Judge not, that you be not judged

19 November 2021

‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye’ (Matth. 78, 1-5).

This is a great and terrible commandment from Christ. All of us, starting with me, are constantly criticizing and condemning each other and we’ll have to account for this at the dread judgement of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ. He’ll judge us because we judge others. We try to find very slight faults in our neighbor, though we don’t see our own sins and don’t even want to think about them.

In his letter to the Romans, the holy apostle Saint Paul says the following: ‘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?’ (2, 1-3).

There’s great truth in these words of Saint Paul. We aren’t careful over our own faults and sins, but we find plenty of mistakes in others. We try to find them and, when we do, we make sure we tell everybody about them. It’s a bad habit that, as soon as we find out something about our neighbor, we spread the word to everybody. Our tongue burns and we can’t wait to tell others what we’ve seen and heard.

We forget that, if we judge others, God will judge us. We forget that we have no right to judge our neighbor, because that’s God’s business, not ours. He’s the Supreme Judge who knows our heart and is able to hand down the right verdict. But we judge our neighbor; and often enough in very harsh terms. We don’t think that our brother or sister may have already repented and that, as  result, their sin has already been forgiven.

‘Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God’ (1 Cor. 4, 5). But we’re always quick to judge others and don’t wait for Christ’s verdict. We’re judges of others, but not ourselves.

A wise man from Israel, the son of Sirach, said: ‘If you have heard a word, let it die with you; take courage, you will not burst over it’ (Sir. 19, 10). These words of his are very important. Do we ever forget the mistakes of our neighbor? Does the evil word die with us? No, never. We spread it, and in this way become like flies which transmit germs wherever they go. We shouldn’t be like flies but like bees, which flit from one flower to the next, to make honey. We, too, should make honey, by paying attention only to the good in our brothers and sisters.

As for those who speak badly about their neighbors and condemn them, the psalmist and prophet, David, said: ‘their throat is an open tomb’ (Ps. 5, 10). Open a grave and you’ll see the filth and the stench you’ll find there. The same disgusting odor, spiritual stench, emerges from our mouth when we judge other people. In the same psalm, which is read at the first hour, the prophet says: ‘You will destroy all those who speak falsehood (5, 7). But do we rid ourselves of those who slander other people to our face? No, we don’t, although we should.

What we should do is bite our tongue. We’re all guilty before God and we all have many sins. We should pay attention to these sins of ours rather than those of other people. The psalmist says: ‘In your sight, no-one living will be justified’ (142, 3). Nobody’s righteous in God’s eyes; we’re all guilty. Those who condemn others are often also slanderers, because there’s no basis for their accusations.

… Concerning condemnation, our great saint, Metropolitan Dimitri of Rostov has this to say: ‘Don’t look at the sins of others, but examine your own wickedness. Because you won’t have to answer for other people, but only for yourself. There’s no need to pay attention to other people, how each one lives and what sins they commit. You see to yourself. Are you pleasing God? Is your life like that of the saints? Do you follow in your life the path they trod in theirs? Is God satisfied with the work you do? People who criticize others are like a sly mirror, which reflects others, but doesn’t show the person looking. They’re also like a dirty bath, which washes other people but leaves the bather dirty. The same is true of those who judge others: they see what other people eat and drink, what sins they commit, but don’t see themselves. They see their neighbor’s every slightest sin, yet their own, however great it may be, might as well not exist for them. They don’t want people to know about their sin and talk about it. But they themselves happily slander, judge and condemn other people’.

Isn’t this a picture of ourselves which Saint Dimitri gives us? The saint is certainly talking about us, especially those for whom slander and condemnation have become their life and who therefore are far removed from what Christ says. They’re people who want to remove the mote from the eye of their brother, while leaving intact the beam in their own. Let’s not be like them. Let’s look to ourselves and ask God’s help in this difficult struggle against the passion of condemnation. Let’s not judge, lest we be judged by the only, eternal Judge, our Lord, Jesus Christ, to whom be honor and dominion, together with his Father without beginning and his Most-Holy and Life-giving Spirit. Amen.