"But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:10–12, NASB95)
It’s an interesting thing that happens when we slip into having a critical spirit toward others. We shut ourselves off from the forgiveness and patience of God and we embrace our own standard of performance. Sure, the standard may include principles we learn from Scripture as good and right, but the way we hold them is as if the person(s) we are having this attitude with is not acceptable because they….
Usually this happens when we are disappointed or let down, when we don’t get something that we desire. Ken Sande of Peacemaker Ministries charted out in his book “Peacemaking for Families” what he refers to as the progression of an idol. Along with his progression he spent some time considering James 4:1-2a, where we read, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it.” (James 4:1–2, NIV84)
Here we read at the core of the contention that we most frequently have between other people is competing desires which go unsatisfied. Our desires may be for good things and things that are thoroughly biblical in themselves, but there is a difference between having that desire and having that desire satisfied. When the desire goes unsatisfied and we don’t deal with that lack of satisfaction properly or as the Bible says, with contentedness, we start to become more forceful. We refuse to give up on it not being met, and we next start to make demands of the one that we either perceive can meet the desire or at least may be standing in the way of the desire, and sometimes even on those who are easy targets as bystanders. We have moved from “I desire” to “I demand.”
And if we don’t stop there the next step is to start to think harshly toward that barrier person. We start to make judgments concerning them as being unloving, uncaring, unorganized, undependable, or inept. This is just a few of the things that I thought of, but I’m sure you might have some of your own. Because they did not do what they could to satisfy the demand of our desire we now judge them and find them guilty. This moves us from “I desire” to “I demand” to “I judge,” and the only thing left is to punish the guilty culprit (I punish). And in doing this we can be very, very creative.
In our relations with others and even in our relationship with God there are going to be times when our desires are not satisfied. This just goes with the territory. But to move ourselves from the position of one who depends to the one who sits in judgment is a grievous response, and in so doing we take on ourselves something that really belongs to God.
Sure, in our relationships we can be open about our desires and even our disappointments, but there is a big difference between this kind of openness and taking it to the point of sitting in judgment over someone else—including, though we may not want to admit it, God.
As we’ve worked through Romans this subject of leaving the judgment of people to God as the only one who ultimately is the Righteous Judge and the One before whom all of us will kneel one day. At that time we all we be given to praise as to who He is and we also will give an account for what we’ve done. For some this account results in eternal judgment because there is no one who stands in their defense having rejected the salvation given freely in His Son. But for others it will be for a consideration of the works done as beloved, saved, and secure children of God in Christ through whom we have been adopted.
Notice in this passage that Paul is speaking of judging our brothers. This is a reference to other believers in Christ who each and every single one of us belongs to Christ. We have been bought by Him by the price of His shed blood paid on the cross. There is only one God and He is the Judge. It has not been given to us to play this for Him.
Reinforcing that this is not a new concept which might catch them by surprise, Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah. I’ve added just a bit more of the context where we read, “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” (Isaiah 45:22–23, NASB95)
Rather than being focused on the speck in our brother’s eye and seeking to be the judge who deals with it, Scripture tells us that God is our Judge and He will do rightly with all men. This includes us who personally need to deal with the log in our own eyes first so that we might better see and put in perspective the struggles that others are having as well (Matthew 7:3-5)
Scripture tells us that we indeed, though fully forgiven, will have to go before God at His judgment seat. 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 reads, "each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:13–15, NASB95)
Just making it to heaven is a great thing, but to know the pleasure of our God for our faithfulness to that which He has laid before us and to receive His reward for it is beyond imagination. John MacArthur in his commentary on Romans wrote, Our responsibility is not to judge, to despise, to criticize, or in any way belittle our brothers and sisters in Christ. We will not be called on by our Lord to give account of the sins and shortcomings of others, but rather “each one of us shall give account of himself to God.”