7 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
I think all of us have heard these verses many times. I know I have. We are told not to judge people, and that is true. Jesus does say that here. But what exactly does that mean and how good are we at abiding by this rule? Let’s take a closer look.
The word judge used here is the Greek word krinó which is a primary root word that means to decide, to separate or to come to a choice which is either positive or negative. It can mean to condemn or avenge, or can be positive in the sense of giving esteem. When we judge someone as it is brought into this context, we in essence put them on trial in our own minds and pass a verdict on them, making ourselves judge and jury.
The big problem is that we are not capable of judging with perfect judgment. We are all filled with our own biases and those biases cause us to make wrong judgments about people, their actions and their motives. We make our judgments based on what we see and what we hear (Isaiah 11:3). Judgment based on these things can be way out of line.
Let’s say you are walking down the street just minding your own business. You have your phone in your hand and are reading something. Suddenly you accidently bump into someone walking the other direction. That person turns around and just lashes into you for being so careless. You are wise and hold your tongue, knowing it will do you no good to say anything. It was your fault after all. They are infuriated and go stomping off after giving you a good tongue lashing. You think to yourself that person needs to go home and just chill out! They are way out of it.
Both of you are guilty of judging by what you heard or saw. You heard that person go ballistic and thought they were way off base. You were not aware that they just came from the bank where they found out they were victims of identity theft. They were very distraught as their savings had been depleted quickly and they were in big trouble. While walking out of the bank they bumped into you with your face down in your phone. It was the last straw. Were they right in yelling at you? Perhaps, but a calmer tone sure would have been better. You thought they were just a mean tempered person, but did not know what was going on in there heart. You judged by what you heard.
They, on the other hand, did not realize that the message you were reading was informing you that your sister had just been diagnosed with cancer. It was an important message asking you to call as soon as you could. You actually had a tear in your eye when you were bumped by this person, and were just speechless, not because of their anger, but because of the situation with your sister, The other person thought you were just negligent and preoccupied with your phone doing everyday things that could have waited. They judged by what they saw.
This is an unlikely scenario, but things like this happen way more often than we like to admit. We see or hear something and assume we know what that person is going through in their lives. We do not have the ability in our human nature to step back and try to comprehend what is going on in their lives that might make them feel or act that way. That is called empathy. I remember several decades ago seeing the best example of empathy I have ever witnessed. A gentleman was speaking at our church and he was a very good speaker. He was a good 15 minutes into his message on having empathy when suddenly he stopped and got a blank look on his face. He fumbled around with his papers and stared out at the audience, looking lost and alone. Then he muttered “I seem to have lost my place” in a very modest and meek tone. I sat there feeling so bad for him. He fumbled a little bit longer and then stood up and looked out at the audience again. He then said “That feeling that you just had for me was empathy! You felt really bad for me and could understand how I felt. That’s empathy.” I have never forgotten that example because it showed me that I have a responsibility to try and understand where someone is coming from before I make any judgment at all as to why they are acting the way they are.
In Deuteronomy 1:17, Moses is told not to regard anyone’s stature when he is judging between people. We could add to this their race, color, sex, height, weight, hairstyle, clothes they wear, what they eat, etc. The list goes on endlessly. All of these things have no place being regarded when we are trying to decide if a persons actions are right or wrong. They all have to be cast aside because all that really matters is what is in their heart and the only way we can know that is by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
In I Samuel 16, we read about Samuel going to Jesse’s house to find the next King of Israel. Saul had disobeyed one too many times and now Samuel had to find someone else to rule the kingdom. When he got to Jesse’s house and told his purpose, Jesse brought all his sons before Samuel, all but one that is. None of the sons that came before Samuel was the Lord’s choice. Samuel asked if that was all the sons Jesse had and was told the youngest was tending the sheep It was then that Samuel remembered what the Lord had said to him before he got there (! Samuel 16:7)
7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
The Lord looks on the heart. He looks within us and sees our inner qualities and struggles. He sees our good points and our bad. He sees our talents and our weaknesses. He knows every little thing about us and He will use us in just those capacities. When the whole world saw a shepherd boy, God saw a King. Do we really have any idea what God sees in us? My goodness, we have so much potential if we will just succumbed to God and His leading. The possibilities are overwhelming to me sometimes.
When I judge with my very limited understanding, Jesus says I will be judged by the same type of judgement. When I step out and start to decide why a person is acting or speaking in such a way, and I use my human understanding to decide they are in the wrong, or they should apologize, or they are just bitter, then they will use that same type of judgment on me. They will see the same thing in me. They will expect the same from me. How many arguments are stuck because both parties think the other one should apologize? Someone said something in a time of distress and did not understand what the other was going through and now they are upset. Someone has to get a little more spiritual here! These type of things happen way to often, and they can rob us of the potential we have in Christ. We start to see ourselves in a limited capacity because we see others in that same way and they point it right back on us. They bring us down from being a king to being a shepherd boy again. There were many times Saul tried to take David’s life or put him down because Saul judged his motives wrong. David had no desire for the throne while Saul was still alive, and David was not about to take Saul’s life, even though he had an opportunity to do that very thing twice. Saul showed worldly judgment, David showed heavenly judgment.
The next time you are tempted to judge someone based on their words or actions, think first. Would I want people to judge me this way? Am I doing to others what I would want them to do to me? If the answer to either of these question is no, then don’t even begin to judge that person. Try to empathize them. Be a friend to them. Show them the love of Christ. Most likely that’s what they really need!!