Tag Archives: Judging


Read Luke 18:9-14

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. ” (Matthew 7:1, NLT)

Continuing on with our horror theme for Halloween, another favorite out of 1980’s horror is the cult-hit film, Monster Squad. Released in 1987 and rated PG-13, this was a horror-comedy film that was geared to a teenage audience. It was a film that had a perfect balance of fun and scares in it and it captured the imaginations of its younger audiences.

The film centers on a group of misfit kids who belong to a secret monster club in Sean’s (the main character) treehouse. This club consisted of nothing more than these kids meeting to discuss their favorite Universal horror monsters and learning their strengths and weaknesses. Some kids like to play with dolls, others with GI Joes, this group of kids dug monsters.

As it turned out, Count Dracula and the Universal monsters are real and they show up in Sean’s town with a plan to take over the world. In order to pull this off, the Count Dracula recruits Frankenstein’s monster, Gil-Man (aka the Creature from the Black Lagoon), Wolf Man, and the Mummy and moves into an abandon house in town. While most of the adults are oblivious to the clear and present danger to their community and the world, the monster club kids become aware of what is going on.

As such, they recruit an extra team member who happens to be a misfit in school because he’s viewed as a tough “bad boy”. As it turns out, Rudy is not as bad as he appears and actually intervenes to stop one of the monster club members from being bullied. As such, and also because he was able to answer questions about monster movies, Rudy is accepted into the club and together they defeat the monsters under their new name, The Monster Squad.

And this brings me to an important segue. While there are Universal monsters threatening the town, they really were not the only monsters lurking in this sleepy town. Much can be gathered by the way the kids talk and the way the adults act. Sean’s parents are seeking couseling for their marriage and they are on the verge of divorce because his dad, who is a detective, puts his job before his family and before his relationship with his wife. Sean was no doubt affected by the dysfunction in his own household.

Society, as a whole, is pretty monstrous too. The 1980s and 1990s were not a time of political correctness, social sensitivity, or healthy school environments. Horace, who was one of the monster squad members, was bullied because of his weight. The kids in school call him “fat kid” and “faggot”. Even member of the monster squad use language like “homo” to make fun of gay people. They also pick on Sean’s younger sister and try to exclude her from the Monster Squad because she’s a girl, though she ends up being a godsend later on in the film.

The Monster Squad also shows their monstrous side in how they judge an old man who lived alone in a house on Sean’s street. They thought he was a German Nazi who was a mass murderer. Of course, they had no reason to think that, but that was the rumor circulating among the kids in school and they bought into that conspiracy theory.

Eventually, after finding a book written in German by the famed vampire hunter, Abraham Van Helsing, they worked up the courage to go to the old man to see if he could help them translate the book. The old man gladly helped and, eventually, he let them know that they were wrongly prejudging him, though he is quite forgiving of them. In this old man, they found a friend and an ally. Upon leaving his house, Sean said to him, “Wow, it seems you really are familiar with monsters”, or something to that effect. The man responded, “Yes, I suppose I am,” and then he closed the door. As he does so, you see numbers tattooed on his arm. He was a holocaust concentration camp survivor.

That was one of the most powerful scenes in the entire movie. Sure, the monsters are cool and the battle between the monsters and the Monster Squad is a lot of fun to watch; however, that scene was a piece of important moral and social commentary. Judging others is one of the most monstrous things we can do as humans because, when we do so, we place ourselves in the place of God who is the only one who is capable of judging. There are many monsters out in the world to fight and defeat in this world; however, we cannot do so if we are monsters ourselves.

The irony about The Monster Squad is that they were doing the same thing that the Nazi’s did. The Nazi’s judged that man and countless others as less than human and put him in a concentration camp as a result. He no doubt endured monstrous and inhuman treatment because of how he was judged. The Monster Squad, though to a lesser extent, were judging the old man because he was recluse and not well-known and German, and they judged him as a Nazi serial killer when, in fact, he was a victim of the Nazis.

Had these boys not fought against their monstrous bias against this man, they would have never been able to defeat the actual monsters that were threatening them and their entire town. This should open our eyes and challenge us too. Are we going to prejudge people based off of how they look, where we think they’re from, how they dress, what accent they have or any other outward appearance? Or are we going to get to know someone for who they are as opposed to how we perceive them? Christ calls us to do the latter and reminds us that we are not the judges. Only God can judge. When we judge others, we become the monsters instead of righteous heroes. Remember, judge not and you will not be judged. Amen.

Judging is God’s role. When we judge, we set ourselves up as God. Judging is the result of self-idolatry.

Lord, help me refrain from judging. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Pieces of You

bflw-devotional-800x490Writing the Life-Giving Water devotionals is not only an important ministry, but is a deeply rewarding spiritual discipline for me as well. With that said, observing Sabbath (aka rest) is an important spiritual discipline as well. So here is a LOOK BACK to a devotion I wrote in the past. Read it, reflect on it, be challenged by it. Who knows how God will speak to you through it and how it will bear relevance in your life today? May the Holy Spirit guide you as you read the suggested Scripture and subsequent devotion.

