Luke 6:37-42 “Judging”
How can we NOT judge other people? How can we not judge Putin of Russia, for instance? I will affirm that we are always of the nature to judge others, and perhaps that is why Jesus brings up the point to his disciples in the first place! Is it not part of God’s plans for us that we should judge? Is that not what God had Moses do once the Hebrews escaped Egypt? Is that not why we even have a Book of Judges in the Bible?
Today we do not have to wear masks indoors because of the pandemic. Yet, some people will continue to wear masks. I bring this up because these last two years with corona virus have been the most judgmental of my entire life. Why? You know, it was such that if I wore a mask around some people they thought I was not a Christian or something. I got the two shots and a booster even, but even some people in my very own family have refused this. So, the judgments fly. Others tell me that they will never drink Corona beer ever again—as if the beer has corona virus in it. In our church I have been berated for both being too stringent and too lenient on Covid protocols within the course of ten minutes with two different people. The judgments have been so intense that I do not know anymore what is right and what is wrong. I leave it to you to judge—or not judge in this case.
The word here “to judge” in the Greek is “κρινω.” It literally means “to pick something out of a group.” So, Jesus is saying do not start being “so picky” perhaps. I believe that this was happening in the early church in Luke’s time that people were beginning to pick on one another. They were judging others’ religiosity—and not because they had been called by God to judge as in the Old Testament. Already as we can read in Paul’s writings, churches in other areas were going off the mark. They needed some correction. How to do this without being judgmental?
This last Tuesday night we had a general association meeting of the UCC here. Pastor Rick Bundschuh was asked to address us. He is by far the most “successful” pastor on this island. He has a large staff, a huge budget, and he says he touches about eight thousand lives in his ministries. There he was speaking from the pulpit of the Lihue United Church, and I could not help to wonder if he understood that our little churches in the UCC on Kauai are so small in comparison. Yet, he never came across as judgmental at all. I thank him for not coming across as judgmental. No, he was loving and gracious! That is how we are supposed to be.
I have noticed that there is a word missing in the English from this text that is very important in the Greek. The start of our scripture starts with the word “kai” in the Greek, which means “and.” In this case, we see that the sentiment expressed in verse 37 is actually started in verse 36 and continued then with the coordinating conjunction “and.” The line before speaks of mercy. Start your relationships from the standpoint of mercy first. Whomever you meet in your life, greet them with the Lord’s mercy.
After the idea of granting mercy right off, and then not judging, we see the admonition not to condemn. This is in the sense of having gone to court, being found guilty, and then applying a punishment in accordance with the crime. But, if someone has broken the law, are we not supposed to assign guilt and punishment? What is Jesus trying to tell us here?
This reminds me of a circumstance here on the high school campus. I was made aware by some students, whom I trusted, that one of the security guards was selling contraband cigarettes to the kids on campus. It was one dollar a drag. I could have gone to the administration of the school and gotten him fired I suppose. But, I knew that he needed his job. Still the kids should not be smoking on campus, or anywhere. In the end, all I did was let him know that I knew. I hoped that would be enough. He does not work there anymore, by the way.
The next few words are clear for us then. We are to “forgive.” Actually the Greek word here is “απολύω,” which literally means “to set free”or “let loose.” Even if someone is guilty and maybe should be punished, we are to have mercy and set them free.
I believe that Jesus is telling us that there will be divine justice. We can and should give mercy because God will judge one day. We should let people be free. In Romans 12:14-21 we get these very same instructions: “Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another, do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought of what is noble in the sight of all. . . .Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.”
In verse 38 of Luke 6, we read an interesting analogy: This is how we are therefore to treat others. We are to give others a good “measure.” So, we do not measure other people, but rather give them a good measure! This is how that looks. We are to see that the other person is in need. We give them not just enough, but we pack it in the bag, in this case the upper portion of the garment. That is what is being referred to here in the original language; i.e., a flap of cloth at the top of the tunic that is used a quick storage place if needed. Pack it in and press it down.
Once we give others what they need, we need to shake it all down. Shake it all down so that it settles so that there might be even more space for more grace to go in. Everything needs to settle in and then be topped off again.
Lastly, Jesus tells us then to let it run over. We have pressed in the grace that we are giving. We have shaken it down so that even more can be given. Lastly, we top it off to overflowing. That is how much Jesus is telling us to give of ourselves to others rather than judging or prejudging.
So, if you love someone else in the name of Jesus, then you will give them enough love to fill their heart, then tamp it down, fill the heart again, shake it down even more, fill the heart again until love is overflowing! Isn’t that what really happens when we love others?!
A friend from Seminary gave me a book by Victor Fankl Man’s Search for Meaning. He was a holocaust survivor and a psychologist. In the book he talks about judgment. First he was judged to be undesirable by the Nazis because he was a Jew. So, he was taken away to Auschwitz concentration camp.
When the train stopped, the prisoners were divided into two lines. The line to the left led right away to the gas chambers where people were killed. This line had old men and women and children who could not provide any useful labor. Frankl spoke about the finger of judgment of an SS officer. If the finger wagged to the left, you were dead. If it wagged to the right, you had a chance at life—but a life of absolute horror.
Frankl’s fate was that he was still strong enough to work. He tried very hard to hide a limp that he had so that the guard would not think that he was lame. He took a piece of glass and tried to shave off his facial stubble so that he would look younger and healthier because the shaving glass would leave a rosier complexion. Still, everyday at any time he could be sent off to die for almost any reason at all.
Have you noticed in our country today that same finger wagging to left and to the right? To the left we have utter condemnation. To the right we have utter horror. Yet, we continue to judge left and right in all of our politics, in our daily activities, in our conversation with others. Any human system of judgment will evoke condemnation and suffering. There is no way around it. Rightly Jesus tells us not to judge, not to condemn, just offer mercy and grace three times over until it is running over!
I want to jump down to verse 40 in order to make a comparison. Verse 39 is clear. The blind cannot lead the blind. But, what is said right after that seems almost to be a non sequitur. Why does Jesus start talking about disciples not being above the teacher? Why is everyone who is fully qualified like a teacher? The simple answer is that Jesus is telling his disciples that they are to teach and instruct rather than judging others. Likewise it is our call rather than to judge and condemn to teach and instruct!
Remember that idea of filling, shaking, over filling? Do that with the right insights of teaching to help the other person rather than simply judging or condemning. That is really hard. That is what takes a lot of patience. But, think about this in terms of fulfilling the Great Commission: “Go out and make disciples of all nations.” That means we are to provide instructions for living rather than judgment.
I know that that can be a fine line sometimes. Show the right way without shedding judgments.
I do not have the right to judge. I do not have the right to yell at the person how stupid they are. I do not have the right to harm the other person’s emotions by judging them to be inadequate. I am not judging you; I am instructing you to have great blessings and many happy returns.
I love this idea so much. Instead of judging others, instruct them, equip them, feed them with blessings! In the times I am with youth, I have to keep telling myself “No judge, instruct them!” By judging the youth, I am either condemning or creating horror for them. What they need is instruction on how to live a better life.
Recently a non-native to this country came to me with some issues that I could have really made some serious judgments over. Instead, I sat down with him and had a heart-to-heart about how things need to happen in this country. I did the best to instruct him and help him. Packing the blessings down, shaking them up, and topping them off the best I could.
Take this home with you today: No judge others. Instruct in the ways of the Lord instead! You are now qualified to instruct others in Jesus’ name.