Reap What You Sow
Lately I've been noticing how easy it is for people to judge each other. Whether it's the way people dress, or the way they spend their money, or the political opinions they have, or even the church they go to - there never seems to be a lack of opinion about what other people are doing wrong in their lives. And I hate to admit it, but the reason I've been noticing this trend is because I've found myself doing the same thing.
In Luke 6:37 Jesus addresses this very issue when He tells us, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you.” That’s a verse that many of us are familiar with, and yet it's a very difficult one to put into practice. But Jesus is very clear: not only are we told not to judge, but if we continue to judge we will reap whatever we sow. In other words, if we sow seeds of condemnation and criticism, we can count on reaping the same kind of harvest for ourselves.
So, does this mean we should never judge the behavior of others? No - because in other passages Jesus tells us that we will know people by the fruit in their lives (Matthew 7:16). The problem is that most of us tend to judge based on a self-righteous opinion of what others are doing, without even considering what might be going on in their hearts. I’ve heard it explained this way: we judge others by their actions, and ourselves by our good intentions. In other words, we tend to cut ourselves slack because usually we know what's in our hearts, and what drives our decisions and actions - but we can't see into the hearts of others, so it’s easy to quickly judge what we see.
But Jesus says in John 7:24, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” So yes, we need to be discerning about people - especially when choosing our closest companions and the folks who will influence us the most. And yes, there may be times when we need to confront others over their sin. But when that happens, it's to be done lovingly, confidentially, and prayerfully - not critically, or with a self righteous attitude.
So what's the best way to overcome a judging attitude? Well, the Apostle Paul begins to answer that question for us in Romans 14:12-13 when he tells us: “Each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other, and instead live in such a way that we will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.” In other words, if we spend more time examining and correcting our own attitudes, words, and actions, the less inclined we'll be to focus on others' because we'll see how much grace we need in our own lives.
So today, let's be people who are committed to mercy and kindness, rather than judgement. Let’s ask God to help us examine our own hearts, before we begin to criticize others. And as we do so, let's ask God to help us be people who spread His love, while leaving His judgement to Him.