Bad Judgment


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 56; 149, 2 Kings 2:1-18, 1 Corinthians 4:1-7, Matthew 5:17-20

Judgment is a difficult practice to avoid. We try, but it is a persistent demon. When we’re lucky we meet it face-to-face and recognize it for what it is. Though we might fail we at least recognize we aren’t to judge others for what we consider their faults and failures. But sometimes that demon comes at us sideways or sneaks up on us from behind. Isn’t judging someone’s behavior as good or worthy still a form of judgment? And isn’t claiming we would do better under the same circumstances a way of passing judgment on ourselves and others over things that are merely hypothetical?

When Paul learned the people of Corinth were practically looking for excuses to pass judgments on each other, he told them: “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?” Paul offered himself as an example of someone who judged himself neither favorably nor poorly: he left that up to God’s final judgment, saying: “I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted.”

Living without some judgments is impossible. We have to decide – among many other things – whom to trust, whose company we should value and whose we should avoid, and whether someone’s behavior is helpful or harmful to themselves, us, and the community. The difference between lower-case, every day judgment and Judgment with a capital J is whether or not we approach it with an assumption that we understand more than we do. Other people’s motives, struggles, and limitations are largely not just unknown but unknowable to us. Only God can judge, because only God knows the entire truth.

It’s not our place to determine whether other people are using their gifts as well as they should or could be. It’s our job to figure out how we should be using our own gifts, and never be complacent about whether we are. Perhaps the most nefarious disguise Judgment can wear is a reflection of our own face, telling us what we’d like to hear.

Comfort: God will get around to judging what needs to be judged…

Challenge: … and very little of it may end up being to our satisfaction or expectation.

Prayer: I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. (Psalm 111:1)

Discussion: When have you realized you judged someone wrongly or harshly?

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