Thursday, September 25, 2003

Sawdust & Two-by-Fours

This is part 2 of series of essays on what Jesus says about judging others. To start from the beginning, click here.

Why Judging Others is a Bad Idea

Jesus said,

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For by the standard you judge you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive. (Matthew 7:1-2)

Besides the fact that He has commanded that we do not judge others, there are good reasons to obey.

1. What do we know? We do not see things as the Lord sees them. Samuel was a prophet. The Lord sent him to the house of Jesse to anoint a new king of Israel. Jesse brought his oldest son before Samuel:

When they arrived, Samuel noticed Eliab and said, “Surely, here before the Lord stands his chosen king!” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t be impressed by his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:6-7)

Look at the confidence that Samuel had that he saw Eliab correctly. "Surely, here before the Lord stands his chosen king!" The world conditions us to connect physical and athletic beauty with moral beauty. The books we read and the movies all present heroes and heroines as attractive people. God sees truly and we do not. Therefore, odds are that we will judge wrong.

2. We are not that innocent. Here is a list of bad and wicked behavior that appears at the end of Romans 1.

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done. They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless. Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32)

That's enough to get your blood boiling. No wonder Paul begins by talking about the "wrath of God revealed from heaven against all ungodliness." It is just at this point, when you are thinking such thoughts, that Paul pulls a fast one:

Therefore you are without excuse, whoever you are, when you judge someone else. For on whatever grounds you judge another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge practice the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment is in accordance with truth against those who practice such things. And do you think, whoever you are, when you judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself, that you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know that God’s kindness leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourselves in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed! (Romans 2:1-5)

Have you not often seen a friend criticizing another friend and thinking, "But you're the same way?" Have you ever in your life met anyone who concluded--correctly--such an observation about himself? Every time that we judge another person, we are in danger of condemning ourselves by that same standard. I say it's not worth it.

3. It is not our job. No one hired us to judge the earth. When we do, we assume a larger task than we might, at first, realize. Note these words of James:

Do not speak against one another, brothers and sisters. He who speaks against a fellow believer or judges a fellow believer speaks against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but its judge. But there is only one who is lawgiver and judge—the one who is able to save and destroy. On the other hand, who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11-12)

James' logic is as interesting as it is sobering. If you speak against or judge a fellow believer, you speak against and judge the Law. I had to give much thought to what James means by this. I have concluded that if I judge someone, I am saying that such and such a commandment of the Law applies to the situation. In saying that, I have judged the applicability of the Law and have, therefore, judged the Law. When I judge the Law incorrectly, I have implicitly spoken against the Law by reason of bad application. Judgment is the prerogative of the One who gave the Law.

4. It is not what the Father typically does. We are much quicker to judge and demand payment that our Father in heaven. Luke records these words of Jesus:

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:35-36)

Paul told us that it is God's kindness that leads to repentance. Jesus here tells us that we should love our enemies, be kind to ungrateful and evil people, and show mercy. This is the way of the Father and should be our way too. Judging often works the opposite.

5. It is not safe. Unless you believe you can stand before the Judge and receive a commendation for good service during your life here, judging others is just not a good thing to do.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use will be the measure you receive.” (Luke 6:37-38)

For judgment is merciless for the one who has shown no mercy. But mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13)

There is a simple formula here. I judge = My judgment. I condemn = My condemnation. I forgive = My forgiveness. Judging others leads to danger.

6. Some books are better left closed. If I show mercy and avoid judging and condemning others, is it possible that in some future day, some books about me could remain closed?

And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne. Then books were opened, and another book was opened—the book of life. So the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to their deeds. ... This is the second death—the lake of fire. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, that person was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:12, 15)

I would prefer the books of my life, containing good and bad, be left closed. My name is in the Book of Life. Let that be the book opened on my behalf.

7. Mercy is better. Much more good comes from mercy than judgment. Look at these verses:

Or do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know that God’s kindness leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)

Above all keep your love for one another fervent, because love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

For judgment is merciless for the one who has shown no mercy. But mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13)

How many more marriages have been saved by a husband showing mercy over his wife's failings or the wife showing mercy to her husband's failings. What times have peace have come from laying aside the demands of justice and showing mercy instead. Mercy is the kindness of God. Mercy covers up and hides sin. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

As you can see, the case for mercy over judgment has broad support in the New Testament. Therefore, we must train our hearts to extend mercy to a greater degree.

Friday: A Qualification.

<>< Test Everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


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