Week 9: Judge Righteously
“By your fruits ye shall know them.” Matthew 7:20. Why would the Savior give us a way to judge people after He told the people “judge not.” The JST adds critical clarification, the Lord said, “judge not unrighteously, that ye be no judged; but judge righteous judgement.” However, the Lord is explaining that there is a time to judge and a time to withhold judgement. How do we know when we should judge? Jesus taught us when to judge and how to judge based on certain situations.
There are times when we have to make judgements. We make thousands of judgements each day. We choose how to spend our time, who to spend it with, and which belief system to follow. One of the situations Jesus teaches us that we must judge righteously is when we are choosing who to follow. It is important to judge righteously so that you are not deceived. There are many voices you can choose to listen to, and choosing wisely who you will follow is one of the most important decisions you will make.
Christ said, “beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” Matthew 7:15. Wolves don’t look like wolves, they look like innocent harmless sheep; otherwise it would be easy to judge and easy to trust them. Instead, it’s important to judge them by their fruits or the results of their actions. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t feel bad for listening to your gut. When choosing who to follow, that is the time to pay close attention to how they make you feel or what kind of person they are.
However, when judging those closest to us, Jesus gave us different counsel. In this case we are told to withhold judgement until we have first dealt with our own issues. He told us to first remove the beam that is in our own eye before we point out the mote in our brother’s. “Set your house in order before you criticize the world” as Jacob Peterson puts it. Before you judge others take a deep look inside yourself. Instead of trying to change those around you (your husband, your boss, your mom) try changing yourself first. And when you do have to make judgements of those closest to you, make them with kindness.
In psychology we use the term, “charitable interpretations” to describe judging righteously. It means that when you have a decision to make about an interaction with someone use charity to guide your interpretations. Memory researchers have discovered that our memories are not perfect recordings of events, but interpretations of events. And each time you remember something, you remember it differently. In other words, you create your memories. That should be a powerful truth to you.
When you remember an awkward or painful experience you are remembering your version of it. Maybe the interaction wasn’t exactly how you remember it. Maybe the person who said something rude to you in the grocery store didn’t mean to be rude at all. You get to choose how you interpret the encounters in your life, and when you do, try using charitable interpretation. Give people the benefit of doubt. Assume the best instead of the worst. Unless of course you are making the decision to follow that person or give them money, etc then you will want to be discerning and less lenient in your judgements. But in day to day interactions judge with grace or withhold judgement altogether. For with that same judgement, you will be judged.