Making excuses isn’t the same as not judging

Imagine you’re shopping at a grocery store, and you see someone take candy or something off a shelf and walk out the door with it. I’m not sure how frequently that happens anymore, but let’s just say for argument’s sake that you witnessed it. How would you respond?

Would you applaud the thief’s bravery and courage for stealing? Would you put the thief up on a pedestal as someone to be respected and admired? Or would you point out that the thief took something that didn’t belong to him and that it’s wrong? What if you were talking to a child?

There’s something in our culture that recognizes injustice, but even though we know something is wrong, we look for excuses not to face it. We blame circumstances. We blame childhood trauma. We blame the government, the economy, the job market. In our desperate search for a reason behind injustice, we look for anywhere else to cast blame because it’s easier to blame than to confront.

man-person-hand-lens_1404x936Today’s verses are Matthew 7:1-5.

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

I honestly believe this is one of the verses that is taken out of context more than any other verse in the whole Bible. You can’t have a conversation with anyone about anything without “being judgmental” comes into discussion. But without putting too fine a point on it, everyone is judgmental. We all make judgment calls all the time. The only difference comes from where you get your standards for judging.

Jesus made several distinctions about judging each other, and generally He said not to do it. It’s difficult though. our human nature makes it easy to magnify other people’s faults while we ignore our own, but it’s wrong. But “don’t judge” doesn’t mean “excuse bad behavior.”

Bad behavior is bad regardless of how you slice it. Stealing is wrong. A child knows that. Taking something that doesn’t belong to you is wrong. And that’s where people will come into the picture and start talking about how stealing becomes necessary if you want your family to live.

I get that. Some people in some cultures steal to provide for their families. But it’s still stealing, and stealing is still wrong, regardless of why you do it.

What Jesus is talking about when He talks about judging is making a call about the motivation behind someone’s actions. If you look at a man who has stolen a loaf of bread and call him a thief, you aren’t judging. You are stating a fact, and you are calling his actions what they are–stealing. But if you look at that same man who stole a loaf of bread and say that he is a horrible person and that he isn’t a Christian, you’re judging. Why? Because you’re making a judgment call on the state of his heart, and that’s something a human can’t see.

Identifying sin as sinful isn’t hateful. If someone is doing something that God says is wrong, calling it sin is simply agreeing with God. It’s not being mean. God doesn’t just arbitrarily call “fun stuff” sin just to ruin our lives. He calls it sin because it’s bad for us and we shouldn’t let it into our lives at all.

If you have a child who wants to stick car keys in light sockets, will you let him? Of course not! And we’d call you a bad parent if you allowed it to happen! So why do we get upset with God when He tries to keep us from hurting ourselves?

As always, we must speak the truth in love. You shouldn’t go up to that man who stole the loaf of bread and get in his face and tell him that he’s hopeless. What good is that going to do? If he isn’t willing to pay for what he stole, it’s a different situation, but if he is, there should be a way to work it out. Someone should demonstrate grace, the same way Jesus did. And who knows what miracle God could work in that situation?

In any case, the only judge you can be is of your own heart, so that’s where you need to be focusing. But that doesn’t mean you can make excuses for behavior and choices God says are wrong. You can agree to disagree, but accepting sin is still flipping God off. And that never ever works out.

Have you ever eaten a koosh ball?

If you saw this at a grocery store, what would you think it was?


Some new koosh ball, right? Or a children’s toy? Or a decorative element for a new age dining set? Maybe Christmas ornaments or something to scrub your pots with?

Well, you’d be wrong. This is an image of rambutan. It’s a fruit. You peel back the outside layer and inside is a white fruit that tastes like green grapes. I had one the first time I went to Guatemala in 2007. I think they also grow in Southeast Asia.

But looking at it on the outside, you wouldn’t know it was fruit, would you?

I thought of this when I read today’s verse in 1 Samuel 16:7.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

God had sent Samuel to go annoint the new king of Israel, and he ended up at the house of Jesse. And Jesse trotted out his seven sons to let Samual choose from them, and Samuel kept going and going and going until he reached the end of them and none of them were the ones God had chosen. And Samuel didn’t understand.

The oldest seven sons Jesse had were tall and handsome and atheletic and strong. They would make a perfect king. So why was God rejecting all of them?

And this was God’s answer. He didn’t care what each of these boys had on the outside. What mattered to Him was what was on the inside. And when Samuel asked if these were all the sons Jesse had, Jesse admitted that the youngest son was out with the sheep and because he was the youngest, they hadn’t bothered to call him. So they brought the youngest son in, and Samuel knew right then that the youngest son was the one God wanted. The youngest son was named David.

So many times I think I am like Samuel. Since the outside is all I can see, I tend to make judgment calls based on what my eyes are telling me. But that’s wrong. Becuase people are more than what they look like.

Just like the rambutan fruit, someone may be strange looking on the outside but may be sweet on the inside. Many times peoples’ appearances contradict what is actually going on in their hearts, for better or for worse. And in either case, it’s not our job to judge them based on what they look like. It’s our job to love them because Jesus loves them and because God made them the way they are.

So the next time you catch yourself making a judgment call about someone you don’t understand or about someone who looks different than you do, think of the rambutan and remember that God doesn’t care what’s on the outside. God only cares about the heart. That’s all that matters to Him. So that’s all that should matter to us.