“Stop judging by the outward appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”—JOHN 7:24.
1. What did Isaiah prophesy about Jesus, and why is this encouraging?
ISAIAH’S prophecy about Jesus Christ encourages us and gives us hope. Isaiah foretold that Jesus would “not judge by what appears to his eyes, nor reprove simply according to what his ears hear” and that he would “judge the lowly with fairness.” (Isaiah 11:3, 4) Why is this encouraging? Because we live in a world that is full of prejudice, and people judge one another by what they can see. We really need the perfect Judge, Jesus, who will never judge us by our outward appearance!
2. What did Jesus command us to do, and what will we discuss in this article?
2 Every day, we form opinions about others. But we are not perfect like Jesus, so our opinions also are not perfect. We are easily influenced by what we see. Yet, Jesus commanded: “Stop judging by the outward appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24) So Jesus wants us to be like him and not judge others by their appearance. In this article, we will discuss three things that can influence our opinions: a person’s race or nationality, how much money he has, and how old he is. In each case, we will learn how we can obey Jesus and not judge others by their appearance.
DO NOT JUDGE BY RACE OR NATIONALITY
3, 4. (a) Why did Peter change his view of Gentiles? (See opening picture.) (b) What new truth did Jehovah teach Peter?
3 Imagine how the apostle Peter felt when he was asked to go to Caesarea, to the home of a Gentile named Cornelius! (Acts 10:17-29) Peter had grown up believing that Gentiles were unclean. But some things had recently happened that made him think differently. For example, he had received a vision from God. (Acts 10:9-16) In the vision, Peter saw what looked like a sheet coming down from heaven, filled with animals that were considered unclean. Then a voice told him: “Get up, Peter, slaughter and eat!” Peter firmly refused. Then the voice said: “Stop calling defiled the things God has cleansed.” After the vision, Peter did not understand what the voice was trying to tell him. Just then, messengers from Cornelius arrived. The holy spirit directed Peter to go to Cornelius’ home, so he went with the messengers.
4 If Peter had judged “by the outward appearance,” he would never have gone to Cornelius’ home. Jews never went to the homes of Gentiles. So why did Peter go? Even though he was prejudiced against Gentiles, the vision he had seen and the direction of the holy spirit changed the way he thought. After Peter listened to Cornelius, he said: “Now I truly understand that God is not partial, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34, 35) This new understanding was exciting for Peter, and it would affect all Christians. How?
Might we still have some feelings of prejudice, even though we think we are impartial?
5. (a) What does Jehovah want all Christians to understand? (b) Even though we know the truth, what feelings may we still have?
5 Jehovah used Peter to help all Christians to understand that He is not partial. To Jehovah, our race, nationality, tribe, or language does not matter. As long as we fear God and do what is right, we are acceptable to him. (Galatians 3:26-28; Revelation 7:9, 10) You probably already know this. But what if you grew up in a country or a family where prejudice was common? Even though you may think that you are impartial, is it possible that you may still have some feelings of prejudice? Even after Peter helped others to see that God is not partial, he still showed prejudice. (Galatians 2:11-14) So how can we obey Jesus and stop judging others by their appearance?
6. (a) What can help us to get rid of prejudice? (b) What did one responsible brother’s report reveal about him?
6 To find out whether we have any feelings of prejudice, we need to examine ourselves. We need to compare our attitude with what we learn in God’s Word. (Psalm 119:105) We could also ask a friend whether he has noticed any prejudice in us that we cannot see in ourselves. (Galatians 2:11, 14) We may be so used to these feelings that we do not even realize we are prejudiced! This is what happened to one responsible brother. He wrote a report about a hardworking couple who were in full-time service. The husband was from an ethnic group that many people viewed as inferior. The responsible brother wrote many good things about the husband but added: “Although he is of [this nationality], his manners and way of life help others to understand that being [from this ethnicity] does not necessarily mean having a dirty, inferior lifestyle, typical of many from [this] descent.” What is the lesson for us? No matter how much responsibility we have in Jehovah’s organization, we must examine ourselves and accept help so that we may identify any remaining feelings of prejudice. What else can we do?
7. How can we show that “we have opened wide our heart”?
7 If “we have opened wide our heart,” we will replace prejudice with love. (2 Corinthians 6:11-13) Do you prefer to spend time only with people of your own race, nationality, tribe, or language? If so, try to spend time with others as well. You could invite brothers and sisters from different backgrounds to work with you in the ministry. Or you could invite them to your home for a meal or a gathering. (Acts 16:14, 15) In time, your heart will be so full of love that there will be no room for prejudice. Now let us discuss another way that we might judge “by the outward appearance.”
DO NOT JUDGE BY WEALTH OR POVERTY
8. What can we learn from Leviticus 19:15 about how wealth or poverty could affect our view of others?
8 Our view of others could be affected by how rich or how poor they are. Leviticus 19:15 says: “You must not show partiality to the poor or show preference to the rich. With justice you should judge your fellow man.” How could someone’s wealth or poverty affect the way we view him?
