Lesson 1 – Motives for Judging

Motives for Judging

Matthew 7:1-5.


Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Matt. 7:1, 2

The Apostle Paul passed Jesus’ command on to the saints in Rome in his effort to maintain the fellowship of Jew and Gentile people in the body of Christ.

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.  Now we know God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.  So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?  Rom. 2:1-3  

In the context of the foregoing scripture, Paul carried Jesus’ principle of life to another level.  His point is that when a mere human being sits in judgment on another person he or she is “playing God.”  James made the same point (Jas. 4:11, 12).  Judging people evokes the wrath of a person’s friends and it will elicit God’s wrath.  This should be enough said about the matter of judging to bring us all to repentance; however, most people already know judging is a bad and mean spirited habit.  So why do we do it?  This is the question we will attempt to answer in this lesson.

In order to fully understand ourselves and all people who have the habit of judging others, we will need to review our previous information about complexes.  Please see the Introduction of Part IV, Lesson Four.  In that context we were considering the fear complex.  A complex is a repressed desire from consciousness.  It then becomes a powerful emotion people have locked away in a “subconscious” compartment.  This emotion is referred to as a complex because it causes people to make responses to others and events in irrational manners.  Complexes have many identity tags.

We have often heard someone say; “He or she has an inferiority complex.”  These, like fear and anger complexes, are contentious forces that weaken character.  They rob people of the time and energy they need to attain the goals they desire to accomplish.  They are disintegrating in relation to the function of one’s personality and character.

The devastating power of complexes is in the manner they function.  Although their habitat may be locked out of a person’s state of awareness, complexes express themselves with mentally ill behavior.  The person may not be aware of the real reason he or she is doing what they do.  Complexes eliminate courage.  They also tend to make enemies of one’s friends.  People with inferiority complexes tend to judge other people, adversely.  Their judgment about others has a direct relation to the flaws in their own “self.”

This subject is closely related to the defense mechanisms people use to protect themselves when something or somebody puts them in a situation that threatens their innate need for glory.  The following are some of these defense mechanisms:

  • Repression.  Resist remembering painful experiences.
  • Reaction Formation.  Assume forms of behavior that are opposite of those they are struggling to master.
  • Projection.  Projecting an attribute to others that they are reluctant to recognize within themselves.
  • Sublimation.  Diverting energy (libidinal) from sex objects that have no direct connection to sex, such as sports.
  • Rationalization.  Blame others.
  • Displacement.  Divert hostilities from one’s self to others.
  • Regression.  Individuals resort to forms of behavior that provided satisfaction at earlier stages of development.


Of course, some people are very aware of what they are doing when they judge people.  They are people who, at all cost, try to maintain their “self esteem.”  We all need to love ourselves; however, we should note the difference between “self love” and “self esteem.”  We show love for ourselves when we try to fix what we see wrong in ourselves.  When we examine ourselves and see something that is broken, we need to fix it and we will if we love ourselves.

People who attempt to maintain self esteem at all cost, that is, people who try to feel good about themselves,  although they will not fix what is wrong, do not love themselves.  “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” I John 1:8.  People who do not love themselves will not love others; therefore, they will judge them.  They refuse to confess their sin, even to themselves, in some cases.  According to Jesus, they do judge others to hide their own sins.  In fact, they reveal their own sin because they make judgment on others in matters that relate to their own sins.

Before we dig deeper into “why people judge others,” let us clear up an important point.  We may need to balance Jesus’ command in Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge” with His command to “watch out for false prophets” in 7:15.  Are we merely to watch false prophets, or does what we see that is unfruitful in their advice, behoove us to make a judgment?  It appears that Jesus teaches us to watch out for false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing and make a judgment call.  “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James,” wrote a letter “to those who have been called” for this specific purpose (Jude 1).  He strongly admonished them to identify and judge those “false prophets in sheep’s clothing.”

