Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.
We all judge. That is a given. For example, researchers tell us that our brains make snap decisions about people we meet (for example, how trustworthy they are) in milliseconds. You may have already made a judgment about whether or not this post is going to be worth your time. It’s instinctual. It seems that making judgements (many of which are moral in nature) is built into us. Even though Jesus did not have “the science of first impressions” to draw upon in his research, it is safe to say that he was not denying this reality. At least that’s my judgement.
What I think he is doing here is making a judgement about what we might call judgementalism. (Interesting: my spellcheck refuses to accept judgementalism as a word. Yet one more proof that technology is neutral. 🤓)
In this chapter in Matthew, Jesus goes on to say, “For with the judgement 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?” What looms large in my negative evaluation of my neighbor is often a chip of the very same block that is lodged in me. There is a connection between ignorance (of ourselves) and arrogance (toward others).
“You hypocrite,” Jesus goes on to say (so much for not making judgements!), “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.” The word “to see” Jesus uses here is different than the word he used in the earlier verse. Here it is not just seeing (that condemns)…it is seeing in order to help. It is seeing one another (and ourselves) with mercy.
Some of the most important and essential insights I have gained about myself have come about because someone cared enough to help me see them. In such moments, it felt as costly to the person offering feedback as it did to me receiving it. I didn’t feel judged. I felt loved.
Prayer: Gracious God, help me to see the sight line between my judgementalism and my need for mercy. Let that be what I project onto others. Amen.