The subtle sin of judgmentalism and how it works

“Do not judge, lest you be judged…. Why  do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1ff.)

If you are prone to criticism and judging others, chances are you will be the last to know it.

It’s that kind of sin. I see it in you; it’s just part of who I am.

I find it fascinating that after issuing the warning about not judging others, our Lord followed with the caution about specks and logs in people’s eyes.

This is precisely how it works.

My judgmentalism of you appears so normal and natural that it never occurs to me that I am actually condemning you.  So, while your rush to judgment is a log in your eye–one you really should do something about!–my human tendency to speak out on (ahem) convictions is merely a speck in mine and nothing to be concerned about.

Ain’t that the way?

Consider this conversation….

You: “What did I have for lunch? Well, I was in a hurry, so I ate a banana, a handful of nuts, and a soft drink.”

A friend or co-worker: “The banana and the nuts are okay, but the soft drink is fattening and poisonous.  It is suicidal.”

You say nothing in response, but sit there wondering, “Who asked you? You wanted to know what I had for lunch and I told you. Does that give you a right to sit in judgment on my actions?”

It happens all the time, and just that subtly.

Your critic would say he/she was just sounding off, saying what came to mind.  But this one needs to install a mouth-monitor and not issue such pronouncements on the actions of other people just because “I thought of it.”

The critic was being judgmental.

This one happened to me….

In our Facebook page called “One Minute Bible Study,” I posted a piece about vengeance belonging to God (based on Romans 12:19). One reason we are not qualified to judge others, much less to take revenge and get even, is we know so little about their motives. To illustrate, I told of the time a young African-American teenager ran a traffic light and broadsided my car, almost totaling it and killing me.  I said how furious I was with him until I overheard him telling the policeman that his sister’s baby was sick and he was rushing them to the hospital. That completely changed how I felt toward him.

A reader took me to task for saying the kid was black.

“That was irrelevant,” he said, insinuating that adding that detail said something negative about me.

I replied that truthfully, I had given a good deal of thought to that detail, and decided it was one of several aspects that drove my anger at the moment, and so I had chosen to leave it in.

My critic could not leave that there. He came back with a short essay in which he analyzed whether I had done right or wrong leaving it in. Eventually, he decided that my saying the kid was black revealed that I was a racist and he surely hoped that I had repented of it.

I was amazed at the sheer impertinence of this guy. I don’t know him and we’re not Facebook friends.

I replied, “Thank you for your analysis of my motives.”

I doubt seriously whether he will pick up on my cool response to his judgmentalism.  He’s probably too busy ferreting out racism and impure motives from other people’s writings to return here and read my note.

Judgmentalism occurs when we elevate ourselves into the judgement seat and become critics of others–their words, their behavior, their omissions.

Probably no scripture is more misinterpreted than Matthew 7:1 which commands us not to judge lest we be judged.  The obvious meaning is not to condemn people. The Lord Jesus is not calling on His disciples to tolerate anything and everything, or to use zero discernment.  That would contradict half His teachings and violate all common sense.

We who are His disciples have not been sent into the world to issue pronouncements on others’ behavior.

We have not been sent to point out where people are in the wrong.

We have not been commissioned to catch people in the act of sinning.

We have not been sent as the moral compass of the community.

We have not been sent as judges and condemners.

We are evangelists, sent to share the good news of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Lose sight of that for one moment, and we slip into the pattern of pointing out sins and failures, slights and fattening foods. And that’s when we position ourselves as hypocrites and legalists instead of good-news-sharers and ambassadors for Christ.

We have been sent as Jesus was sent (see John 20:21) to bless people, to preach the good news to the poor, and to set free those who are downtrodden.

In the story of the Good Samaritan, God’s people must not identify either with the priest or the Levite who turned up their noses at the bruised and bleeding guy in the ditch, nor with the thieves who put him there in the first place, but with the Samaritan traveler who crawled down in the ditch with the fellow and did everything he could to rescue him.

The last thing in the world the poor victim needs is another attacker.


5 thoughts on “The subtle sin of judgmentalism and how it works

  1. Pingback: links: this went thru my mind | preachersmith

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  3. I think that you are leaving a section from Matthew 7 out– filling it in with the … and leaving an impression that believers are never to call one another out for sinful attitudes, and I doubt that was your intent.

