‘Do not judge!’
‘I said, do not judge. You’re judging people and that’s wrong, so don’t do it.’
‘I’m sorry, but isn’t what you just said . . . er, a judgement? A judgement about my judging of others?’
‘Yes.’ Harrumph . . . bluster and more bluster.
If the Boss says it, he must mean it, right? And he definitely said it. See Matt 7.1-2.
So, what’s going on?
First, let’s admit that judging is hard-wired into us. We judge all the time. What do you think of Donald Trump? Colin Kaepernick? Taylor Swift?
What do you think of the driver who cuts you off? Or the ex who rejected you? Or loud people? Or rude people? In fact, much of life revolves around trying to assess how other people are behaving and then responding appropriately, sometimes cautiously and hopefully, graciously. Furthermore, Christ tells us that we’ll know people by their fruit. You can’t talk about fruit, unless you make a judgement.
So, what’s going on? A couple of options. The rabbi Hillel, who preceded Jesus, wrote this: “Do not judge your fellow man until you have been in his place.” This is progress, I think. Certainly, it induces humility, because of course none of us has lived another’s life. And it is inching us closer to what Jesus is saying.
Which brings us back to his statement in verse 2: With the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
It looks like an Ultimate Judgement is in view here. When will I ever be in a position to truly judge another person fully? Never. I cannot mete out judgement on another person. Only God does that. At some point, a judgement will take place and it won’t be me – or you – who is doing the judging. It will be God.
At this point, we should all experience that horrible sinking feeling at the pit of the stomach. Oh my gosh, this is not going to end well. In front of everyone, my petty moral judgements of others will be unmasked and my own deficits will be revealed. When I judged my brother for his impatience and unkindness, I forgot to consider my own impatience. I’m not what I should be.
God, help me.
So, go ahead and judge. Assess the world around you and don’t feel bad, because there’s a lot about the world that isn’t right. But if you are ever tempted to put on a divine mantle and set yourself up in judgement over others, then just remember . . .
Oh my gosh, that’s not going to end well.