Pharisees love to judge people! Jesus instructed us, “Do not judge,
and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not
be condemned” (Luke 6:37). As you read their encounters with
Jesus, again and again the Pharisees judge others and have no
mercy or compassion for those who can’t live up to their standards.
Jesus rebuked them, “You load people down with burdens
they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger
to help them” (Luke 11:46). Rather than compassionately helping
people, do we burden them with judgment when they don’t live
up to our standards?
By Whose Standards?
That’s the key to phariseeism—you must judge not on God’s
standards, but on your own standards. That’s what bothered
Jesus the most: Pharisees are hypocrites! They don’t judge themselves
by God’s standards, but they quickly judge everybody else
by their own standards. People can sense it in their condemning
Are we more like Jesus or the Pharisees? It’s not so obvious. I
find that pharisaical judgmentalism grows weeds in my garden
of good deeds, and I’m blind to it. For a whole week, I tried to
be more conscious of what I hold in my mind’s eye about people.
Here’s what I discovered: Judging is fun!
Judging others makes you feel good, and I’m not sure I’ve gone
a single day without this sin. In any given week, I might condemn
my son numerous times for a messy room; judge my daughter for
being moody—which especially bothers me when I’m being moody
(but I have a good reason!). I judge my wife for over-involvement
in service (because it raises the bar for me); even my dog gets the
hammer of condemnation for his bad breath (though we feed him
junk but don’t brush his teeth). Some of you may be thinking,
“Wait, are you saying that correcting my kids for a messy room is
judging?” NO! But there’s correction that values with mercy and
there’s correction that devalues with judgment.
I watch the news and condemn those “idiotic people” who do
such things. Most reality TV shows are full of people I can judge
as sinful, ignorant, stupid, arrogant, or childish. I get in my car
and drive and find a host of inept drivers who should have flunked
their driving test—and I throw in a little condemnation on our
Department of Public Safety for good measure!
At the store, I complain to myself about the brainless lack of
organization that makes it impossible to find what I’m looking for,
all the while being tortured with Muzak—who picks that music
anyway? I stand in the shortest line, which I judge is way too long
because—“LOOK PEOPLE—it says ‘10 items or less,’ and I count
more than that in three of your baskets—what’s wrong with you
people?” And why can’t that teenage checker—what IS she wearing—
focus and work so we can get out of here?
Judging is our favorite pastime, if we’re honest—but we’re not!
We’re great at judging the world around us by standards we would
highly resent being held to! Judging makes us feel good because
it puts us in a better light than others—we put ourselves in the
place of God, the standard bearer! Jesus confronted this God complex
in those who judged by their own standards, but didn’t judge
themselves by God’s standards of mercy, justice, and faithfulness
As You Received, Freely Give
The Pharisees felt superior and so had no mercy for people
who didn’t live up to their standards. What Jesus detested most
in the pharisaical heart was a lack of mercy. Jesus said to them,
“If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not
sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent” (Matthew
12:7). More than all our self-justifying sacrifices (“I do this,
I don’t do that—look at what a good person I am—at least I’m
not as bad as Steve”), God wants hearts that receive his mercy, and
then offer it to others.
People Who Restore Value
Only when we stand under the umbrella of God’s mercy can we address
the mud and stain in our own lives, not feel judged or condemned for it,
and let God remove it. That changes us, and others. So how can we be people who,
like Jesus, restore value?