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Leviticus 19:15

Judging Your Neighbor

15 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.


Life demands that we judge and make decisions all day long, every day. We must judge between right and wrong, between God's will and our own will, and between matters with assorted priorities. If we are called to serve on a jury, we must decide whether a person has committed a criminal or civil wrong according to the facts of the case. And whether we want to admit it or not, we make judgments about everyone we meet each day.

While our verse seems to be directed at people in authority who would have occasion to sit in judgment over various matters, it should also be applied to the way each of us thinks and reacts toward others. We often demonstrate our respect for people based on their appearance or wealth and this is every bit as much of an injustice as showing bias in a courtroom.

It was customary in those days to offer a wealthy person a seat in the court while making his poorer opponent stand or sit in a less convenient or comfortable location.

John Gill wrote, "...the Jewish writers, particularly Maimonides suggest that there was to be no difference between a rich man and a poor man while their cause was trying; that they were to be clothed either both in a rich habit, or both in a mean one; and that their posture was to be alike, whether sitting or standing; as well as that no favour should be shown to one more than to another; as that one might have liberty to speak as much and as long as he pleased, and the other bid to be short; or the one be spoken tenderly to, and the other harshly:" (John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible)

This applied also to the assembly of saints who were dispersed abroad and, therefore, equally to us. James wrote to the dispersion, saying, "My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?" (James 2:1-4)

James applied the rule to the "assembly," literally, "the synagogue." This is where the Jewish saints normally met to teach and learn the scriptures and to decide important matters within their community. As in many of our modern churches, whether intentionally or not, the poor were frequently discriminated against. The dirty, ragged, ill-mannered beggar might have a problem finding a place where he is welcomed.

We do it in our personal lives every day when we cross the street to avoid a homeless person, or find a seat in the subway that is not near a dirty person, or avoid witnessing to someone who "appears" to be dangerous before we even know anything about them.

The last phrase of James 2:4 should strike at the heart of every Christian when it asks if we have not "...become judges with evil thoughts? How can we have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory, stirring in our hearts when we are filled with evil thoughts and are wicked enough to judge others accordingly?

Let us judge men, decide whether they are Christians or not, only by the fruits that their lives produce for the Lord and let us adjust our testimony accordingly so that all can know the faith that lives within us. We must become fruit inspectors instead of judges over men. Christ will do the judging in due time.

Before The Throne:

It is very difficult to judge and treat all people equally. That is why we must allow to do the judging. When we must judge, however, we need to pray and ask God to give us the wisdom to judge honestly and fairly. Pray that he will help you to treat people with equal respect in your daily life, so that you will be well practiced when it comes to judging serious matters.

For Further Study:

(v.15)
Exo 18:21; Exo 23:2-3, 7-8; Deu 1:17; 16:19; 25:13-16; 27:19; 2Ch 19:6-7; Psa 82:2; Pro 18:5; 24:23; Jam 2:6-9;

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