timely and these observations and this doctrine is much needed. Maybe can comment further later.
Absolutely! Great post and greater OP, thanks Ed (wise words and counsel). I've been involved in my fair share of touchy threads but I always think how to respond if I was sitting face to face with the person? The anonymity of the internet makes lions out of house cats because there isn't that face to face accountability.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
Great thoughts. This reminds me of what Sproul, citing Edwards’ Charity and its Fruits, calls “the judgment of charity.” I’ve been thinking over it a lot since we covered it a few weeks back in Sunday school.
Off topic but I'm gonna miss that guy. Been pouring over his talks on YouTube, what a speaker. Nevermind though don't want to sidetrack.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Professor
Good thoughts, Ed. I would add to your quote of Romans 7:25 (and previous), what Paul says in Rom 8:4, concerning our deliverance from domination by the flesh, or carnal mind, by the indwelling Spirit of Christ, "That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

I would agree with your general remarks. A pastor I knew and loved once said, "We are more sinful than we ever dared to think, and more loved than we ever dared to hope." Simultaneously just and sinful – Luther's "simul iustus et peccator".

It is well with us to walk humbly before our God, glad in His fear (reverential awe), looking to Him and not our own supposed "righteousness".
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
A pastor I knew and loved once said, "We are more sinful than we ever dared to think, and more loved than we ever dared to hope." Simultaneously just and sinful – Luther's "simul iustus et peccator."

Dear Pastor Steve,

What a wonderful line. These have been my thoughts also, though I've never so concisely stated it. Thank you also for the reminder that in Christ, by the Spirit, we do have some sanctification for in this life.

God bless you, brother,

Ed
 
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