Best of Daily Reflections: Is It a Sin to Judge Others?
Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.
This year, I sat on the grand jury in my small hometown. Once a month for six months, we convened to review half of the criminal cases to decide whether to indict the accused and go to trial or to throw the case out. Grand Juries exist, the judge told us, to protect the people from an overly zealous justice system or an overly aggressive police force.
In fact, we tossed a few cases where the police in our town had come down too hard on people. We even tossed a few cases where the justice system would have come down too hard on people. Each time, the vote travelled around the table with each juror weighing in.
Together we judged these people. We weren’t the final judge or the final sentence. Our decisions were sometimes based on hearsay, which is admissible to the grand jury. But we were making judgments of a sort. For some crimes, like sex abuse or murder, an indictment is enough to ruin a person’s credibility.
Yet Jesus says, “Do not judge.” Would Jesus think my presence on the grand jury was a sin? Would Jesus tell people not to serve as judges? Would Jesus tell managers not to give performance reviews? Of course not.
The Greek word for judge (krino) does have a legal connotation in some cases. Pilate uses the same Greek word when he tells the Pharisees to judge Jesus according to their own laws.
But Jesus is talking about moral, not legal judgment. Theologian John Meier writes about this passage, “The proverb refers to condemnation, not forming opinions.” We are warned against damning others, not against being wise and discerning.
This is reassuring for those of us heading into performance reviews. It is no sin to judge another’s performance. As John Chrysostom wrote, “We may correct others, not as an adversary exacting a penalty, but as a physician providing medicine.” The key is mercy and humility.
It is good and right to help others grow so long as we remember to treat them with respect and to remember our own sins. But God help us if we think of our ourselves more highly than we ought to think.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Is it difficult for you to forgive others when they make mistakes? Are you holding any grudges against the people in your life—at home, at work, at church, or in your community?
PRAYER: God, thank you for the wisdom of your Son Jesus. Forgive me for presuming to instruct others when I still have so much to learn myself. I do have planks in my eye. I do have issues that continue to be a struggle for me.
Help me extend the same grace and mercy to others that I would want them to extend to me. Fill me with your peace that passes understanding, so that I will respond to others from a place of peace. Surround me with reminders of your grace, so that I will respond to others with a heart of grace.
You are good and just and merciful. Let me worship you today with my words and my actions. In the name of your Son Jesus, I pray. Amen.
Each year, workers everywhere receive an evaluation of their job performance from their employer and, while most evaluations in the workplace don't go quite the way they appear on some television shows, those annual evaluations are often the source of everything from disappointment and stress, to surprise and a boost of confidence. How do we approach and receive evaluations as Christian workers? What can we learn from Jesus about giving and receiving words of instruction, correction, and affirmation? How can entrepreneurs and the self-employed remain accountable for doing good work and for keeping an eye on weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the workplace? Our series, The Evaluation, takes a closer look.