In which there is a good judge-y-ness and a bad judge-y-ness

by Craig on March 25, 2011

James 2:4 “have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?”

The story in a nutshell: Rich guy and poor guy both arrive at a 1st century gathering of believers. Rich guy gets first class treatment – poor guy gets kicked to the curb. (the full story is here and here)

A little time in Philippi has taught me how social order was maintained above nearly everything else in the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was like High School.

If you try to mess up the social order in High School you get crushed underfoot. No?

Oh, and by the way, notice the word of the month in Rome Junior High – I thought that was funny. ƪ(◠‿◠)╯

The house owner was like a popular – but not uber popular High School kid. If he was the top of the High School food chain maybe he wouldn’t have to worry so much. But he wasn’t – and so he did.

When I first read this I got so “judgy” about the house owner. But when I realized that I’ve done the same – and even tend to do the same.


Insert sound of “screeching brakes” here.

It’s good to slow down sometimes – you see things.

Slowing down made me look at the words in the verse.

James writes, “have you not made distinctions among yourselves?”

“Meh – I have.” I answer, in a whimper.

The word for “distinctions” in the Greek is


(diakreethayteh – pronounced with proper “Greek Chef” accent and hand motions)

Pronouncing the word made me think of “diacritical mark”. I didn’t know why. So I looked it up. That little mark in the Greek word above, the one above the

That’s a diacritical mark and it’s actually a good thing, it tells me where to put the emphasis when I pronounce the word.

It’s a judgment thing. It’s not negative because it’s right in line with the language – the language being the authority. If I put it there properly I’m following the rules. If I put it over a different letter, improperly, all sorts of grammatical havoc ensues.

So it’s not the “judgy” that’s wrong – it’s the “wrong judgy” that’s wrong.

διεκρίθητε (diaykreethayteh) is just making a judgment –that’s all.

In a sense, the house owner has authority in his own home. He gets to decide who sits where.

But this is just a story James is telling, and the one with the ultimate authority is the story teller. You can’t always tell someone’s motives – you can if they’re a character in a story you wrote.

This guy’s motives were evil. We know this because the story teller tells us.

Literally, in the Greek this verse says,

“Are you not judging among yourselves, and being judges with thoughts from evil.

Well – there’s the motive.

More Greek…

διαλογισμῶν  πονηρῶν

(dialogismown ponayrown – note the diacritical marks)

“thoughts from evil”

Why is it evil? That, James is going to get into…later.

And now I have to ask, “What’s my ‘so what’ here?”

If I take the time to examine my motives, I pretty much know why I do everything I do. And so, being “judgy” about which can of cat food I’m going to give Laska the love kitty – that’s a good “judgy”. I want his hunger satisfied, and I want him to like it, so I’ll choose with right motives and judge correctly – and it won’t be evil. But if my motive is anything other than 1st Corinthians love, if it’s one Our Lord Jesus would not have, then it’s not good – and it’s evil. I’m gonna make a lot of judgments today – and I’m gonna be asking motive – love or evil. Today I’m keeping score.

That’s my so what. Is yours the same? Can you tell me below in the comments what your “so what” is for this? I used to learn alone, but not anymore, I learn so much from you guys.

God bless.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Patti March 25, 2011 at 7:35 pm

It is good to remember that judgment is not always bad. After all, Jesus had plenty to say to the religious rulers of his day. But I must admit, my judgments are not always done in love. Thank you for the reminder about judging in love.


Craig March 26, 2011 at 7:31 am

Amen – except we use the high and lofty “spiritual” word – discernment. And then there is only one person who can judge perfectly – so being judgy – in the bad sense – that is dangerous – it’s beyond dangerous – as James is about to get into. Thank you for being here – and making me think – God bless.


Debbie March 25, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Thank you for this Craig, for helping us understand the bad and good judgey. I really appreciate it, because we do have to make judgments each day. And I have a question, if you get time. Where and how does discernment fit in? Is there a way to tell if my discernment is just being bad judgey or not?
God bless you and your blogs!


Craig March 26, 2011 at 7:37 am

“Judgy” – that spelling – since it’s not really a word who knows the right spelling – I go back and forth – i think I like it without the e. It’s a softer word with the “e”, Sorry – got side tracked :)

Discernment – I saw this last night – slept on it. I think the best way “tell if my discernment is just being bad judgey or not?” is the easiest way. It’s become so trite – but the original idea is sound. WWJD? To insert Our Lord in the situation – and ask – what would he do, how would he judge, and then realize we should have that same attitude – albeit without the authority to do things like turn over money changers’ tables – but using his authority, and his mind, which we have.

