Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.
Psalm 62:2-3, 6-7, 9
For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall never be shaken.
For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.
“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.”
One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.” And he said, “Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them.”
Christians are sometimes accused by humanists and such as being judgmental. However, reading our scriptures from Romans and Luke today, no one could accuse Christianity of being a religion that condones judgmental attitudes. St. Paul delivers a particularly poignant dagger to the heart with the question, “do you despise the riches of his (God’s) kindness and forbearance?” Clearly, God is the one who is infinitely kind and forbearing, yet is also the ultimate judge.
We are called as Christians to emulate God’s kindness and forbearance, which is meant to bring about repentance, and to leave the act of judgment solely to God in his timing. Yet in the rebuke Jesus delivers to the Pharisees today, and in plenty of situations we see around us or find ourselves in, we tend to usurp God’s right to judge and neglect our duty to be kind. How do we avoid this tendency to be judgmental and unkind, especially in the age of social media where everything and everyone is ever on trial in the court of public opinion?
Although Jesus’s rebuke to the Pharisees and teachers today may make us uncomfortable, we know Jesus did not deliver it out of anger but out of kindness; he wanted these people to see where they were in the wrong and amend their ways. And we can apply this rebuke to ourselves, and ask ourselves what things we should be doing that we are neglecting, and what temptations we may instead slide into that make us self-righteous rather than virtuous.
Do I put too much focus on visible, check-the-box acts like tithing and even volunteering, yet neglect the heart work like love of justice and of God? How can I do better? Do I love honors and good reputation, or do I esteem others as better than myself and humbly acknowledge my own failings? How can I exercise more humility and honor others better? Do I judge and heap guilt on others, or do I help lighten their burdens? How can I exercise kindness and forbearance, to help others towards real repentance and change instead of shame and guilt?
While we are examining our own hearts, let’s also remember not to fall into self-condemnation and hopelessness. We cannot completely fix or perfect ourselves. But Jesus gave himself to cover our weaknesses, and he can love us and love through us whatever our state. So let’s rest and hope in Jesus and his salvation, pour out our hearts before him and take refuge in him, and trust him in his kindness to bring us to greater righteousness and glory in this world and the world to come.