Specks and Planks
Within the prevailing culture, one might consider tallying the number of strident judgments made based on nothing more than conjecture... including from news outlets. Of note, the majority of these assertions have absolutely no intrinsic value or purpose. Rather, they are only tales that play upon the most sordid lusts for gossip and condemnation... the alluring appeal to say internally and to others, “Thank God I’m not like them.” Moreover, like the daily blather around the proverbial water fountain, slander has become entertainment. This reality has ramifications as far as the eye can see... for truth itself is at stake! One thing is for sure: The indifference towards judging our neighbor is often a far greater sin than the one being scrutinized. Anyone who has been judged falsely knows this well... for they have likely endured bitter suffering for no reason and with no recourse.
Jesus talks a bit about judging. One of His most quoted sayings on this topic is, “Be careful how you judge.” It is interesting that this is often cited... particularly when one considers that this quote is from an Al Pacino movie. Jesus' words are quite a bit different, “Do not judge, or you will be judged as well.” (Matthew 7:1) Adding the qualifying “be careful” turns Christ's teaching into something that could easily be extrapolated, “Be careful how you murder, be careful how you steal, be careful how you lie, etc.” “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:2) Is this not the ultimate in straight talk?
People of good will are supposed to be guided by the known truth... not carried along by the passions or rumor mongering of the day. Clearly, in matters where the truth cannot be known, it is either pure folly or utter wickedness to feel it is ones duty to render a guilty verdict on the neighbor we are commanded to love. To condemn one’s fellow man is to quite literally place oneself in God’s seat – as one capable of knowing all of the necessary information. Could this possibly be wise? “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” (John 5:30)
Judging individuals requires nothing of the one exercising the judgment. Judging principle creates a standard by which we all are judged... most notably upon the person pronouncing the standard. What is the justification for focusing on the alleged acts of others in the first place? Everyone already has a Judge. Have all of the planks been removed from our own eyes? Few people are in need of additional callous judgment; many people are in need of the healing voice of love.
Of course, I am not advocating throwing up our hands saying, “Who can say?” There is indeed much to judge... for there is much to make right! What kind of person revels in the character assassination (a definitive form of murder) of another, while remaining eerily silent concerning the facts of abortion? Over sixty million of the most innocent among us have been intentionally sacrificed in this country alone since 1973... in a nation founded upon the “unalienable right to life.” Where is the parallel passion regarding this? Where is the focus essential to transformational action? It is not sufficient to simply have a position. Pilate had an excellent position until it became apparent that it might cost him something.
There is an abundance of such questions: Where is the judgment of the secularization of the public sphere? How can the systematic whitewashing of history (particularly the history of the acts of God) be a matter of polite accommodation when the ramifications of a Godless society are so self-evident? Where is the judgment of materialism, greed, and self-worship? One need only consider the statistics regarding resources spent on entertainment as opposed to resources spent lifting human beings out of abject poverty (physical or otherwise) to realize that there are grossly immoral appropriations throughout our society. Where is the judgment of apathy and ignorance? Nearly twenty thousand tax dollars are spent per public school student each year and the results are resoundingly pathetic. Rather than inculcating high standards (intellectually and morally) to help students soar to true greatness, the deficiencies yielded are too numerous to itemize... but range from mass functional illiteracy to hearts made "comfortably numb."
Who did Jesus judge? There is only one group of people that Jesus was incessantly and most passionately judging... those who were constantly elevating themselves while castigating others. Perhaps He had to respond out of moral disgust. Perhaps He felt that He must, at least, give them a taste of their own medicine. Perhaps Eternal Truth demands that the tables of deception be overturned. Whatever the reason, it is an absolute fact that this is the recording of scripture. As Jesus hangs savagely tortured and dying because of the demands of THEIR judgment, He prays: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
In Christianity, man judged God. Man considered the Christ to be “a glutton,” “a drunk,” “a lunatic,” “a sinner,” “a devil,” someone worthy of death! From our perspective today, these ancients are seen as grotesquely ignorant and barbaric evildoers. But are they so different from we moderns? Interestingly, many pat themselves on the back for recognizing that Jesus is Good, not an evil sinner. Well sure, such conclusions have been reached with quite the advantage over those who cried, "Crucify Him!" For this story is now seen in its entirety... after the facts are in. There is yet another question that must be pondered: Why was Christ judged worthy for crucifixion, and yet we are judged to be “upstanding citizens,” or better still “honorable men and women of God?” Within such a paradigm, would the modern self-anointed desire that Christ be crucified as well? The person who does not think that we could do such a thing is the same person who has not experienced the pressing persecution of being falsely judged. Tragically, the testimony regarding humankind remains: “Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light.” (John 3:19)
Though Jesus did not say to “be careful” in exercising judgment, there are times when He does use these words: “Be careful how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.” (Luke 8:18) and “Be careful not to perform your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1-3) Therefore, there is one more person we cannot judge: We must not pronounce final judgments upon ourselves, as we simply are not qualified to justify, reward, or condemn. Our Father does not need our help in the evaluation. Rather, it is our job to repent, and to turn and take up the cross… daily. The Father does what He has always done: He longs to give us the good gift of His Kingdom. He waits for us to act in faith, as this is the one thing that we can give back... the one article that is truly ours... the one place where we begin to understand who and whose we really are.
Rejoice! "There is nothing hidden that shall not be revealed.” (Matthew 10:26) Children of God, find comfort in this promise... and endure in faith... for the day of Liberty is coming soon! Today, it must be sufficient that God knows the Truth in everything! Against His verdict, what is the significance of any other? “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)