The ability to judge between right and wrong, between wisdom and foolishness, between one course of action and another is part of what makes us humans, made in the image of God. So, judging ought to be considered one of the noblest things we can do. But it turns out that, in our relationships, judging is one of the lowest, most twisted things we do to one another.

First of all, we have the wrong motivation when we judge. Judging ought to be purely objective. Think of the lady who symbolizes the law profession. She holds a perfectly balanced scale, and her eyes are blindfolded to keep her from being swayed by superficial appearances. But we judge others with our finger on the scale and our eyes alert for their tiniest faults. True judging would seek only the truth; our judging presupposes the other person’s guilt and tries to prove it.

Second, we have the wrong target for our judging. When I was a child, a wise adult told me that when I point at someone else, three fingers are pointing back at me; I’ve never forgotten that lesson. Jesus put it this way:

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.  Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”  (Matthew 7:1-5)

Third, we judge in the wrong degree — others too harshly, ourselves too leniently. There are two English words that are direct transliterations from the Greek, and they have opposite meanings. Hypercritical is from the Greek hyper + critical and means “over-critical.” Hypocritical is from the Greek hypo + critical, and it means “under-critical.” When Jesus called the Scribes and Pharisees hypocrites, he was accusing them of being under-critical of themselves. At the same time, they were very harsh in their over-criticism of the “sinners” they saw around them.

The Apostle Paul challenged the people of the Church at Corinth:

If we judged ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.  (1 Corinthians 11:31-32)

By the first statement, he makes the point that being hypocritical, under-critical of ourselves is self-defeating, because it makes it necessary for God to judge us for our own good. His judgment, however, is not meant to hurt us; it’s his way of disciplining us (the Greek word means “tutoring”). If he didn’t do that, we would be judged (“condemned” has the same Greek root as judging) the harsh way the unbelieving world will be.

This week I want to work on adjusting my God-given judgment skill, by making sure I have the right motivation, focus on the right target and express judging to the right degree. Will you join me?

— Pastor George Van Alstine