The Sermon, part 22: Judging

Read Matthew 7:1-5

“Then let the heavens proclaim His justice, for God Himself will be the judge.” (Psalms 50:6 NLT)

logandspeckIt’s hard to believe, but we have just entered into the last third of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, where the focus shifts from our relationship with stuff to our relationship with human beings. It is important to remember, throughout all of the sermon, Jesus is speaking directly to his disciples, though he is being overheard by the crowds.

Jesus clearly knew he was being overheard and so we can draw the following conclusion: Jesus was directly instructing how his disciples were to be in relationship with their ἀδελφός (pronounced ad-el-fos’), meaning brothers. The use of the word brothers here means that Jesus is referring to how the disciples interact with other members of their fellowship. It would be accurate to say that Jesus isn’t just talking about male members and so we could say that in this case, ἀδελφός refers to both “brothers” and “sisters”, even though the word itself means brothers.

Yet, Jesus also is aware that his teaching is being heard by a multitude of other people who are not his disciples; therefore, it can be safely assumed that though Jesus is directly teaching this to his disciples, it is a teaching he intends even for those beyond his inner circle. In other words, this is a teaching of how humans, in general, should be treating each other. It is not a teaching that is exclusive to just his disciples. This is perhaps why the New Revised Standard Version translates the word ἀδελφός to “neighbors” as opposed to “brothers”.

Jesus starts this final section of teachings with an absolute prohibition. “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.” There is nothing hypothetical or metaphorical about this teaching. Jesus is meaning it quite literally and absolutely. There is not gray area here, nor is there any “wiggle room”.

It is believed by some scholars that this teaching is original to Jesus, while the qualification that follows it was an interpretive expansion by the post-Easter church. The reason for this is that Jesus taught the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 24:34); however, as the years pressed onward following Easter, it became more and more clear to the church that “imminent” did not necessarily mean “in their lifetimes.” We can see this shift when we read Paul’s letters, which teach about the Kingdom soon to come, and the letters of Peter and John, who begin to understand that “with the Lord a day is like 1,000 years, and 1,000 years like a day” (2 Peter 3:8). Therefore, the church sought to expand upon Jesus’ teaching on refraining from in away that reiterated the need to follow it.

Regardless, what is clear is that Jesus absolutely prohibited judging. The question is, what is meant by the word “judge”. The word for judge κρίνω (pronounced kree’-nō) means to criticize or to condemn. In other words, Jesus prohibits his disciples and all who wish to follow him from casting criticism and condemnation on other people. Jesus then, according to Matthew, qualifies this prohibition by saying that those who judge will find themselves judged by God in the same manner and with the same measure as they judged others.

In other words, if you want to bring down God’s law on someone’s head, beware! For none of us are right with God and will face similar judgment. This is further qualified by Jesus’ question of why one would try and pull a speck or a splinter from their brother’s/sister’s eye, when he/she has a huge log or beam in his/ her own eye. Nothing gets Jesus more riled up than hypocrisy!

This should be a lesson for us as well. Who are we to judge. It is important to note that judgment is different than discernment. We can discern that we should not keep the company of someone because they are behaving in ways that are not moral or beneficial. We can discern that a certain belief is not good or not consistent with our own; however, are we in a place to judge (based off of any Law or doctrine or theology) that someone evil, or that someone is damned to hell? What’s more, even if we are right in our judgment that they are damned to hell for violation of this or violation of that, are we so sure that we are not in violation and deserving of the same judgment? Jesus’ answer to us is clear. “JUDGE NOT, so that you may not be judged.” I pray that we all learn to follow this prohibition.

“The least amount of judging we can do, the better off we are.” – Michael J. Fox

Lord, thank you for teaching of the perils of judging, for who am I to judge? Steer me clear away from it so that I may live and walk in your light, your mercy, and your grace. Amen.

Closet Cleaning

Read Daniel 2:20-23

“Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3 CEB)

191-skeleton-in-the-closetThis past August, I went to the theater to see the film entitled, “The Gift.” It was a psychological thriller written and directed by Joel Edgerton who had played Rameses, the Pharaoh who opposed Moses in last year’s Biblical Epic, “Exodus: Gods and Kings.” The film is centered on a young married couple who recently moved from Chicago to California while recovering from a recent miscarriage. The husband had grown up there and the couple decided to move back there after losing the baby. While shopping for furniture for their new house, the husband (played by Jason Bateman) bumps into someone he knew back in high school named Gordon Mosely, who went by the nickname Gordo. The meeting was, of course, awkward to say the least and when it was time for the young couple to leave, you could see the relief on the husband’s face.

