Despite the seeming inevitability of judging and criticizing the actions of others, there is always an element of hypocrisy in such activities. How many times have the critics been shown up as practicing the behaviors they so love to condemn. It would be easy to think that this inconsistency is only true of those in the public eye, and does not involve me, but that is simply not true. All criticisms and judgments carry a substantial element of hypocrisy. Taking on the role of another’s judge and critic makes an undeniable statement about the one judging. To be a judge or critic one must take upon oneself the claim of superior wisdom and moral discernment. In judgment one assumes a sufficient knowledge of facts and circumstances to properly assess and make a critical decision, often concerning a very complex situation which denies a straightforward black and white determination in the base case. Despite these daunting requirements, we all dash into the business of judgment daily, often stewing in our own self-righteous juices over the malfeasance of our favorite targets of criticism.
Certainly, being a discerner or observer of the effects of certain behaviors is necessary if we are to learn and grow in wisdom. Being aware of the consequences of these behaviors both for the perpetrator and the victims should be a tool to guide our own moral decisions. In that respect, we all can benefit from discernment. However, such discernment for the purpose of personal growth does not necessitate condemnation of the type in which we so often engage.
The essential difference between discernment and condemnation involves the realization that we don’t know all the facts and circumstances. We can’t really be another’s judge because we lack the required super human capabilities. In all too many cases we enter into the practice of judgment as an ego building experience, custom designed to hide our own deficiencies behind a smoke screen of criticism directed outwardly, hopefully diverting attention from our own failures. The ego loves to inflate itself at the expense of others.
For those who honor the Bible, there is much to be learned about judgment. All have sinned. To sin at all is to be guilty of every sin. To hate is the same as to murder. Any judgment is reserved to the One who can judge righteously. Criticize another only if you enjoy others criticizing you. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Now admittedly, some are confused by the emphasis on legal requirements and punishments in the Old Testament. However, the coming of Jesus and the inauguration of a new day of necessity changed all that. If not, there would be no logical reason for Jesus at all. If we try to justify being another’s judge by referring to the Old Testament we in effect say that Jesus didn’t matter. We still operate like