"Don’t condemn others, and God won’t condemn you. God will be as hard on you as you are on others! He will treat you exactly as you treat them. You can see the speck in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the log in your own eye. How can you say, "My friend, let me take the speck out of your eye," when you don’t see the log in your own eye? You’re nothing but show-offs! First, take the log out of your own eye. Then you can see how to take the speck out of your friend’s eye" - Matthew 7:1-5.
I heard a story about a five-year-old boy named Andrew. While visiting a neighbor with his parents, Andrew pulled out his kindergarten class picture and immediately began describing each classmate. “This is
Robert; he hits everyone. This is Stephen. He never listens to the teacher. This is Mark. He chases us and is very noisy." Pointing to his own picture, Andrew commented, "And this is me. I’m just sitting here minding my own business."
Funny thing about humans, about the way we look at other people. I don’t know if it’s based in our history or our genetics as a species or something else. We’re rather quick to sum other people up. We see others doing wrong while we see ourselves as virtuous. With precious little real information, and with an absurd confidence in our ‘character radar’ we make judgements about others. Judgments which are often made too early to be reliable. They’re called, or course, prejudgments or prejudices.
Sometimes it’s based on the way a person looks. I was speaking with a dear brother and sister earlier this week about racism, how it is all around us in the world, and all too often present in the church.
We kind of expect sin to be rampant in the world around us, but when Christians make judgments on people due to their race, when it matters to us what colour or ethnic background someone has, when a couple of mixed race face judgment or just "the look’ they get from others that silently voices disapproval... this is particularly saddening, particularly galling, particularly terrible because racism dishonours God by rejecting what He has made.
Steve Martin said, "Never judge a man unless you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. Then you’ll be a mile away and you’ll have his shoes."
How you been judged based on rumors and lies?
How many times have you been judged because of your past?
Have you been criticized for doing something different or even being different?
Have you ever felt the sting of being unfairly judged by another person when they did not even know you?
Everyone of us has a story...and part of our story includes being judged or condemned unfairly by others...something we really have very little control over.
The challenge with being on the receiving end of judgment or condemnation is to not let people’s unfair judgments shut us down.
In our passage today, though, Jesus doesn’t really address this part of the equation. He’s interested in you and me and he wants us to realize how unhealthy it is to live a critical lifestyle, how God disdains such an attitude to life. He talks in some very strong terms about judging or condemning others. But He doesn’t leave us there alone. He gives the way out of having a critical, judgmental heart.
First of all, Jesus clearly commands us not to judge. I want to mention just in passing that this passage is one of the most abused passages in all of scripture.
When we see someone making a practice of self-destructive behaviour and we gently bring that to their attention, that is not what Jesus is talking about here.
When we see someone who has had too much to drink getting their car keys and getting ready to take off for a drive, and we call them on it, we’re not judging them.
They may say to us, “Judge me not!”, but, of course, they’re using scripture to avoid reality.
The NIV says, “Do not judge”. The Contemporary English Version which we use as often as we can for its inclusive language of ease of understanding, says:
“Do not condemn”. The amplified version, which does its best to capture all the shades of meaning of a text, says: “DO NOT judge and criticize and condemn others”.
So if really want to apply this passage accurately in your life, you don’t stop making intelligent choices using a reasonable amount of discernment. You simply examine yourself to see if in your attitude you are condemning others.
Or are you seeking to help them by using your brain? Warning someone is not judging them. Condemning them as bad or as rejected by God for their behavior is what is being discussed here. And what does Jesus say?
When we judge another to the point of condemnation, we, perhaps oddly, expose ourselves to falling. That’s why Paul writes in Galatians 6:1: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted."
There’s another real downside to condemning others.
How positively you see others is linked to how happy, kind-hearted and emotionally stable you are, according to new research by a Wake Forest University psychology professor.
"Your perceptions of others reveal so much about your own personality," says Dustin Wood, assistant professor of psychology at Wake Forest and lead author of the study, about his findings.
By asking study participants to each rate positive and negative characteristics of just three people, the researchers were able to find out important information about the rater's well-being, mental health, social attitudes and how they were judged by others.
The researchers found a person's tendency to describe others in positive terms is an important indicator of the positivity of the person's own personality traits. They discovered particularly strong associations between positively judging others and how enthusiastic, happy, kind-hearted, courteous, emotionally stable and capable the person describes oneself and is described by others.
"Seeing others positively reveals our own positive traits," Wood says. The study also found that how positively you see other people shows how satisfied you are with your own life, and how much you are liked by others.
In contrast, negative perceptions of others are linked to higher levels of narcissism and antisocial behavior.
"A huge suite of negative personality traits are associated with viewing others negatively," Wood says. "The simple tendency to see people negatively indicates a greater likelihood of depression and various personality disorders."
Given that negative perceptions of others may underlie several personality disorders, finding techniques to get people to see others more positively could promote the cessation of behavior patterns associated with several different personality disorders simultaneously, Wood says.
Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults--unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It seems that God will use some creativity when we stand before Him face to face on the judgment day. Part of the equation, it appears, will be our own standards of judging others. If we’re quick to condemn others, or if we do so without mercy...perhaps we should not expect much different from God.
If we prejudge others as matter of practice, perhaps we should not expect something different from God. Likewise if we do not condemn others, if we apply mercy and grace and give others the benefit of the doubt, we should rest a bit easier as we imagine standing before God, as we all will, one day, to give an account of our lives and our faith in Jesus Christ.
Sources: 1. Materials provided by Wake Forest University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length. 2. Paul Tuck Sermon: Brampton Missionary Baptist Church.