9. What sad truth did Solomon record, and what does it teach us?
9 Solomon was inspired to record this sad truth: “The poor man is hated even by his neighbors, but many are the friends of the rich person.” (Proverbs 14:20) What does this proverb teach us? If we are not careful, we could want to make friends with wealthy brothers and not with poor ones. Why is it so dangerous to judge people based on what they have or do not have?
10. What problem did James warn Christians about?
10 If we judge our brothers based on whether they are rich or poor, we could create divisions in the congregation. This happened in some congregations in the first century, and James warned those Christians about it. (Read James 2:1-4.) We cannot allow divisions to exist in our congregation. How, then, can we avoid judging people based on what they have?
We must humbly accept help to identify any feelings of prejudice we may still have
11. Do material things affect a person’s relationship with Jehovah? Explain.
11 We must view our brothers as Jehovah does. A person is not precious to Jehovah because he is rich or because he is poor. Our relationship with Jehovah has nothing to do with how much money or how many material things we have. It is true that Jesus said that “it will be difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of the heavens,” but he did not say that it would be impossible. (Matthew 19:23) Jesus also said: “Happy are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20) But this did not mean that all poor people would listen to Jesus and receive special blessings. There were many poor people who did not follow Jesus. The truth is, we cannot judge a person’s relationship with Jehovah by the material things he has.
12. What do the Scriptures teach both rich and poor people?
12 Among Jehovah’s people, there are brothers and sisters who are rich and others who are poor. But they all love Jehovah and serve him with a complete heart. The Scriptures tell rich people “to place their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God.” (Read 1 Timothy 6:17-19.) God’s Word also warns all of Jehovah’s servants, rich and poor, that it is dangerous to love money. (1 Timothy 6:9, 10) When we view our brothers as Jehovah does, we will not judge them by what they have or do not have. But what about someone’s age? Is that a reason to judge others?
DO NOT JUDGE BY AGE
13. What does the Bible teach us about showing respect to older people?
13 The Bible often mentions that we must respect older people. Leviticus 19:32 says: “Before gray hair you should rise up, and you must show honor to an older man, and you must be in fear of your God.” Proverbs 16:31 tells us that “gray hair is a crown of beauty when it is found in the way of righteousness.” Paul told Timothy not to criticize older men but to treat them as fathers. (1 Timothy 5:1, 2) Even though Timothy had some authority over older brothers, he always needed to be compassionate and respectful.
14. When may we need to correct a person who is older than we are?
14 What if someone older sins willfully or promotes something that does not please Jehovah? Jehovah will not excuse a willful sinner, even if the person is older and respected. Note the principle found at Isaiah 65:20: “The sinner will be cursed, even though he is a hundred years of age.” We find a similar principle in Ezekiel’s vision. (Ezekiel 9:5-7) What is most important, then, is that we respect Jehovah, the Ancient of Days. (Daniel 7:9, 10, 13, 14) Our respect for him will give us the courage we need to correct a person who needs help, no matter how old he is.—Galatians 6:1.
15. What do we learn from the apostle Paul about showing respect for younger brothers?
15 What if a brother is young? Does this mean that he does not deserve respect? No. Paul wrote to Timothy: “Never let anyone look down on your youth. Instead, become an example to the faithful ones in speaking, in conduct, in love, in faith, in chasteness.” (1 Timothy 4:12) When Paul wrote this, Timothy was probably about 30 years old. Yet, Paul had given him very important responsibilities. What is the lesson? We should not judge younger brothers by their age. Think about all that Jesus had done by the time he was only 33!
16, 17. (a) How do elders decide if a brother qualifies to be a ministerial servant or an elder? (b) How might personal opinions or local customs go against what the Scriptures say?
16 In some cultures, people do not respect younger men. As a result, some elders may not recommend a young man to serve as a ministerial servant or an elder, even if he qualifies to do so. But the Bible never says that a brother needs to be a certain age before he can be appointed as a ministerial servant or an elder. (1 Timothy 3:1-10, 12, 13; Titus 1:5-9) If an elder makes a rule about this because of his culture, he is not following God’s Word. Elders should not judge younger men based on their own opinions or on local customs but on the standards in God’s Word.—2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
17 If elders do not follow the Bible’s standards for appointing ministerial servants or elders, they could hold back brothers who qualify to be appointed. In one country, a ministerial servant handled important responsibilities well, and the elders agreed that he met the Bible’s qualifications for being an elder. However, some older elders said that he looked too young to be an elder, so they did not recommend him. Sadly, this brother was not appointed, and it was all because of the way he looked. And it seems that this way of thinking is common in many parts of the world. It is very important that we rely on the Bible rather than on our own opinions or on local customs. Then we will obey Jesus and stop judging others by their appearance.
JUDGE WITH RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT
18, 19. What will help us to see our brothers as Jehovah does?
18 We are imperfect, but we can still learn to see others without prejudice, as Jehovah does. (Acts 10:34, 35) So we must always pay attention to the reminders from God’s Word. When we apply them, we obey Jesus’ command to “stop judging by the outward appearance.”—John 7:24.
19 Soon our King, Jesus Christ, will judge all people. His judgment will be based on God’s righteous standards, not on what he sees or hears. (Isaiah 11:3, 4) We truly look forward to that wonderful time!