These thoughts ran through my head as I read today’s Scripture verses. In another place, Jesus talks of the necessity of “righteous judgment” so here His words do not mean that a Christian cannot judge at all. However, these words warn me not to be a picky person with a critical attitude that constantly judges others.
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. (Matthew 7:1–2)The people that I know (and I’ve done it myself) that fall into this kind of judging are usually discerning people. They see errors and sin that others might overlook. They can be highly aware of selfish motivations and they want people to do the will of God.
However, when such a person is not walking in the light and falls under the control of self rather than the Holy Spirit, they begin to major on minors. Their ideas of what motivates others becomes skewed and often in error. Instead of wanting God’s will, they want their own way. I know, for I’ve done all of this.
The part of these two verses that intrigues me today is that “measured back to you” part. As one who notices picky details and who could easily fall into a mean-spirited judge, I also notice that God is picky with me. He goes after me about the slightest variation from His will, a thousand little things that some may not notice. I’ve heard this experience called having a ‘sensitive spirit.’ Some say this means that I have high standards and a tender conscience. Those are positive descriptions. I’m not so sure it is positive, but whatever it is, this is a hard thing to live with.
I’ve often said that God is like a tree pruner. He starts using an axe on the big offensive sins. Then He works on what might be less offensive with a small saw. However, He also nips away at my sins with a pruning knife, picking off the twigs and shoots that no one else notices. While I am happy to see the big dead branches go, this little knife hits me where it hurts. He is as picky with me as I can be about the details I see around me.
Being a detail person isn’t necessarily bad. It makes me thorough and observant. It works well in artistic creation and housecleaning. But God didn’t gift me with this so that I could use it to pick away at others in a destructive and judgmental way. This modern translation of the next few verses makes it clear that if I am going to be negative about my assessments, I need to start with myself.
It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor. (Matthew 7:3–5, The Message)Part of me resists this truth that God will deal with me using the same measure that I use, but part of me is glad. I want the details of my life to be in order and I know that only God can make that happen. I dare not ever think that His judgments are unfair because I deserve every snip of His pruning knife. I also need Him to keep my judgments constructive and positive, and most of all, I need Him to direct my negative judgments toward my own life.