The New King James Version of this verse reads: "Judge not, and you shall not be judged…" But I like the Message Bible version best because it graphically depicts how destructive our judgment of others can be--and how it can come back to haunt us. Jesus warns us here that whenever we sow seeds of condemnation and criticism, we can count on reaping the same kind of harvest for ourselves. The next time someone criticizes you, ask yourself if you are truly a victim of injustice, or if you're just reaping the consequences of criticizing others. Pray and ask the Lord which case applies to you, and be quick to repent of any wrongdoing. Then ask God to comfort you and to help you to be less judgmental in the future.
I've heard it said that we judge others by their actions, and ourselves by our good intentions. Perhaps that's because we have an idea what's in our own hearts, but we can't see into the hearts of others. The Bible says, "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV) Because only God can see into a person's heart, He doesn't want us judging our neighbors. Jesus said, "Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment." (John 7:24 NIV) Yes, it's true that we need to be discerning, especially when choosing our closest companions, but judgment is an entirely different matter, and the Bible gives numerous warnings against it.
James 4:12 (NIV) says, "There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and destroy. But you--who are you to judge your neighbor?" When God judges people, it's because He has the right to judge us, and because He is a righteous Judge. But when we judge others, usually pride is at the root of our judgment. Most of the time, we are doing it with an attitude that lifts ourselves up, while putting others down. In First Corinthians 4:5 (NIV), Paul writes: "Judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts." And in Romans 14:12-13 (NIV), he says, "Each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another." Paul warns us to shift our focus from others to ourselves. In First Corinthians 11:31 (NKJV), he urges us to "judge ourselves." And in Galatians 6:4 (NIV), he says, "Each one should test his own actions." I have found that the more time I spend examining my own conduct, the less inclined I am to focus on the behavior of others.
Some of the best advice I've ever gotten from the Scriptures is in First Thessalonians 4:11 (NIV). It says, "Mind your own business." I find that I have much more peace and joy in my life when I just stay out of other people's business. Yes, there are times we need to confront others about their behavior, and the Bible addresses that issue. "If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out." (Galatians 6:1 MSG) If we feel that God is directing us to confront someone, we must do it with gentleness and humility, resisting the temptation to be prideful. The intent here should be restoration, rather than condemnation. Scripture says, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." (Matthew 9:13 NIV) God is not impressed with our good deeds or service when our hearts are filled with judgment for our neighbor. Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." (Matthew 5:7 NIV) And James wrote: "Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!" (James 2:12-13 NIV) May we all begin today to sow seeds of mercy, so that we may reap a bountiful harvest of mercy from our gracious God!
Prayer: Lord, teach me to spend more time showing others mercy, and less time judging them. Help me to be led by Your Spirit when I need to confront someone about their behavior. Show me how to examine my own actions, and to be quick to repent of any wrongdoing. Thank You that my heart of mercy will draw others to You!
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