Matthew 7:1 — “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”
Today, as we begin our journey toward Eater, I want to talk about false judgment (certainly a reality in the time of Jesus) by telling a story or two.
A false judgment says more about us than it does the other person. It is like when we point at someone, three fingers are pointing back at us. I know this is an old analogy; but we can learn a lot about false judgment when looking back at history and often at ourselves.
A six-year-old child came home from school with a note from his teacher. The teacher had judged the little boy and decided he should be taken out of school. She thought he was no good. He was too stupid to learn. That boy was Thomas Alva Edison.
Alfred Tennyson’s grandfather gave him 10 shillings for writing a eulogy for his grandmother. Handing it to the lad, the old man said, “Well, from what I can judge from your writing, this is the first money you have ever made for your poetry and it will certainly be the last.”
Benjamin Franklin’s mother-in-law hesitated to let her daughter marry a printer. There were already two printing offices in the United States and she judged that the country might not be able to support a third one.
Dorothy Thompson wrote a book, published in 1933, that contained one of the biggest misjudgments in history. She wrote that it took her just 50 seconds to size up Adolph Hitler, saying he would never become the dictator of Germany. “He is a nobody and will never amount to anything,” she said.
In 1865, the Chicago Times made what we would consider today an extraordinary judgment of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. They said, “The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, dishwatery utterances of a man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States.”
It is unbelievable how we, as individuals and as a society, have misjudged in the past. In many public speeches, Daniel Webster expressed his doubt about any real success of American railroads. He wrote that a train would never get moving on rails. If it did move, and if there were frost on the tracks, it could never come to a stop. Webster may have wanted to retract that statement years later.
In 1865, in Concord, Massachusetts (the home of Thoreau), “Huckleberry Finn” was banned. The very smart people of the town judged it as trash and not worthy to be read by educated citizens.
In 1929, Russia blacklisted “Sherlock Holmes” for its disgraceful conduct in writing. They said it should never be on the shelves of our good homes.
In 1939, China banned “Alice in Wonderland.” They judged that animals should not use human language. “It is disastrous,” they said, “to put animals and human beings on the same level.” I asked my golden retriever about this, and she just laughed. (just a little levity)
If you think about today’s society, who is the one judge in a society that is not a judge? Do you know who it is? It’s a baseball umpire. There was one time, when Babe Ruth was thrown out of a game. He walked up to the umpire and said, “Ump, there are 40,000 people here in the stands who all know the truth that I am not out.” The umpire looked him straight in the eyes and said, “That may be so, but mine is the only opinion that counts.”
When we judge another person, when we make a false judgment of someone and then hold that judgment throughout our life, we say the same thing. We say, “Mine is the only opinion that counts.”
There is a little plaque in the gift stores that says, “Not my will, but thine be done.” Imagine if we transferred this to judgment. “Not my judgment, but, God, Your judgment be done.”
Let’s think about this and look at it as if for the first time. We could discover that some of these verdicts/judgments that we have handed down about people and situations may be wrong; and, perhaps, we need to become willing to consider turning those around today.
C.R. Hembry wrote this:
I Dreamed of Heaven
I dreamed death came the other night
And heaven’s gates swung wide.
With kindly grace, an angel ushered me inside.
And there to my astonishment
Stood folks that I had known on earth.
Some I judged unfit, of little worth.
Indignant words rose to my lips
But never were set free.
For every face showed stunned surprise.
No one had expected me.
Do you remember this story of Michelangelo? He went to a rock quarry looking for a certain big piece of rock. He got it, but the person who owned the quarry said, “No, you don’t want that piece of rock; it’s no good. It is not worth anything.”
Michelangelo said, “Well, if that is the case, I want a discount.” He got the discount. When he took the rock home, those he passed said, “You can’t do anything with that piece of stone.”
He said, “You judged wrong. There is an angel trapped in that stone.” They looked at it and walked around it. They said, “There is no angel in there; that is a piece of rock.” He said, “You wait and see.” He was able to make the angel visible from the stone that no one else wanted.
I think about that a lot when I’m tempted to judge someone I might think I won’t like at first. I try to think of that person and imagine as Michelangelo did, that it isn’t just “an old piece of rock.” But, I I try to imagine that this person might be “an angel that’s trapped in there.” I may be the only one who can see her, but she’s there.”
I want to share a story with you that Richard Regan wrote about a time when he was sitting in a restaurant with a lot of his friends. Everyone was enjoying themselves visiting and engaged in conversation; everyone was happy. The restaurant was right on the town square. Everything was fine, until they looked out the window and saw a bum come into town with a knapsack and all his worldly belongings on his back. He was holding a sign that read, “I will work for food.”
All of the people in the restaurant looked out the window and said, “What is this? This man is up to no good. We ought to call the sheriff. He doesn’t belong here.”
They sat around and even the ones who were members of the church group sat there, as the conversation shifted 100% to judging this man outside the window in the town square who they didn’t even know. Just last Sunday, the preacher had talked about judging, and everyone in the café had heard that message. Richard decided maybe the preacher was right. As he went out of the restaurant and got into his car, he had a nagging feeling that would not leave him alone..
“Have you ever had God give you a nagging feeling that you should do something? And did it ever just leave you alone after a while?”