Some church members may become confused when they are told not to judge and then they hear Paul scolding the Corinthians for not making judgment about a sinful person in the church (I Cor. 5:1-13).  It should be noted that Paul had already stated the criteria for Christian judgment in chapter four verses three through five.  Christians do not make judgment concerning the state of people’s consciences.  We understand we should not judge the motives of other people.  We do have the responsibility to make judgments concerning acts in relation to their fruit (Matthew 7:15-20).  Even then we need to give serious thought in our judgments about behavior.  Making our judgment calls on the fruit of a prophet is more reliable than only on their behavior.  Jesus told the Pharisees to “stop judging by mere appearance, and make righteous judgment.”  John 7:24.  God will judge us if we “stick our head in the sand” and fail to make righteous judgment.

We all know we should not make judgment about our brethren unless it is on his or her fruit.  The question is, “Why do we judge in the first place?”  There are many reasons and most of them are less than honorable.  There are very few people who are paid for judging.  So this is not the reason we judge others.  If, or when, we do judge the motives of other people, why do we do it?  Are we that interested in helping them improve themselves?  Probably not, because generally when we make judgment on people we only point out their weaknesses.  We do not use the pure in heart attitude taught by Jesus.

The terrible truth will be found in the weakness of our own self.  We are prone to attach our sins and weaknesses to other people’s motives.  A crook thinks the whole world is crooked.  A person who tells lies does not think other people are honest.  Those who judge may have never seen their victim steal or caught in a lie.  Still they judge peoples’ motives and distrust them just as if they had caught them in the very act.

Jesus has told us the things we judge others about are our own sins.  The evil life style we accuse others of practicing is actually the measure, or standard, we are living.  Does Jesus really know that much about us personally?  John declared, that Jesus “did not need man’s testimony about man, for He knew what was in a man.”  John 2:25. 

It is hard for us to be aware of our own sins.  We can do it by developing an “objective attitude.”  Jesus gave us the tool for an objective analysis by telling us the truth about why we judge.  He told us we can know about our own sins by listening to ourselves judge others.  We should also be aware that we may attempt to transfer our sins to others.  One clue is that we become very excited and “self-righteous” about the “speck,” or weaknesses, we see in others.  The reason we do this is to draw the attention away from the cause of the “plank” in our own eyes.

This plank may be our compensation for our inferior feeling about ourselves.  In many cases it is our own awareness of our own sin, we are trying to smother.  God gave us the capability to examine ourselves and He expects us to do it (II Cor. 13:5).  We need to start to work on getting “the plank” out of our own eye in order to be helpful in removing the specks from others.  They need the help and Jesus wants us to help them (Gal. 6:1-5).

By judging, we really are not trying to help our brother or sister overcome his or her particular weakness; we are hiding a serious problem of our own from ourselves.  People who are evil may do this sort of thing intentionally.  Christians who suffer from serious inferiority complexes do these things even though they despise themselves for judging the character of others.  The feeling of being inferior is a very serious and degenerative type of problem.  On the other hand, it will not be easy to overcome; however, Jesus said Christians must stop it because it is hypocrisy.  This means we are not viewing life with a “single eye” view (Matt. 6:22).

How then do people overcome the habit of judging others?  Jesus gave us the remedy.  First, He explained why we do it.  It is our sin we are making judgment calls about and not our victim’s sin.  This is one of those “ah ha” moments – assuming we were not aware of what we were doing.  When we encounter one of these moments, we need to make a “paradigm shift.”  That is, we need to look at what we are doing through a pair of new glasses.  We will need these glasses to maintain an objective attitude about what is happening.  We examine our motives for doing what we are doing – and do it quickly.  This is what is meant by a “paradigm shift.”  We choose a new set of maps for our fellowship relations.  Maps are not the actual road – reality.  Maps are our tools we use to arrive at the real, reality.  When we learn that judging others is not the correct map for getting along with others, we need to make a “paradigm shift.”  We need to get our maps, or glasses, from Jesus’ teaching.

