We all know them: those judgmental people who criticize others incessantly. They pile condemnation on even the slightest offenders and rarely demonstrate they understand the idea of giving grace or mercy. If we’re honest, we’ve all been that person at one time or another. The Bible is clear about judgment: “don’t judge, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1). But we all know that as fallen creatures living in a fallen world, it is impossible to live up to this standard.
And yet, not all judgment is inherently bad. We need to make good judgments in order to make wise decisions for ourselves and our kids. What Jesus is warning against in his Sermon on the Mount is the type of divisive and hypocritical judgment that pits people against each other. We want to be judged fairly, and as Christians, we should extend that same courtesy to others. It’s not always easy to do, much less to demonstrate for our kids. But parents are called to model fair judgment in a way that honors God.
The Perfect Judge
The good news for parents is that when we err in judgment, we have a perfect judge in Jesus Christ, the one who ultimately makes all things right. He reconciled sinners to his Father with his death on the cross, taking the judgment we deserve and giving us his perfect righteousness that we could never achieve through our own efforts.
Knowing that his Son would take on the judgment of the world, God the Father gives Jesus the exclusive right to judgment (John 5:22). His judgments are perfect. Ours, we know all too well, are not. But through Scripture and the example of Jesus, we apply God’s commands concerning judgment to how we parent with wise discernment. When we do this, we also provide a template that guides our kids to better discern situations and people.
In the fifth chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus says, “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me (John 5:30). In these words, Jesus gives three parameters for sound judgment that he applies to himself. If Jesus uses these guidelines, we can be certain that we, as flawed humans, need them even more in order to be discerning parents who make godly judgments.
God as the Source
Jesus’s first order of judgment is to acknowledge God as the source of all our abilities. Jesus says he can do nothing without the Father. Likewise, when faced with a situation requiring judgment, our first response should be to submit to the God who created and sustains us in all things. We are also to remember that the God who created and loves us also created and loves the person we are tempted to judge harshly or unfairly.
In today’s culture of “us vs. them,” It can be difficult to accept that God really loves those who vote differently, worship differently, or value things differently than we do. But it is imperative that we approach these situations like Jesus: with the understanding that God works in all things and that we, too, cannot do anything without the Father. Acknowledging God and his power establishes the proper foundation for wise judgment.
Do Not be Decieved
Secondly, Jesus tells us to remain free of deceptive influences. He says “I judge only as I hear.” We can apply this in our efforts to discern fairly when we weigh the opinions of others. This is not a command to rely only on ourselves and not seek out wisdom or information, but to be cautious about allowing deceptive opinions to influence our judgment. In the parenting world, well-meaning information passed among parents and kids can quickly devolve into destructive gossip. Teenagers thrive on drama, and there are almost daily instances where you or your teenager can be potentially swayed by deceptive influences such as social media, misinformation, or friends with a hidden agenda.
As you cultivate your own awareness that the information given or the motives of others might not be helpful in discerning a path forward, encourage your teenager to cultivate their own awareness as well. Trying to remain free of deceptive influences makes us more careful to weigh information and refrain from making rash judgments. If we commit to reading, studying, and praying through God’s word as revealed in Scripture, we develop a firm foundation that becomes our default setting when faced with situations requiring discernment and action.
Judgment that Honors God
Finally, Jesus’s judgment is God-honoring, not self-pleasing. “My judgment is just,” he says, “for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” Jesus does not allow his human wants and feelings to cloud his judgment. When we judge based on our desires and emotions, the results are usually opposed to what pleases God. When our son doesn’t make the soccer team we feel bitter disappointment, and so we conclude the coach is incompetent. Perhaps our sophomore daughter makes the varsity cheerleading squad, and we’re so happy for her that we overlook the negative influences she’s picking up from some of the older members. In both instances, our response is to judge based on our feelings, not on God’s wisdom. Judgment that doesn’t look first to please God is neither fair or just. Just as Jesus seeks to honor his father and not himself, so too should we put aside our personal wants and feelings and seek what pleases God through prayer and Scripture.
It’s worth remembering that because Jesus took our judgment on the cross, he alone is the perfect Judge of all the earth who always does right (Gen. 18:25). We mustn’t set ourselves up too comfortably in our own judgment seat and presume we know better than Jesus does. Despite our best efforts, we will fall short, and we must look to our perfect Judge and the precepts he sets as we try to make fair and God-honoring judgments.
Did you know we now have a Parent Guide for walking with your children through our newest study, Knowing Jesus? If you purchase the Knowing Jesus bonus curriculum, you’ll be able to share these guides with all of your youth group’s parents. Families will be able to talk about the Scripture, the questions, and the main takeaways together at home. We also think this is a perfect study for your summer programming. Since each lesson pulls from different parts of the Bible, students who have missed a lesson from summer trips won’t fall behind, and can even go through their missed lessons at home as a family in their own time. It’s a flexible study, perfect for looping in families and introducing new believers and non-believers to Jesus. If you’ve already purchased this study, the parent guides are in your library. If you haven’t, go ahead and purchase today so you can study with the youth in your life, whether at church or at home.