Who Am I to Judge?

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Mr. Smith picked up the wrong umbrella in a hotel lobby and the umbrella’s rightful owner came over and called his attention to it. 

Embarrassed, Mr. Smith offered his apologies, picked up the right one, and went on his way. He saw that it was going to be a rainy day and he had promised to buy new umbrellas for his wife and daughter, so he went across the street and bought one for each of them. 

As he came out of the store and began to get into his car – holding three umbrellas now – the man whose umbrella Mr. Smith had mistakenly taken, was now coming out of the hotel and saw him. He saw the three umbrellas Mr. Smith was carrying and said wryly, “Hmm, I see you had a good day after all!” 

Someone once observed that the most exercise most people get is JUMPING – jumping to conclusions, jumping to make a judgement about another person.This is what Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel (Luke 6:39-45). “Why do you notice the splinter in your brothers’ eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?….You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.”

We should be most careful in condemning others for no other reason than we are not perfect ourselves. When we point our finger of judgement at someone else, the other three fingers in our hand are pointing back at us. Remember the little poem that we have all heard:

There is so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it hardly behooves any of us
To talk about the rest of us. 

Each of us is made up of certain unique experiences, ideas, prejudices and expectations. All of these make up a “filter” through which we see the world. Like a pair of faulty glasses, this “filter” allows us only limited vision. We think we can see ourselves clearly, but the further we get from ourselves, the fuzzier our vision becomes. 

Like a person with vision problems, we are often blind to our own faults, but quick to notice the faults of others. 

It is so easy to criticize, so easy to judge. But we don’t know the other person’s circumstances. We don’t know the burdens that they carry. But God knows. God knows the road that each one of us has traveled. God also has two vitally important attributes that we don’t have: Perfect Holiness and Perfect Love. All of God’s judgements are filtered through God’s Perfect Holiness and Perfect Love for us. 

Our judgements are stained by feelings of revenge, self-righteousness, anger, contempt, and jealousy. God doesn’t have that problem. No matter what we have done in life, God continues to love us. 

One of my favorite actors is Gabriel Byrne. I read this in his recent autobiography, Walking with Ghosts.  Byrne writes, “I remember the last time I was on Broadway…..we had been performing for four months, and I was emotionally and physically exhausted. 

“In Act II, I had a huge speech that ended in my breaking down in tears. Halfway through, I noticed that someone in the front row was falling asleep, his head lolling forward. I lost my lines for an eternity of moments, then rushed and garbled my way to the end. I was furious and as I crossed the stage for my exit, I said loudly, Wake Up!

“I was determined to stand before him at the curtain call so that he would see my anger. I stared down and realized to my horror that he had a physical disability which caused his head to loll. 

“Afterward, in my despair in the dressing room, a fellow actor said: ‘You’ve learned a lesson tonight. The audience is never your business. Ever. Whether they are receptive or asleep or drunk, your only focus is the play.’”

We are all imperfect judges. Only God who truly loves us, can properly judge us. All of God’s judgements are filtered through God’s Perfect Holiness and God’s Perfect Love. 

Why are we commanded not to judge one another? Because we’re no good at playing God. Until we can love as God loves, then we cannot judge as God judges. Let us strive every day toward greater holiness and greater love, so that our own thoughts and actions will be acceptable in God’s sight. 

Think of a time when YOU judged another person and YOUR judgement turned out to be false.


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