King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, “Who is he? Where is the man who has dared to do such a thing?” Esther said, “The adversary and enemy is this vile man Haman.” Esther 7:5-6
Esther revealed to the king that that there was a plot to take her life. The king was incredulous. “Who is this man that would do such a thing?” he asked. He failed to see that he was really the one who consented to the bloody edict against the Jewish people. Esther might have said, ”You are the man!” but she never addressed his guilt. Instead, she pointed to the one who deceived the king in the first place.
Perhaps you’ve heard it said that ‘the thing’ in another person which makes you the angriest might also be your own greatest weakness. No wonder Jesus warned us about the perils of judging others without looking first into our own hearts. “Do not judge lest you be judged,” Jesus said. In Eugene Peterson’s, The Message, it reads like this:
Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, and criticize their faults unless, of course, you want the same treatment. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own.
I long misunderstood the ‘judge not’ principle. I concluded that I should never judge but that’s not true. I am to be a fruit inspector so as to be wise about making friendships, business partners, picking a spouse, and appointing people to levels of leadership. But it’s easy to forget the bigger context of this principle in the verses that come before and after. The risk of judging others without first examining myself is that my judgements will come back on my head.
So, how am I to live safely? I expose my heart, daily, to the light of God’s Word and make personal confessions to the Spirit inside. As I become aware of my own sin, I repent and submit to change by the power of the Spirit. Only then will I wisely and safely discern/judge the fruits of another. I remember the encouragement to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. i.e. Making judgements with a clean heart.
Search me, O God, and know my heart. I cannot afford to have a blind spot. Let the wisdom I perceive about others start with wisdom You reveal to me about myself! In Jesus’ name, Amen.