    If we cannot judge our brethren when they fall into sin and refuse to repent, how is church discipline (in I Corinthians 5) to take place. Paul says that when folks who call themselves brothers act in certain manner then we are to break fellowship with them, we are not even to sit down for a meal with them. How can we do that if we are not permitted to judge whether their actions are sinful or not?

    Was the Apostle Paul wrong to teach those young preacher boys, Timothy and Titus, of the need to rebuke those who erred? Was Paul himself in sin when he judged Peter’s hypocrisy when the Jews came down to where he had been ministering to and eating with gentile believers?

    In Matthew 7:2 it goes on to say that we will be judged by the same standard that we use in judging others. But the same chapter goes on to tell us that we are to beware of false prophets and recognize them by their fruit. What gives? We’re told not to judge and then told to judge!!!!

    The problem is that the word judge as used in the Scriptures doesn’t mean not to discern between right and wrong, but not to pronounce sentence on the other person. It isn’t so much that we aren’t to discern between right and wrong, but that we need to be careful about pronouncing the final judgment on others. For modern believer that refers to following I Corinthians 5 and simply breaking fellowship with those who have gone the wrong direction and refuse to repent.

    With that said, I will point out that I was the poster that commented on Brother Joe’s use of the word “black” to describe the youth who so carelessly caused the automobile accident. Brother Joe’s post was about being glad that God has claimed vengeance as His own possession and how glad Joe was that he was not permitted to dispense it willy-nilly. (My own paraphrase of what Brother McKeever was saying).. My comment was intended to indicate that the accident wasn’t caused by the youth’s ethnic background and therefore it was not really germane to the story. Brother Joe replied that he had considered it and indeed it was an important part of the story because the youth’s skin color has somehow intensified his anger. My response was that if that was the case, that I really agreed with Brother Joe because being angrier at someone based on the color of their skin was certainly a sinful attitude, and it is indeed a good thing that God has reserved vengeance for Himself.

    Here’s where it got sticky, or so I think. I pointed out that Brother Joe’s anger (the portion based on skin color) revealed a previously concealed pocket of racism that needed to be dealt with. Brother Joe took this to mean I was writing him off as a racist. Well, with great respect and courtesy, I would say to Brother Joe that is not what I meant and I apologize sincerely for that implication.

    We all have pockets of racism in our hearts. We all tend to stick to have greater understanding for our own people than those from other groups. In fact, I honestly believe that if I myself had been in Brother Joe’s shoes at the scene of the accident I would also, I greatly regret to say, have been angrier towards someone from a different ethnic group than someone from my own ethnic group. That’s a pocket of racism. It does not make me a racist, it makes me a sinner needing to submit my wrong feelings to the Lord.

    Sin continues to raise its ugly head and make itself known in our daily walk. We can have pockets of impatience but still overall be a patient person. We can have lapses of love and still overall be a loving person. We can have a pocket of unforgiveness even though we usually are forgiving.

    My comments were not intended to portray Brother Joe as a racist or to condemn him and reject his ministry, his Christianity, or to seek to avoid his fellowship. My comments were to point out an area of weakness. If we are angrier with a person who has wronged us who comes from another racial background than we would be with a person of our own race and culture, then it is judging someone by their skin color and we need to be careful.

    Brother Joe, please accept my public apology for the implication that you are somehow a racist and forgive me for my poor communication. I certainly did not mean to condemn, hurt, annoy, or demean you in any way. I was simply pointing out what I consider to be a minor error in attitude that may (or may not, as the Spirit leads) need adjusting.

    Feel free to contact me via facebook messaging, should you feel the need to discuss it further, but I do hope you will grant me the forgiveness I have asked for.

  4. This is great, Brother Joe, and convicting too! I needed to hear it.

    I like what you said about us not being sent as the moral compass for our community, but as evangelists first and foremost. I lose sight of that so often, and feel the weight of guilt for not caring about every single social issue, or taking a stand on every political issue that comes down the pike, or contributing to every need that arises. It’s exhausting! But Jesus didn’t call us to worry about all that stuff– people’s souls are the priority. Good reminder.

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