“The minister said if we would just look into the hearts and minds of people a bit more, if we would question in our own minds, we would find something to love, if we took the time. The minister said so often we have a file cabinet in our mind, and it is a file cabinet of gray mass. We find someone and we form a judgment. We don’t just shut the file; we put Crazy Glue around the edge and make sure it is sealed tight. We then put it in our file cabinet with our sealed judgment, the sealed fate of that person. We close it, lock it, put a padlock on it, put more Crazy Glue around the outside, and then we bury it deep in the recesses of our own minds.”
Richard decided he was going to go beyond what he had done all his life. He went over and talked to this stranger. He was hesitant because he still judged the man. He thought perhaps this man would harm him. He found the man standing on the stone steps of the church on the town square. He talked to the gentleman. He asked, “Are you looking for the pastor?”
The man said, “No, not really, just resting for a moment.”
Richard said, “Have you eaten, today?” The Man said, “Oh yes, I ate something this morning.”
Richard said, “Would you like to have lunch with me?” The man said, “Do you have some work for me to do? I would be glad to work for my lunch. I’ll do anything.”
“No work,” Richard replied. “Just come with me. I would like to get to know you.” So, they went together into the restaurant where the people had judged this man so harshly just a few minutes before. They sat down at a table, and it was as if every ear was listening to the conversation to see if they could find out what this stranger was about.
They listened as he was questioned. “Where are you headed?” “St. Louis,” was the answer.
“Where are you from?” “Oh, all over, but mainly from Florida.” “How long have you been walking?”
Everyone in the restaurant listened. “Fourteen years,” was the answer. Richard sat there and stared at the man. He realized he had met someone very special. Someone he did not expect to meet; someone his eyes had not told him about.
Then the man unbuttoned his coat and on his red tee-shirt was printed, “God the never-ending story.” Daniel’s story began to unfold. He told about how he had been walking for 14 years for God, and how he had stopped in Daytona Beach 14 years earlier. He was a drunk, a drug addict, and an outcast of society. He saw some people raising a tent. He thought it was a circus, so he went over and said, “Can I have some work?” They said, “Sure. We’ll put you to work.”
It ended up being a tent revival. During the evenings, he would listen. He wouldn’t want to, but he would listen, anyway. He listened and started to realize his life wasn’t working. He decided to give his will over to God. He became a new man.
He said, “God what do you want me to do with my life?” God said, “Keep walking. Keep walking and find people to help. Say an encouraging word. Give them a Bible.”
He concluded, “That is my story.”
As the entire restaurant listened, they were quite shocked by the incredible, articulate eloquence that flowed from the man’s mouth and the wisdom and deepness of his soul. They also noticed beyond what their eyes told them in the beginning. There was energy coming from this man. It was a love that just filled the whole place that everyone could sense. They wanted to be close to this man.
So they ate lunch and the whole restaurant enjoyed his company. Then the question was asked where he was going now. He said he had been told in his prayer it was time to go to St. Louis. Someone there needs a Bible. He will meet them on the road because God will arrange the meeting.
Richard said to the man, “Would you like a Bible to add to your backpack? I’ll get you a Bible if you would like.”
The man said, “That would be very nice. I can always use an extra Bible.”
They went into a bookstore and found just the small type of Bible that the man liked to carry and give away. Then the time came for the man to depart. They stood there on the town square and it had started to rain.
Richard realized his life had been profoundly changed in the two-hour time. There was a presence that radiated from this man and the mission he realized, sensed, and loved. He said to the man, “How long has it been since anyone gave you a hug?” The man said, “It has been a long time.”
Richard said, “Would you be threatened if I hugged you?” They embraced on the town square like brothers departing. The man said, “I love you.”
Richard said, “I love you, too.”
As they were departing, the man turned around, waved, and said, “God bless you.” Richard shouted, “God bless you, too.”
The man walked a little bit further, turned again, and said, “If you ever think of me, will you pray for me?”
Richard said, “Oh yes, I will. I promise.”
Richard went on to work; and when he left work at 5 o’clock that evening, he noticed it was starting to get dark. He noticed there was a cold wave that had blown into town, and there was a brisk breeze. He opened the car door; and as he sat down in the seat and moved it back, he looked down at the emergency brake to release it, and he noticed two old worn work gloves in his car. He thought about how cold it was, and he hoped the man could keep his hands warm some way.
Then he realized this was a prize gift. He thought, “If I found something of this man or about this man, every time I look at it, I will pray for him.” That was 23 years ago. Richard now keeps those gloves on his desk. Every time he sees those gloves, he will remember about the touch of one person and what it does in a person’s life. And also, something much more important: it is a reminder to him and it is his active prayer that he will never judge with a snap judgment again. He will give the benefit of the doubt to everyone. He will take the time to get to know someone and take the time to love them as God loves them.
Let us pray:
Today, dear God, I ask for Your help. I know I am under Your law of Divine justice. Your law of Divine judgment always works to perfectly equalize, to harmonize and to establish equality and order for all.
I refuse any thought or belief that negates this truth. I hold firm to my faith in your power, God, and in Your justice. I have a deep and abiding feeling of peace and well being. God, I am under Your law of Divine justice and everything in my life proves the working of this law.
Thank you. I place You first, God. I place love first in my life. Help me to love openly, without judgment, and with the courage Your Son, Jesus Christ, showed all of us.
Thank You, God. In Jesus Christ’s name … Amen.