Sunday, September 4, 2011

Proverbs 24:23-26 commentary; Judge a righteous judgment

23 ¶ These things also belong to the wise. It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment. 24 He that saith unto the wicked, Thou art righteous; him shall the people curse, nations shall abhor him: 25 But to them that rebuke him shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon them. 26 Every man shall kiss his lips that giveth a right answer.

Matthew Henry, writing in the early 1700’s, takes these verses together. He says that, in the first verse, the reference to “the wise” is a reference to judges and magistrates. This is understandable in the literal sense for the Hebrews as they lived under God’s Law which covered not only their religious duties to God but their civil duties to man. Henry would also think it to be taken in the literal sense for the state of his day as the English also believed that they lived in a sort of theocracy under God’s Laws with the King as the head of the church on earth.

However, that notion has been shown to be false as we have seen through history that the sole purpose of the modern nation-state has been to perpetuate itself and its power not only over the people over whom it executes governance but also, inasmuch as possible, over its neighbors and fellow nation-states. The empire of Great Britain was, like all other empires of man, one of the greatest forces for evil in the world and more than any other empire besides the one that inherited the Roman Empire, the one that rules its people throughout all countries from the Vatican, it has given us the confused and mixed up world system we have today, its superficial dedication to Christ notwithstanding.

As the Christian must view the verses under the doctrine of the Law specifically given to God’s chosen people, the Hebrews of Ancient Israel, in a spiritual sense or he becomes a worldly monster much like Imperial England, Germany, or Spain let’s try to apply these verses to the individual Christian. The Christian must apply God’s standard equally in all things, if he or she is wise. For instance, take these verses quoting Christ in His ‘Sermon on the Mount’ to some of His beard wearing, pork abstaining, temple going, Sabbath observing disciples.

Matthew 7:1 ¶ Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. 6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

There are many issues covered in these few short sentences such as in verse 6 not placing your converts to Christ under the control of false male or female teachers who are teaching an ungodly religion. However, our focus is more narrow. Jesus says to judge others by the same standard you judge yourself. He states, at least to the Jews who are still under the doctrines of the Law at the time of His most famous sermon, that they will be judged by the same standards they use to judge others. As a consequence it would be better for them not to judge others at all. He goes on to say that they are willing to judge the speck in their brother’s eye while ignoring the beam in their own. We often point our fingers at other people’s faults and sins and ignore our own glaring defects. As I have pointed out before, for others we issue accusations, for ourselves excuses.

Paul, in writing of doctrine to the Christians at Rome, as he prepares his own argument against legalism and self justification in the book of Romans, gives a brief moral history of man and ends it with a punch that must have knocked his readers off their feet. Please bear with me as I believe a large section of the passage must be read to get the whole effect, and I will read it as it was meant to be read, with pauses at punctuation marks, lest my own emphasis give the wrong impression.

Romans 1:16 ¶ For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

19 ¶ Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

2:1 ¶ Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. 2 But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. 3 And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?

So, to judge by a righteous standard we must use the same standard for others as we do for ourselves. It is the rare Christian, particularly a fundamentalist like myself, who has not at some point held the truth in unrighteousness and judged others, particularly in today’s society, those who engage in homosexual behavior or those who support the unfettered constitutional right to abortion, by a different set of moral standards than we do ourselves. Of course, the self righteous Christian has a problem even seeing the truth of this perspective because they are so very convinced they have never been guilty, since being saved, of any of the sins of action AND thought listed in the verses in Romans.

In verse 24 in Proverbs, it talks about calling someone that is evil, good. For instance, under the civil law, declaring someone’s argument in a conflict as correct who is clearly wrong and oppressing the other side, usually the person without the deeper pockets. How can our own country, secular nation or Christian one, as either side will profess, hope for any good to come of us when even Christians extol the virtues of celebrities, the wealthy, and the powerful;

Psalm 12:8 The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.

For a Christian to hold out as a person to honor, respect with your attention and money, and your conversation people who are so vile and wicked to the extreme: actors and actresses, sports figures, music personalities, and many politicians, also men and women of the business world, is an absurdity to the extreme. How many Christians, I wonder, enjoyed the appropriately named television show, American Idol? How many Christians have put money in the pockets of people who denounce their faith and ridicule their intelligence like Bruce Willis or Ian McKellan, by watching their movies and praising their performances? What about people like a former president of the US who called Jesus Christ his “favorite philosopher” when God calls philosophy “vain deceit”?

Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

It is impossible to judge a righteous judgment if you use a different standard for yourself than you do others and it is impossible to judge a righteous judgment if you uplift wicked men and women as being examples of anything good.

Finally, the verses in Proverbs state that by judging righteously you will win the approval of others. This was certainly applicable in the Jewish state when it honored God but would hardly have an application today as the whole world lies in wickedness (1 John 5:19), the proof of which lies in the fact that more often than not people in positions of authority are praised for their indecent decisions rather than righteous ones. [By the way, we find the concept of men kissing each other as inappropriate and gross but there are many customs of other cultures that might appear so as they are alien to our contemplation. I refer you to Paul’s references to a “holy kiss” (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26) and to Peter’s reference to a “kiss of charity” (1 Peter 5:14) although I wouldn’t recommended you walking up to a Christian in our culture and giving them a smooch, even on the cheek, as their might be trouble.]

So, let me repeat, for the Christian to contemplate, what I have taken away as the spiritual value for you of these verses in Proverbs;

It is impossible to judge a righteous judgment if you use a different standard for yourself than you do others and it is impossible to judge a righteous judgment if you uplift wicked men and women as being examples of anything good.

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