The start of this chapter is altered significantly in the Joseph Smith Translation. It reads:
Now these are the words which Jesus taught his disciples that they should say unto the people. Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgment.JST, Matthew 7:1–2
This clarification is particularly important, because instead of the Savior admonishing us to avoid judgments at all cost, He is warning to me to be careful in my judgments, that I don’t judge unrighteous judgments, or unmerciful judgments. (See Alma 41:14) I need to say this again: Harsh justice is not righteous judgment. Merciful judgments are righteous judgments.
Here is another perspective on righteous judgments:
And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit.Doctrine and Covenants 11:12
In any discussion on judgment, the council and direction offered by the prophet Mormon must be considered: Moroni 7:15-19.
There are a couple of areas that I’m exploring this morning that relate to judgment. One is personal obedience and how my experiences from the mission, church, and family service have influenced my perspective and direction.
New morning, and I am coming in after a morning walk through my gardens (backyard) after a day of rain. I can’t help to be enraptured by all the new growth, and life which is just so eagerly growing around me. It only requires water. I see a strong gospel type in these things.
Now in my morning studies, I read from proverbs: “The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.” (Proverbs 11:25, emphasis added) I see in this a promise. The watering is the teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So the teacher is strengthened in the strengthening of the students.
I am called to preach the Gospel in every setting. At home, at church, among friends and family. Water is needed everywhere for life to grow. It is also interesting that I am caused to considering this in a discussion of judgment, with a mandate to judge righteous judgments. What does this mean? Do I withhold water from one that would not be watered, because I judge them as not needing or wanting water? I am sitting with these questions, recognizing the need to water the ground for it to grow.
Righteous Judgment Demands Humility
Reviewing the above notes, it strikes me as significant the connection between humility and righteous judgments. Or rather, to walk proudly is the very essence of unrighteous judgment, for the proud lack discernment and perspective.
I am reading straight out of the book of Psalms, King David (a great judge) being its author, and it strikes me that he reveals a key of this approach to judgment.
False witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge things that I knew not.
They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul.
But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.
I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother.Psalm 35:11-14
David did not exalt himself against his enemy, but rather he abased himself, and attempted to make himself as one with them. He mourned for them in their sufferings. He made himself as a brother or a friend. He did this without gaining the advantage of converting his enemies into friends. Yet, this gives the judge a perspective of mercy and compassion.
There is nothing to gain in this approach to judgment, except the truth. There is no ulterior motive, no financial compensation, no strategic advantage; this allows a true judge in Christ to see things that the wicked cannot see. It allows the true judge to consider things that others would not consider. But it really resonates with me this morning that nothing else will result from being a righteous judge except the truth, which is right, which is mercy, which is abundance, which is good.