A Godly Leader’s Judgment
Has anyone ever said to you, “Stop judging me!” In Matthew chapter 7 Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Is Jesus forbidding you and me to exercise judgment in any circumstance? What is Jesus actually saying to us?
The word, judgment, has multiple definitions, but one is foundational; it is to decide or to discern. You and I exercise judgment hundreds of times every day. Every time we face a choice, we must weigh the options and decide. That is judging. It is making a distinction between two things. Hopefully, for Christ-followers, it is a distinction between good and best rather than good and evil. Jesus isn’t forbidding that kind of judgment.
A judge in his official capacity renders a verdict. He has weighed, or judged, the evidence and is now ready to pronounce the sentence. That sentence is a judgment. So, judgment, in this case, is both a process and an act. Obviously, Jesus wasn’t forbidding this kind of judgment either.
In some copies of the Scripture, the word judgment in Matthew 7 has a footnote that points to the words condemn or condemnation.We get our English word, critic, from the Greek krino. We can quickly see from the context, that Jesus isn’t forbidding all kinds of judgment. He is forbidding unfair or unjust criticism. The illustration of the speck and the log in one’s eye clearly shows that. Later on in the chapter, Jesus calls us to beware of false prophets. We heed that command by making judgments about the fruit produced by their lives.
As I said earlier, we make many judgments every day. Some of them carry consequences that affect only us, but some affect many people. Whether I wear a red shirt or a blue one affects only me. Whether I choose to speed through a traffic light changing from yellow to red or stoppping, can have life-altering consequences for myself and others.
In our study last week from the opening verses of Second Corinthians chapter 11, we learned that jealousy can be a good thing. In fact, it can be godly. In today’s teaching, we’ll learn how judgment can also be positive and godly.
Remember, as we begin, that the basic definition of judgment is to discern or decide. So, as I read today’s text, look for the actions that show us how Paul exercised judgment. Our text is Second Corinthians 11:7 to 15. Listen carefully because this is God’s Word to us.
Leaders at every level face many situations where discernment is needed. This text highlights for us several ACTIONS that showcase a godly leader’s judgment.
Keep in mind that the context here is Paul continuing to defend his apostolic ministry from his critics. Even though we don’t have the accusations of his critics written out for us, we can discern what they were by reading what Paul wrote in this letter. In addition, although Paul was a leader, we can apply the actions he takes in this text to the situations we face. So, there is plenty here for us to learn and benefit from regardless of our position.
The First ACTION (that showcases a godly leader’s judgment) is,
They Serve Selflessly
Evidently, Paul refused to accept financial support from the church in Corinth. The question is, why? After all, in his first letter, he spent one whole chapter, chapter 9, on the importance of the church caring for and supporting the needs of their leaders. He reminded them from Scripture and from common sense that the laborer is worthy of payment for his services. And Jesus had commanded that those who labor in the Gospel should live of the Gospel.
So, why did Paul judge that it would be unwise to accept support in this setting? He said, “have I committed a sin by abasing myself that you might be exalted, because I preached the Gospel to you without charge?” Some in Corinth saw Paul’s practice of a trade, tentmaking, as being something humiliating for an apostle or church leader. But was it a sin?
We know there were false teachers in the church in Corinth. Their followers became factions within the church. Some of them were accusing Paul of not following his own teaching. “Practice what you preach! Do you think we don’t have the financial means to take care of you? You offend us with your lack of confidence.” Others accused him of making a gain for himself through his tent-making trade. His disinterest in their support was just a camouflage for his greed!
But what was Paul’s goal in this situation? Was there a reason why he was setting aside his right to be supported? Think about some of the tensions that existed in this church and in their relationship with Paul. His goal was to remove anything from his relationship with the Believers in Corinth that could be the basis of an accusation of impropriety.
As we’ve seen before, Paul uses sarcasm and hyperbole when writing in response to his critics. In verse 8 he says, “I robbed other churches…” Was Paul wearing a mask and carrying a dagger to force others to hand over their money? Not really! He makes the point that he accepted from other churches more than their fair share of his support because “I don’t want to be burdensome to you…” In fact, he said, “I will continue this practice.”
Paul had every right to expect support from the Corinthians. Making tents in order to provide for his needs took the time he could’ve spent sharing the Gospel or teaching. But because of his understanding of the situation at Corinth, he judged, he discerned, he decided that the best course of action was to exercise a spirit of selflessness and forego what was rightfully his.
A godly leader, or any godly person, for that matter, will understand this action of serving selflessly. We need to weigh each situation in light of the circumstances and the facts on the ground. It takes wisdom and discernment to make the best possible choice for everyone involved. Like Paul, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us in our desire to serve selflessly for His glory and the good of others.
The Next ACTION (that showcases a godly leader’s judgment) is,
They Love Deeply
To introduce this point, Paul asks another question. “Is it because I don’t love you that I have made this decision not to burden you with my support?” Absolutely not! God is my witness that I love you deeply. He understands my motives.
