Just stop it!
Some messages I write are hard–like this one. (It will not be fun reading.) I am not talking TO you; I am talking WITH you. Note that I use ‘we’ a lot today. This means I include myself. Now, on with the message …
We must stop trying to be God. Don’t be shocked; we all do it. What am I talking about? I am talking about “playing judge”. Paul’s words in today’s Scripture passage are scathing–if we take them to heart. He says:
“If you criticize each other and condemn each other, then you are criticizing and condemning God’s law. But you are not a judge who can decide whether the law is right or wrong. Your job is to obey it.”
We think we are in a position to judge right from wrong? We cannot even rightly judge ourselves! In fact we especially are incapable of rightly judging ourselves in most cases. How then can we be so arrogant as to think that we can condemn (judge) someone else?
- We think we have a right to make judgments. (We don’t!)
- We think we know enough to evaluate someone else. (We don’t!)
- We elevate ourselves above others when we judge them. (We are not!)
I say these things because whether or not we intend to do so, we do them nonetheless when we make inappropriate judgments and criticisms. Actions speaks louder than words: This IS what we do.
I challenge you as I challenge myself: Recognize it and own it. Do not be in denial. Be mindful of the maxim that says: “You cannot change what you will not acknowledge.”
Paul went on to say, “God alone, who made the law, can rightly judge among us. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to condemn your neighbor?” When we do this, we step into His role–a role He alone can perform. This is how we try to be God. He does not tolerate people usurping His authority. In this there is another concern:
We open ourselves up to danger when we step outside of our authority (and into God’s place). This occurs because we come out from under His protection by being in disagreement with Him.
We cannot go through life having no opinions. This would be absurd and it is not what I imply. All things must be in balance. So, what is the balance here? We must evaluate people in an appropriate sense. This is wise and we are admonished to do so in Scripture. Judging someone as Paul speaks of is something else entirely.
This ‘judging’ concept has been weaponized and used to manipulate people into not having an opinion of someone or something. For instance, if you express an opinion, someone may retort, “You shouldn’t judge!” Frankly, this kind of response is ignorance speaking: It reveals they do not know of what they speak. (Ignorance means not knowing; it is not derogatory.)
Another perspective to understand regarding balance is that today’s message could be misconstrued as a judgment. It is not. It is an appropriate general observation, not unlike what Paul wrote. We must acknowledge what we do in order to change it and bring it into agreement with God. And if we will not acknowledge it, we cannot change it.
Neither manipulation nor condemnation were Paul’s purposes in today’s passage. (Neither are they mine.) I believe his purpose was to acknowledge a toxic behavior to keep us from crossing a line into God’s realm of authority, thereby putting ourselves in danger and risking genuine judgment from Him.
Read today’s passage from this perspective. Take it to heart–deeply to heart. See if you “get” what I “get” in it. And when it comes to judgment, I say to all of us: STOP IT!
Today’s Seed™ Scripture and Prayer for May 2, 2023:
Don’t speak evil against each other, my dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize each other and condemn each other, then you are criticizing and condemning God’s law. But you are not a judge who can decide whether the law is right or wrong. Your job is to obey it. God alone, who made the law, can rightly judge among us. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to condemn your neighbor? (James 4:11-12 NLT)
Prayer: LORD, increase my awareness of what I say, how I say it, and the significance and power of my words. Help me recognize when I overstep my authority and venture into Yours by inappropriately judging others. Any judgment I make should be of my own life against the standard of Your Word–and my judgment should stop there. I choose to respect Your words and principles and honor them above all else. Help me make it so. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
(c) 2023 Randall Vaughn • All Rights Reserved • http://www.e-min.org
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‘Today’s Seed’ from E-MIN • May 2, 2023
About Randall Vaughn:
With 40+ years as pastor, author, teacher, worship leader, and songwriter, Randall pioneered E-MIN in 1997–one of the earliest online ministries and today the longest operating. His passion is leading people to deeper, genuine relationship with God. He lives in Alabama with his lovely wife, Karen, and their dogs, Hadi and Rayah. He enjoys hiking, exploring new tech, and “prayer walks”.
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