Judging with Righteousness, Wisdom and Mercy
It is recommended that the reader review this article before studying the following two articles.
JUDGING is something wherein we humans often make mistakes. This is basically due to our imperfections. Have you ever had someone misjudge your motives or condemn you on the basis of wrong information? Did you feel that mercy was withheld? On the other hand, has not your own judgment been one-sided at times because of your failing to consider impartially all the facts where others are concerned? Were you, also, remiss in not being merciful? Honesty compels us to admit how far short we all come in this regard.
For judging to be done with righteousness, wisdom and mercy, a standard higher than any set by humans must be observed. That standard is provided by God. We should not only be interested in that standard but be guided by it. Why? Because Jehovah God, the “Judge of all,” will use it when we must stand before his judgment seat. (Heb. 12:23; Rom. 14:10) Should we not, therefore, be governed by what he says is right? That would be the loving and wise course to follow. Any actions or decisions on our part will have lasting benefits only if we are influenced by God’s view of judging matters.
Where can consistent judging according to God’s righteous standards be found today? It is acknowledged that there are still some persons, in official and ordinary walks of life, who are capable of handing down impartial judgments. However, today those who are acquainted with God’s Word and the facts are convinced that, as a whole, this world is not governed by righteous standards. It lies in the power of the wicked one; yes, is misled by him. (1 John 5:19; Rev. 12:9) This includes Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, which the Bible describes as an unclean woman. (Rev. 17:3-5; 18:2-4) God’s people who have come out of her are grateful that they are no longer victims of her perverted judgment on matters of faith and morals. Their confidence is in the arrangement that Jehovah God has restored within the true Christian congregation where faithful appointed elders perform judicial functions as foretold at Isaiah 1:26: “And I will bring back again judges for you as at the first, and counselors for you as at the start. After this you will be called City of Righteousness, Faithful Town.”
In the history of God’s ancient people, judges were first appointed on a large scale shortly after Israel left Egypt in 1513 B.C.E. In trying to handle all the cases requiring the decisions of the true God according to his laws, Moses was in danger of wearing himself out. His father-in-law, Jethro, advised that some of the responsibility be distributed so that better attention could be given to the multitude being led in the wilderness. Thousands of capable men were selected to assist Moses. They were to handle ordinary problems or questions that arose. Moses would continue to bear the primary responsibility of acquainting the people with God’s law and regulations, and of making known to them the way in which they should walk and the work that they should do. A very orderly arrangement was recommended: “But you yourself should select out of all the people capable men, fearing God, trustworthy men, hating unjust profit; and you must set these over them as chiefs over thousands, chiefs over hundreds, chiefs over fifties and chiefs over tens. And they must judge the people on every proper occasion; and it must occur that every big case they will bring to you, but every small case they themselves will handle as judges. So make it lighter for yourself, and they must carry the load with you If you do this very thing, and God has commanded you, you will then certainly be able to stand it and, besides, this people will all come to their own place in peace.”—Ex. 18:13-23.
Later, after they had settled in the land of Canaan, Jehovah raised up judges, not just to hear cases involving violations of law, but to deliver his people from the hands of oppressors. (Judg. 2:18) These judges were appointed as leaders and they also helped the people to know and apply God’s law. They included men like Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah and Samuel, who performed notable exploits and also “effected righteousness,” according to the record at Hebrews 11:32, 33. Other judges in ancient Israel, who served as older men in the community, not only handled legal cases, but shared in administrative duties.—1 Chron. 26:29; 2 Chron. 19:4-7.
Even the kings of Israel were required to read the book of the law, learning to fear Jehovah and observe his word. (Deut. 17:19, 20) They were called upon to judge matters accordingly, if they expected to prosper and have God’s favor.—2 Chron. 1:9-12.
ELDERS AS JUDGES TODAY
What is the arrangement in effect for judging matters among God’s people today? Jehovah has raised up elders who are in a position to serve as judges and counselors. These men must meet the divine requirements set out at 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Their responsibility not only involves handling judicial matters. They also teach and make clear what God requires and encourage the rendering of whole-souled service to God and faithful obedience to his righteous principles.—Col. 3:23; 1 Thess. 5:21; 1 Pet. 1:22.
What is our view of this arrangement as found in the local congregation with which we may associate? We do not want to be like some in the first-century Corinthian congregation who instigated lawsuits against one another before unbelievers. The apostle Paul reproved them, saying: “I am speaking to move you to shame. Is it true that there is not one wise man among you that will be able to judge between his brothers, but brother goes to court with brother, and that before unbelievers?” (1 Cor. 6:5, 6) By resorting to worldly courts to settle matters that could have been handled within the Christian congregation, they were suffering a spiritual setback or defeat. None of us want to be put to shame or suffer regret for failing to view properly the arrangement for judging in harmony with Scriptural procedures today. Rather, we should be moved to express heartfelt appreciation for these theocratic provisions. By heeding the counsel and good judgment coming from those who ‘speak the word of God to us,’ we demonstrate our desire to work closely with the “faithful and discreet slave” class, in subjection to Christ.—Heb. 13:7, 17; Eph. 5:24; Matt. 24:45-47.
With Jehovah’s judgments now being made manifest, we are learning to appreciate the high standards by which we must live. We are being helped properly to decide personal, as well as congregational, matters, even though we are still imperfect. We are being drawn closer to Jehovah and being provided a foretaste of his righteous new order. In anticipation of that glorious time, we can say confidently to Jehovah: “When there are judgments from you for the earth, righteousness is what the inhabitants of the productive land will certainly learn.”—Isa. 26:9.