James 4:11-12 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?
I don’t watch the Oscar awards, or any of those award shows. But I do like to watch the red-carpet recaps the next morning. I like to see the dresses, and I’ll admit, I especially like to see the ‘what on earth was she thinking!” reviews.I don’t usually watch American Idol either. But I do like to watch the audition episodes. My favorite one is when they show the ‘best of the worst’ or ‘worst of the worst.’ I sit there amazed when the poor wannabe idol who can’t carry a tune in a bucket ARGUES with the judges and says that these music world professionals can’t recognize talent when they hear it. Incredible!
Admittedly, this is a bit of fun with people who put themselves out in the public eye, precisely because they want to be judged. But it’s just a fairly benign symptom of a malignant disease in each of us.
There’s something in us that wants to categorize, to judge others. We’re constantly comparing ourselves to others, or judging others according to some standard we believe is right and true (and godly).It’s a prime example of the pot calling the kettle black.
Jesus cautions us, “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)
It’s pretty clear. We’re not in the position to judge, because we oursleves act in ways that deserve judging. And we’re not the Judge in the first place – God is.
We’ve been looking at what James has to say about the power of words and about showing partiality and judging others. Maybe by this point, you’re feeling that James is pretty repetitive.I think there’s a reason for that. James is dealing with deeply ingrained human dispositions – some of our most cherished and easily justified sins. We all judge. We all show favoritism.
And as a result, we all speak words that hurt, belittle and demean. And we often find ways to soften the blow. I’m reminded of the Southern practice of saying something cutting and softening it with ‘bless her heart’ – “Just look at those jeans! Looks like Sally grabbed her daughter’s clothes by mistake, bless her heart!”James’s repetition is deserved. We need to be reminded again and again that the only ones we can judge is ourselves – are we seeing others with the eyes of God? Are we speaking God’s words of blessing?
And then we need to go the Judge and confess, and through ourselves on the mercy of the court.
When we do this, we discover that God is infinitely more merciful than we are.
Some points to ponder:This is a biggie for most of us. What would it look like to not judge anyone for 24 hours?
We do talk about others. It’s pretty hard to share information about our lives with each other – an important part of being in relationship – without talking about our interactions with others. How hard it is to tell when you’ve crossed the line and are judging?One of the things we do as Christians is share prayer requests. Our concern for others is a good thing, but when does expressing that concern turn into gossip and judging?