Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I read about the owner of a manufacturing plant who decided to make a surprise tour of his shop. Walking through the warehouse he noticed a young man just lazily leaning up against some packing crates with his hands in his pocket doing nothing.
The boss walked up to him and angrily said, “Just how much are you paid a week?” Well, the young man’s eyes got rather big, and he said, “Three hundred bucks.” The boss pulled out his wallet, peeled off three one hundred bills, gave them to him, and said, “Here’s a week’s pay. Now get out of here and don’t ever come back!” Without a word, the young man stuffed the money into his pocket and took off. The warehouse manager was standing nearby staring in amazement. The boss walked over to him and said, “Tell me, how long has that guy been working for us?” The manager said, “He didn’t work here, he was just delivering a package.”
Being critical and judgemental
How easy it is to make assumptions and pass judgement without knowing all the facts. Maybe you’ve criticised someone unfairly. You didn’t really know what was going on. I think we need to take care of how we judge others. What I’m talking about is one of the most troubling things we do to each other: being critical and judgemental towards others.
Usually, we judge or criticise others because of selfish motives. We find fault with others to bolster our own lack of confidence, or to prove we are smarter, better looking, or happier. We want to feel better about ourselves.
There is so much good in the worst of us – and so much bad in the best of us – that it hardly behooves any of us to talk about the rest of us. The problem really is we are hiding – or trying to hide – our own hypocrisy.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus actually had a lot more to say about judging others than just one sentence:
“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5)
What is clear from the context is that Jesus was talking about people making personal judgments against others, when their own behaviour was much more seriously compromised than the person’s they were judging. In other preaching, Jesus made it clear that He especially had a problem with the hypocrisy of the Jewish religious leaders of His time. In other confrontations with them, Jesus made some pretty strong statements against those leaders:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness…” (Matthew 23:25-28)
It would seem that Jesus’ major concern is that people do not make snap judgments from what they guess might have happened. Many people – both Christians and non-Christians – tend to fall into this kind of judgment problem, if they are not careful to check the facts carefully. For example, one should not judge people based upon the group to which they belong. Not all Muslims are terrorists. Not all Christians are hypocrites. Not all atheists practice rampant immorality.
Judging ourselves before others
Notice that the verse does not tell us not to judge at all, but to judge according to righteousness. If we cannot verify the truth about an accusation, we should keep our mouths shut. This does not mean that we should not dispute the facts or opinions expressed by certain individuals.
We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters. I heard of a car bumper sticker that read, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.”
We must recognise that we are all imperfect—that we are beggars before God. Haven’t we all, at one time or another, meekly approached the mercy seat and pleaded for grace? Haven’t we wished with all the energy of our souls for mercy—to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made and the sins we have committed?
So really, when we judge others, we don’t have all the facts. We aren’t sure what is in their hearts. Only God can know that. According to Mother Teresa, “if you judge people, you have no time to love them”.
Jesus tells us not to judge others at all but rather judge ourselves. Look at what you are doing wrong. Look at your own faults. The more critical we are of others, the less we see the things that are wrong with us. Leave the judging of others to God.
The Apostle Paul said, “Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other. Try your best to let God’s spirit keep your hearts united. Do this by trying to live in peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3).
Let Jesus words in Luke 6 stay with us today:
Don’t judge others, and you will not be judged. Don’t accuse others of being guilty, and you will not be accused of being guilty. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and you will receive. You will be given much, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, it will spill into your lap. The way you give to others is the way God will give to you (Luke 6:37-38).