Day 54: Matthew 7:1-2
Do not judge others, so that God will not judge you, for God will judge you in the same way you judge others, and he will apply to you the same rules you apply to others.
[With these words Jesus continues to teach about the Law of Moses as the Sermon on the Mount continues. He takes some of the most important topics and explains to his disciples, in specific terms, what it means to be “more faithful than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires” (See Day 23)].
So there it is again. That Karma thing that Jesus keeps repeating – what goes around comes around; God will treat you the same way that you treat others (See Days 11, 35, 42, and 43).
So what does it mean to judge? Don’t we in fact judge all the time? Aren’t we supposed to use our common sense to distinguish good from bad, right from wrong, helpful from harmful? Are we just supposed to accept everything everyone does with a smile, no matter how hurtful it might be to them and those around them? Does it mean we have to approve of everything everyone does? Does this mean we have no responsibility to each other? No accountability?
The word “judge” as used in this scripture is the Greek word diakrinó, which means to separate, distinguish, discern one thing from another; to doubt, hesitate, waver. It literally means, ‘to separate throughout or wholly’ (dia, ‘asunder,’ krinō, ‘to judge,’ from a root kri, meaning ‘separation‘), then, to distinguish, decide. (http://biblesuite.com/greek/1252.htm).
Look at the defining words I’ve highlighted in bold. When I judge other people, I separate myself from them. I put up a wall between us. I am really competing with them. I am comparing myself to them until I find something that makes me feel superior to them. Then I elevate myself by putting them down. I try to change what should be a lateral relationship by making the other person subservient in my own mind.
Jesus doesn’t want us to separate ourselves from others. He wants us to love each other. He wants us to connect, to empathize, to support one another. He doesn’t want us to obsess on our differences; he wants us to find common ground. He doesn’t want us to put others down; he wants us to lift them up. But none of this plays very well in our competitive society where judging others is just one of the many techniques we use to “get ahead”.
The public school system I grew up in was probably pretty typical for its time. Our teachers encouraged us to learn to be competitive so that we would be successful in life. I remember an incident in the first grade where I saw that my friend Marie was struggling with the questions on a test, so I tried to help her. The teacher saw me and accused me of cheating. She even called my parents. I thought it was really unfair. I realized at an early age that the mission of the school was not just to teach me how to read and write; it was also trying to teach me to be competitive and selfish. It was trying to teach me to look out for myself and to strive to be better than others.
By the time I graduated from college I had learned to be appropriately critical and competitive, to have unrealistically high expectations of everything, and to be assertive about expressing my opinions as though they were facts. Academia rewarded a critical, analytical, judgmental mind. It’s always possible to find fault in anything if you look long enough. In those days I had a very negative view of the world, which I thought was run by idiots. I believed that being able to give and receive criticism was a sign of enlightenment and sophistication. Even though I really hated receiving criticism and it made me very angry, which in turn made me more cynical and critical.
Over the years I became increasingly disillusioned with this way of looking at things. After I had a converting experience and gave my life to God I began to read the Bible seriously. I realized that my so-called academic mindset was not “Christian,” but the critical soundtrack in my head continued to play. Later as a pastor’s wife I learned to keep my criticisms to myself, but people can tell when you are judging them even if you don’t say a word. Just like….THE SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE CHURCH LADY! Gag!
I remember the night that it all turned around for me. At our church in Chicago we had prayer meetings every Wednesday night. The principal of the local grade school, Melovee Williamson, began to attend these meetings. She was a lovely woman with a very sweet spirit, self assured and completely poised. Despite her powerful presence she put people at ease. She was also a woman of great faith and discernment who was highly respected in the community. One night she shared with me, “You know, God has given us all gifts. Mine is the gift of encouragement. I am an encourager.”
It really hit me hard. I realized that I was definitely NOT an encourager. I realized that I was a critic and a complainer. I decided then and there that judging others was truly an inappropriate activity. I decided that I would become an encourager. So I watched her and learned. I learned how to look for the good in everyone, and to express my authentic appreciation often. The more I did this, the better I felt about everyone around me, and the better I felt about myself. The soundtrack in my head changed. I began to see everything in a whole new light and I felt better about the world. I felt liberated, free to expect great things. A wise woman, that Melovee.
What a difference we can make in people’s lives when we bless them with encouragment! I like this quote from Olympic weightlifter Jim Stovall, “You need to be aware of what others are doing, applaud their efforts, acknowledge their successes, and encourage them in their pursuits. When we all help one another, everybody wins.”
Now that’s good judgment!
Gospel Music Break: Be Blessed by Bishop Paul S. Morton http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvcYCzMBnQA
What does this scripture say to you?