Elisabeth Elliot on Judgment and Humility

I love the work of Elisabeth Elliot. I always find her realistic, pithy honesty refreshing.

In her On Asking God Why, she has a chapter titled “To Judge or Not to Judge.” True to form, she calls it how she sees it.

The only verse about judgment in the Bible which anyone seems to have heard of these days is “Judge not.” There the discussion usually ends. It is tacitly assumed that negative judgments are forbidden. That positive judgments would also come under the interdict escapes the notice of those who assume it is a sin to judge. […]

In the meantime we are given the book of standards by which to judge our own actions and those of others. “By their fruits” we know them. If we were not to judge at all, we would have to expunge from our Christian vocabulary the word is, for whatever follows that word is a judgment: Jack is a fine yachtsman, Mrs. Smith is a cook, Harold is a bum. It depends on how one sees Jack, Mrs. Smith, and Harold.

Jesus told us to love our enemies. How are we to know who they are without judging? He spoke of dogs, swine, hypocrites, liars, as well as of friends, followers, rich men, the great and the small, the humble and the proud, “he who hears you and he who rejects you,” old and new wineskins, the things of the world and the things of the kingdom. To make any sense at all of his teachings requires among other things, the God-given faculty of judgment, which includes discrimination…

The Bible is plain that we have no business trying to straighten out those who are not yet Christians. That’s God’s business…”But surely it is your business to judge those who are inside the church,” (Paul) wrote to the Christians at Corinth, and commanded them to expel a certain immoral individual from the church…It’s pretty clear. And hard to obey…

The key matter of judgment is meekness. Childlikeness might be just as good a word. Meekness is one of the fruits of the Spirit. No one who does not humble himself and become like a little child is going to get into the Kingdom. We can never set ourselves up as judges, for we ourselves are sinners and inclined to be tempted exactly as those we judge are tempted. But if we are truly meek (caring not at all for self-image or reputation) we shall speak the truth as we see it (how else can a human being speak it?). We shall speak it in love, recognizing our own sinful capabilities and never-ending need for grace, as well as the limitations of our understanding. If we are to do the will of God in this matter, as in all other matters, we must do it by faith, taking the risk of being at times mistaken. We may misjudge, but let us be at least honest and charitable. We ourselves may be misjudged. Let us be charitable then, too, and accept it in  humility as our Lord did. “When He was reviled, He reviled not in return.”

Her discussion of receiving judgment is challenging and to the point:

  • If one does right and is judged to be right, he will neither be angry nor hurt. He may, if he is humble, be pleased (is it not right to be glad that right is done?), but he will not be proud.
  • If one who is proud does wrong and is judged to be wrong, he will be both  angry and hurt.
  • If one who is proud does right and is judged to be wrong, he also will be both angry and hurt.
  • If one who is truly humble does wrong and is judged to be wrong, he will not resent it but will in gratitude and humility, no matter what it costs him, heed the judgment and repent.
  • If one who is truly humble does right and is judged to be wrong, he will not give the judgment a second thought. It is his Father’s glory that matters to him, not his own. He will “rejoice and be exceeding glad,” knowing for one thing that a great reward will be his, and for another, that he thus enters in a measure into the suffering of Christ — “when he suffered he made no threats of revenge. He simply committed his cause to the One who judges fairly.”

May we be truly humble, not only in the judgments we make but in those we receive.

1 thought on “Elisabeth Elliot on Judgment and Humility”

  1. Great thoughts! I get so annoyed when Christians tell me \”Don't judge me!\” when they feel angry and hurt and all I'm trying to do is teach the truth in love. The Elliots really are/were amazing Christians.

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