“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”
Thursday, 8 October 2020
Jesus tells us not to judge and we will not be judged. This is one of the most difficult lines in Scripture to understand. It is often quoted and misquoted when we want to justify something that we – or another – have done.
If we are honest with ourselves, we know that we do judge. Daily we judge between what is good and what is bad, who is trustworthy and who is not, what is safe and what is dangerous.
The verb ‘judge’ means to form an opinion or conclusion about something. It can also mean to separate, pick out, select or choose. Jesus certainly was not saying that we cannot evaluate the choices we, or others, make. He did this himself. It is how we evaluate them that is key to understanding this text.
Jesus is warning us about a certain kind of judgement, one that is condemnatory. We do have a right to judge what is right or wrong. However, we should not judge others to condemn them. There is a big difference between judging something which we know would not be right for us and simply condemning someone thinking that we are correct and righteous. We can disagree with someone’s decisions and yet still respect that person, and their decision, because they too are made in the image and likeness of God.
Jesus also tells us that the reason we should not make condemnatory judgements on others is that the standard by which we judge others may come back to haunt us. If we condemn, we too will be condemned.
We are tempted to condemn others based on our own opinions and, very often, do not take the whole picture into account. Often our condemnatory judgement lacks mercy, compassion and knowledge of another person’s situation. Condemnatory judgement says, “I am better. I am right.” Jesus invites us to humbly choose what is good for us and let others decide for themselves. In the end, the way we judge will be evaluated by God.
Who might I have judged in a condemnatory way? In what ways might the judgements I have made come back to haunt me?