In Second Corinthians 2:4, Paul wrote about his anguish and tears as proof of his deep love for them. In 6:11 he wrote “O Corinthians!We have spoken openly to you; our heart is wide open.” In other words, Paul hadn’t hidden anything from them. He had made himself vulnerable to them by baring his heart. He longed to see them come to maturity in Christ so that the Gospel would be spread and embraced by those around them.
Paul had poured his life into this group of people for a year and a half. He must have had many close relationships there. Imagine the pain of having those whom he loved so deeply turn around and question his motives. Only those who love deeply know the pain that results when that love is either rejected or unreturned. There are few things more painful than having others assign wrong motives to your expressions of genuine love.
But notice what Paul said in verse 12. “What I am doing, I will continue to do. That will cut out or undermine THE accusation of monetary gain from the other complaints being lodged against me.” Evidently, there were those in Corinth who caught eagerly at any pretext for disparaging Paul and his ministry. By not accepting financial support from them, Paul cut off at least one of those complaints. His desire was that, ultimately, his motives and the motives of his critics in Corinth would become clear to all who looked on.
If you’re in leadership then you know there are always those who are looking for occasions to criticize what you do, what you don’t do, or how you do it. Loving your critics deeply with the love of Jesus is the only antidote to discouragement, cynicism, and defeat. Like Paul, we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
No one loved more deeply than Jesus. Paul embraced that love and extended it to others. Let us commit to doing the same in our judgment of others. Serving selflessly and loving deeply will lead us logically to the final action.
The Final ACTION (that showcases a godly leader’s judgment) is,
They Warn Specifically
We live in a time where it’s considered “unloving” confront sin, to expose error or identify false teachers. But if leaders are serious about protecting those under their authority and responsibility, they must call out false teachers and false doctrine. As godly leaders, we need to exercise careful judgment without being harsh and vindictive, but we also must be specific enough so people know what we’re talking about.
Paul says his critics in Corinth are pseudo-apostles. The prefix pseudo means false or counterfeit. They claimed the title but lacked the calling or the authority. In addition, they were deceitful workers. Paul’s description comes from an old word that means to ensnare. And if you remember what was going on in Corinth, these false teachers were attempting to ensnare people so they could add them to their faction. There are many false teachers like this today.
Some years ago, I was walking in the woods on a narrow path. I was moving slowly, looking for wildlife. At one point, something caused me to look down at my feet, and there was a snare. It wasn’t going to do me any harm, I was too big. But someone has set that snare for a reason, most likely hoping to catch a bobcat.
That snare was nearly invisible. It blended in so well that if you didn’t know it was there, you’d walk right by it. Whoever placed the snare was using their knowledge of the animal’s habits to their advantage. Finding a place where the quarry passes regularly works to the advantage of the one setting the snare.
Another advantage is knowing the habits or weaknesses of your quarry. Some animals prefer certain foods. Some are captivated by shiny things. Some are very suspicious. Some are more active at night. All of this knowledge is useful for success. These false teachers in Corinth were using their knowledge of people’s weaknesses to ensnare them in their trap.
Further, they were masquerading as apostles. A masquerade is a disguise, it’s a false face or clothing that hides the real person. Native Americans from the plains had a saying about people like this; “all hat – no cattle.” A more modern term is “wanna-be.” So, these false teachers were passing themselves off as something they really were not.
And Paul says, that really shouldn’t surprise us. Satan himself, the prince of darkness, masquerades as an angel of light. The prince of darkness clothes himself in the garb of light in an attempt to deceive the saints! As you may recall, Satan even quoted Scripture to Jesus during the temptation in the wilderness. True to form, Satan twisted it for his purposes, but to the naïve or unsuspecting, he might have been able to pass it off. We see a lot of this today.
So then, it shouldn’t seem strange that Satan’s servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. I’ve said it before in this series of teachings and I’ll say it again because it’s so important; just because someone quotes Scripture doesn’t prove they’re a genuine Christ-follower! The twisting of Scripture to deceive people is a primary tactic of Satan and the false teachers he inspires. And it is rampant today.
Paul’s description reveals the depths of his feelings about the conduct of these leaders in Corinth. Some would accuse him of being judgmental, unloving, or harsh. But if you notice, Paul sticks to the facts. He doesn’t attack personalities, physical appearance or intellectual ability like the false teachers did toward him. He simply but urgently warns the church in Corinth to beware of these false apostles and their false teaching.
Today, more than ever, we need godly leaders who are able to serve selflessly, love deeply, and warn specifically. As was true for Paul, so today, this kind of leadership won’t always be appreciated. But it is necessary.
I close with the words of the apostle Paul to the Ephesian elders from Acts 20:28 to 32 from the English Standard Version. “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore, be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”