The judge was solemn as he faced an elderly lady charged with petty thief. Her husband stood beside her evidently giving her some moral support.
“You are charged with stealing a can of peaches,” the judge began. “How do you plead?” “Guilty, your honor”, she replied with her head slightly tilted forward.
“How many peaches were there in the can you stole?” the judge said, seeking more information. “Eight, your Honor”, the lady whispered in a hush tone.
“Then I sentence you to eight days in jail”, the judge said. The husband held up a finger and got the judge’s attention. “Yes, what is it, do you have something to add”, the judge inquired. “She also stole a large can of peas”, he revealed with a slight smile.
How easy it is for us to sit in judgment of another, even those of our own family. How many peas do you think there are in a large can?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave the following instructions. “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you again. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye. Or how can you say to your brother, let me remove the speck from your eye, and look, a plank (large piece of wood) is in your own eye. You hypocrite. First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly how to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).
As a rule, we reduce these five verses to a simple statement, “Judge not that you be not judged”. We often reinforce it with the words, “Let him that be without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7). These two verses, taken out of context are generally used in defense of our own sin or ungodly act.
Making a judgment of your brother is not the subject. Hypocrisy is. A speck in your brother’s eye is painful and could lead to more serious consequences. How many times have you squinted and asked a friend to remove a speck from your eye? When you make judgment an end within itself you destroy the beauty and blessing of good judgment. If I need help – help me. If I need comfort – comfort me. If I need healing, heal me.But if your judgment is simply meant to condemn me, punish me, destroy me, then please leave me alone, I am having a hard enough time of it as it is.
We make hundreds of judgments each day. From the moment we wake, we begin the system of judgments that regulates our life. Mistakes are nothing but poor judgments. While Jesus said “Judge not” in the same chapter he said, “For by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:20). One old preacher said, “I ain’t a judge, I’m just a fruit examiner”.
James asks a very pertinent question. “Who are you to judge another?” (James 4:12). How can you know another person’s heart? How do you judge their strength or weakness? Who gave you the ability to see the motives of another? Judging is necessary and important just as long as the purpose of judging is to encourage, strengthen and exhort. When judgment is used simply to condemn, it is almost always wrong.
The apostle Paul asks the questions, “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Romans 14:10). Your day in court is on the docket.
A friend of mine was on trial for murder. She asked me to attend and give her moral support. It was in a Federal court room in Washington, D.C. I got there early. I found a good seat where I could see and hear all the proceedings. The opera type chairs that filled the room were soon occupied. A policeman approached me and said, “You’ll have to move, sir”. I replied, “Go find your own seat, I got here first!” He returned with another officer and they flanked me, one on each side, “You’ll have to move sir, you cannot sit here”. I was somewhat outraged and I repeated, “Look, I got here first, go find your own seat”. There was not another seat available.
About that time, an older man in a dark full length robe stood in my presence. He looked at me and said in a serious tone, “Boy, what are you doing in my chair?” That story did not happen, but that is what I thought as I stood at the rear of the empty courtroom and looked at that large leather covered Judge’s chair. James said, “Who are you?” and Paul said, “Why do you judge your brother?” The answer to these two questions qualifies you to judge. The author to the following poem is unknown.
“I dreamed death came the other night
And Heaven’s gate’s swung wide.
With kindly grace an angel ushered me inside.
And there to my astonishment
Stood folks I’d judged and labeled;
As unfit, of little worth;
Indignant words came to my lips
But never were set free
For everyone showed stunned surprise,
Not one expected me.”
Is this the reason Jesus said, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).