I think that’s it – does it help? God bless you Deb.


A. March 25, 2011 at 11:28 pm

I was thinking that, too, Deb. There seems a place for proper discernment/evaluaton; it can just be so tricky sometimes knowing when it is ok and when it is judgy. I guess we have to learn to listen to our hearts on this…as with so many things….listen to the Father of hearts. How to have a more objective view…proper response without the elevated nose…


Craig March 26, 2011 at 7:40 am

Go with the heart is right – but in answering Deb’s question – really thinking about it – it’s not our heart we should follow – but his. We pretty much know what Jesus would do in just about any sitch. Have to use God’s Heart, as you put it, “listen to the Father of hearts” – I think that’s the thing.


Michelle March 26, 2011 at 5:23 am

It is so easy to judge, especially when other people don’t do things the same way I do. At my work (being in a church run op shop), we pray each day (that I’m on, anyway) that we will see and hear people as God sees and hears them, that we will be able to look past the behaviour and attitude into the heart. It makes such a difference. We may still judge, but can get pulled up pretty quickly by that little inner voice that says “this is My child, and I love them.” Helps bring perspective and give us extra grace and patience to deal with the ones that choose to spend half a day in our company while we would rather be ‘working’ on tasks rather than listening to people. Sometimes we forget the people are why we are there. =)


Craig March 26, 2011 at 7:41 am

I have nothing to add to that at all – except Amen. Amen Michelle. God bless.


Debbie March 26, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Thank you so much, Craig, A, and Michelle. This all helps immensely. :) I can see the times He has given me discernment into a matter was not so that I could judge the person or point fingers or lower the boom on them . . .but so I could respond to them in love, knowing what He knew. God bless you! Hope you have a good weekend Craig!


A Different Michelle:) March 26, 2011 at 10:32 pm

I started to blog on this and wrote out a much longer, wordier blog that I never published. I’ve always believed that “Judging” is very important for a Christian. There are certain people that we’re told to avoid….even put out of the church. How can we do that without making some sort of judgement?

But you are exactly right…it’s all about our heart. We don’t “avoid” certain people because we are so much better than them. We do it because we’re just like them, and sin is contagious. And always it’s done with a spirit of love, trying to draw them back, At least that’s my take on it.

Without teaching my children a certain amount of “judginess” (yea, I just made that up, hehehe) a.k.a discernment, they would never learn how to avoid getting in with the “wrong crowd” that may lead them down the same path. But it’s just as important to teach them to love others and walk humbly before the Lord, without even a hint of self-righteousness.

BTW, your comment on my blog blessed me immensely. Thank you. And I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you praying for my son. That means the world to me!


Craig April 2, 2011 at 12:31 pm

First – thank you for being here. I learn so much from comments, so never worry about writing too much here :)

I think there is a place for church discipline – but those judging better be fair or else Our Lord is going to have issues with them – you never want him to have issues with you. Then I guess too that we also have to discern what church might be a good fit for us – we’ve messed up by having a gazillion denominations – but the good thing is that there’s a fit for everybody.

With your kids – you are so obviously on top of the sitch.

As I’ve thought more on this I’m thinking there’s a big diff between judging a behavior based on God’s standards – and judging the value of a person. I’m thinking it’s that second one that gets us into trouble. That’s the one that drives God crazy – well not really – but you know :)

Thank you for being here. I’ve been where your son is – i am grateful for the opportunity to pray for him – and you. God Bless.


Hillcrest Cottage April 16, 2011 at 11:08 am

I love this discussion because we live in world that has so perverted the word “judge”. All the time people will piously declare, “The Bible tells us not to judge.” or “Only God can judge.” or “We’re not supposed to judge.”

The biblical answer is just as you have said: we are not supposed to judge, but, at the same time, we ARE supposed to judge. The statements above are ignorant evaluations of Scripture intended to give us the convenience of living a PC Christian life where every one does what is right in their own eyes and nobody says anything about anybody’s business. This ignorance also stems from the fact that our English language seems to fail us and the Greek language explains it more more clearly and accurately. Thanks for pointing all of this out for us!


Craig April 17, 2011 at 6:41 pm

I’ve heard it said that the most quoted verse by non believers is “judge not lest ye be judged”. My experience is that it’s true. Thank you very much for finding me – and reading. and your kind words. God Bless you and all of yours.


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