On the other hand if we already know what we are doing when we judge others, Jesus told us to “stop it.”  This is the only remedy.  Just stop doing it.  Gossip is judging.  It is an abnormal form of compensation for an inferiority complex.  In verse five, Jesus tells us to straighten up our own lives, and then we will not be judging the motives of other people.  All of us feel ill at ease when we feel we are being judged by someone.  It is hard to be friends with someone who is continually pointing out our faults.  It is easy to see that to have social acceptance, we must not assume the part of a judge.

Luke connected forgiving and judging.  If we will not forgive a person of his or her sins and weaknesses, God will not forgive us (Luke. 6:37).  If we will forgive, we will receive forgiveness.  If we will not judge, we will not be judged.  The best attitude is to forgive and then there is no issue to judge.

People who judge other people because of strong and deeply ingrained inferiority complexes will need to take a different approach to their problems.  Jesus has told us the symptoms.  People are prone to use several of the foregoing defense mechanisms to shield themselves when they feel inferior.  The point is no human being is inferior to another human being (Rom. 3:10-18).  All mature people fall short and need justification by faith; therefore, the problem with this person is how they feel about themselves.  They are being deceived by their feelings.

At some point, and perhaps at several points, in their past they have been deceived into thinking they are not as important to God and others as other people.  This is not true.  It is a lie.  However, they accepted this lie into their conscious self.  They may have been made to feel they were the blame for the judgment put on them.  This would produce guilt.  Guilt is the power of repression.  They rejected this lie from their consciousness and repressed it into a state of unawareness – but it does not disappear.  This is how deep dark inferiority complexes develop.  In other words, the thought of being inferior is so diverse to mankind’s need for glory that people will not willingly accept it.  It is too painful.  Some repress it into a subconscious state and lock it away.  It functions as a complex and drives them to less than righteous behavior.

Some consciously accept “the lie” and live in the inferior caste in which they are placed by others.  They do not like it but because they do not have the strength of character to resist, they live the lie.  In any case the answer to “the lie” is truth.  Never accept a relationship based on “You win, I lose.”  The proper habit is “You win, I win, or no deal.”

So for those of us who need to deal with inferiority complexes we need to listen to Jesus.  First, He has told us how to recognize when our behavior is dominated by our inferiority complexes.  It is the “plank in our eye” behavior.  Those who wilfully carry around “the plank” to maintain their “self esteem at all cost” can stop it if they desire.  It will not be so easy to banish a complex.  The psychologists might counsel us to try to go back to the point in our lives when and where these inferior feelings first happened.  This is good advice but it may not be possible to do.  We may not have been aware when it happened.

Jesus tells people who feel inferior about themselves to consider the kingdom of God and how God planned for us to be His children before He created the world (Rom. 8:28-30).  Then He tells us about God’s new covenant in His blood (Heb. 8:10-12).  He tells us how much God loved us when we, indeed, were inferior to being what we were created to be – a son of God (Gal. 4:4-7).  He tells us we can put off the old man of sin with all the inferior feelings, by being born again (John 3:3-8; Rom. 6:1-11).  This is the truth about people.  People with inferiority complexes need to hear Jesus by studying the Bible regularly.   By entering into a continuous study, Jesus will tell us over and over how much God loves us.  He proves it daily.  This is Jesus’ cure.

Questions for Discussion

  1. How did the Apostle Paul carry Jesus’ point about judging to another level?
  2. How do most people feel about judging other people?
  3. Describe the nature of a complex.
  4. List some of the devastating effects of a complex.
  5. Why do some people use defense mechanisms?
  6. What is the difference in self love and self esteem?
  7. Did Jesus forbid people to make judgments about other people?  Please explain your answer.
  8. In general, why do people judge other people?
  9. How do people who judge reveal the defects in their own selves?
  10. What was Jesus’ command for people who judge others in order to maintain their self esteem?
  11. Why do people who suffer from inferiority complexes need to take a different approach to overcome judging than people who wilfully judge people to maintain their self-image?
  12. How does Jesus help people overcome inferiority complexes?


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