judgmental

Do the Right Thing

A person thinks everything he does is right,

but the Lord weighs hearts.

Doing what is right and fair

is more acceptable to the Lord than offering a sacrifice. (Proverbs 21:2-3 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 21:1-8 GW)


The time is always right to do what’s right. Martin Luther King Jr

Every year, as our nation observes the birthday of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, a flurry of his quotes fill social media posts, news media, and speeches. As with many statements these days, these quotes are expressed outside of their original context.

Oberlin College Archives

Oberlin College Archives

The quote above is a statement Dr King made at Oberlin College in October of 1964. The thought of this statement permeates much of what he spoke and wrote about integration and civil rights.

The context of these words are the life and calling of Dr King—a Baptist preacher and the son of a Baptist preacher. The 50’s and 60’s were a tumultuous time in America. It was not empty rhetoric but truth grounded in the reality of his time.

Doing the right thing is a common theme throughout the Proverbs. It’s a common tenet of good business ethics and basic morality. However, what the right thing is depends on a person’s belief system, values, and cultural influences.

Each of us can be convinced of our own rightness but our words and actions in life need to be consistent within our daily lives. Otherwise, it’s a matter of saying one thing but living out something different. Then, what we claim as rightness is out of context with who we are.

A sense of our own rightness soon becomes self-righteousness—our own narrow view of right and wrong. This extends beyond religious self-righteousness and permeates every aspect of our life. It becomes an attitude of the heart.

Self-righteousness sets us up to be judgmental and prejudiced toward others

This narrow view of rightness produces a judgmental view of others and a sense of superiority towards those who don’t measure up to our sense of righteousness—our view of what’s true, right, and fair.

When self-righteousness goes unchecked it isolates a person from those deemed inferior in their religion, thinking politics, behavior, associations with others, and so on.

The only counter to self-rightness is humility—a sense of who we are in comparison to God rather than others.

God knows our heart. He knows our motives. He alone is able to judge in a true and just way and He is by nature merciful (Exo 34:6; Luke 6:36).

When we see our own sense of rightness in light of God’s mercy, we can be freed from a judgmental and prejudiced heart.

True humility can set us free from a self-righteous heart

Instead of the narrow view of self-righteousness—that no one can measure up to including us—humility sets us free to do what is right and fair. This is what is acceptable to God rather than any self-righteous attitude or effort on our part.

How we see and treat others is a good indicator of what standard of rightness we hold. Is it our own or God’s? Do we measure our own sense of rightness in comparison to others or God?

Reflection—

No one can measure up to the narrow and judgmental perspective of self-righteousness. This include our self no matter how right we think we are. How we see and treat others is a good indicator of what standard of rightness we hold—our own or God’s—and He alone is just and merciful.

Prayer Focus—

If you find yourself looking down at others as inferior and wrong, ask God to give you His perspective on others—how He sees them and us. When you find a self-righteous attitude welling up in your mind and heart, humble yourself and ask God to forgive you.

©Word-Strong_2019


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An Exposed Heart

If Sheol and Abaddon lie open in front of the Lord

how much more the human heart! (Proverbs 15:11 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 15:8-19 GW)


I’ve often wondered why people subject themselves to the public scrutiny of reality shows. Is it just for the money? Much of the time, some not-so glamorous moments in people’s lives are laid out for all to see. That is, all who watch.

As you can probably tell, I’m not a big fan of reality shows. The few times I’ve endured watching them for a while, I find myself cringing and shaking my head at what I see.

I don’t like having my life exposed for everyone to see. People are too quick to draw their own conclusions—often jumping to unfounded judgments of reasons and motives.

Having a somewhat public life as a pastor and overseas missionary, I’ve experienced some unwanted exposure of my life and endured some unfair and unwarranted criticism and condemnation.

It’s part of the territory for those roles in ministry but it can still be difficult to endure. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion but it doesn’t mean those opinions are right or true or valid.

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years—there’s always more to the story. More importantly, whenever anyone of us sits in judgment of others, we’re sitting in a seat that doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to the only True and Righteous Judge—God.

There’s not one person on earth who hasn’t sat in judgment on another. All of us do it in some way and to some degree.

We look askance at people for what they wear or don’t wear. How they talk or look or act. People judge each other for what they eat or don’t eat, the music they like or don’t like, their politics, favorite sports team, and what they watch or won’t watch on TV.

What catches my attention about all this is how exposed my heart is before God. Nothing is hidden from Him. Nothing.

It’s not just my heart that’s exposed to God, it’s every human heart. Yours and mine.

Several places in the New Testament scriptures, including the words of Jesus in the Gospels, tell us there will be a judgment to come of all people at the end of the age. None of us now when that will be exactly but it is certain.

Even Sheol and Abaddon—death and destruction—are not hidden from God. After all, He is eternal.

You won’t be seeing me in any reality shows any time soon—not if I have anything to say about it! But even if my life isn’t displayed for all to see, I know the Lord sees everything in my heart—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

This humbles me when I consider it. The psalmist David says this eloquently in Psalm 139—here’s an excerpt—

You alone know when I sit down and when I get up. You read my thoughts from far away. You watch me when I travel and when I rest. You are familiar with all my ways.

Even before there is a ⌊single⌋ word on my tongue, you know all about it, Lord. You are all around me—in front of me and in back of me. (Psa 139:2-5 GW)

I try to keep this awareness fresh in my mind. When I remember my heart is exposed before God, it helps me avoid sliding into any judgment seat. And when I find myself sitting in His seat, I sense God’s Spirit whispering to my heart that I’m not where I ought to be.

Reflection—

All of us have judged someone in some way and to some degree. Whenever we do, we’re sitting in a seat that doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to the only True and Righteous Judge—God.

Prayer Focus—

Join me as I daily, even moment by moment, ask God to keep me from judging others and asking Him to forgive me when I do.

©Word-Strong_2018


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A Warning and a Blessing

We all make judgment calls. No one wants to be judged and I doubt anyone wants to be known as a judgmental person. But there are times when a judgment call is appropriate.

When it is obvious that certain people are harmful and cause problems, it's appropriate to warn others about them. This is what Paul does here, but notice it's not done with vindictiveness or malice. This is the responsibility of a leader, especially a pastor or elder in the church.

Slander is not okay, but just as a parent warns a child about some danger or dangerous person, pastoral leaders need to warn those under their care.