The story doesn’t end there. Gordo is a pretty resourceful guy and ends up showing up on their door step with a house-warming gift. They eat dinner with him and when he leaves the husband starts questioning his wife about the oddness of Gordo’s sudden appearance in their lives. Gordo continues to have interactions with the husband, and the wife, and starts to weird the couple out. It is at this point the husband starts to feel threatened by Gordo, and confronts him directly in order to send a clear message that he wants him out of their lives. Without giving anything else away, it is obvious the story doesn’t end there and that Gordo isn’t done harassing this young couple. But what becomes clear, is that as weird and offsetting as Gordo is, we begin to see that the husband has a good many skeletons in his closet and, should they be revealed, they could not only threaten him personally, but also the very fabric of his marital relationship.

If that teaser doesn’t get you to want to see the film, nothing will. As I was watching it I found myself being judgmental of the characters. Each of them had skeletons in their closet, things that they had hidden and buried for years. How could they do that? How could they possibly think that they would get away with trying to hide those things? It was in the moment of such judgment passing that I realized the hypocrisy in my own line of questioning. After all, which one of us doesn’t have skeletons in our closet? Which one of us doesn’t have dark aspects to our thoughts, our personalities and even, sometimes, our deeds? Each of us have thought or done something we are not proud of and each of us have buried those things and tried to move on from them.

There is nothing inherently wrong with trying to move on from previous sins; however, when we do it in a way that is dishonest, when we do it in away that allows us to not come to terms with and repent for what we’ve done, then those sins become skeletons. While the closet door is closed, those skeletons hang silently on their noose-like hangers and we forget they’re there. We may even deceive ourselves into thinking they were never there to begin with, that we hadn’t sinned at all; however, when someone or something opens those doors, those skeletons bare themselves and clink together like wooden reeds in the wind.

Today’s challenge is two-fold. First, don’t judge others for the skeletons that are in their closets. For you know it is true that you have skeletons of your own that could just as easily be exposed and judged. Second, deal with your own skeletons. Acknowledge the sins and/or mistakes of your past and be repentant of them. I don’t mean that you have to shout them out to the world but, where reconciliation with others is needed, work hard to reconcile with them. If you work hard to clear out the skeletons in your own closet, and we all know there is a lifetime full, then you won’t have time to notice the skeletons in another’s closet. Even if you do, you won’t judge because you know you’ve been there; rather, you will reach out in love and offer them a helping hand in their closet cleaning.

“The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.” – St. Jerome
Lord, help to acknowledge the skeletons in my closet so that I may truly move forward from them in grace. Amen.

Start With Yourself

Read Matthew 7:1-6

“I have much to say about you and much to condemn, but I won’t. For I say only what I have heard from the One who sent Me, and He is completely truthful.” (John 8:26, NLT)

logsFor those of you who are on social media, and perhaps some of you read these devotions on some of those sites, have you ever run into comments posted that make you sit back and seriously question what in the world the people who posted them are thinking? Often times, people post things that they think are “wise beyond their years”, often decrying something they think they don’t like…yet they are no better than the people and/or the things they are bemoaning. More often than not, many of us have come across such things and have been left scratching our heads and wondering, “For the love of God, why?”

I have seen many such posts that have left me wondering. For instance, people posting to the world that they are “going to rise above” and “not let people bring them down” only to follow that up with a series of comments putting down the said people that they are supposedly “not going to let bring them down.” In this world of social media, many people have lost their filters and their self-awareness; many people end up posting things they would never say to the face of others. While there are many awesome things about social media, it is such behavior that ends up giving social media a bad reputation.

Of course, social media is not just to blame regarding this. Prior to social media there were bumper stickers (perhaps there still are) and the like that expressed the same kind of sentiment. But the truth is, that if you want to not let people get you down, you kind of need to start with yourself first. It is so easy to look across the way, point the other finger, and hold other people accountable for your you’re feeling. Yet, the truth is, it is not quite as easy for us to self-reflect and see where and how we are bringing ourselves down. What’s more, often times misery likes company and we end up bringing others down with us!

The truth of the matter is that this kind of behavior has been going on for quite some time. Jesus, during his famous Sermon on the Mount, talked about this very thing when he warned his listeners not to pull out the speck in another’s eye without removing the huge log their own eyes first. The fact of the matter is that we all play our part in viewing ourselves as the ones who are in the right and everyone else as being in the wrong. The truth is that not one of us has clear eyes or 20/20 vision when it comes to our own shortcomings and for us to act as if we have none is both disingenuous and sinful.

Christ is calling you to concern yourself with the log(s) that are clouding your vision before you even begin to point out the specks that are in another’s eyes. If you do not want to let other people bring you down, then you had better start with yourself. Once you have been perfected then you will see clear enough to judge other people. Of course that day of perfection will never come in this life and so, therefore, our judgment of others should never come either. Let us, rather, leave judgement and speck pulling up to God who could judge each of us for our faults but chooses not to. Amen.

“Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.” (Proverbs 18:2 NLT)

Lord, help me to be a person who does not tear others, myself included, down; rather, let me be one who lifts people up both in prayer and in life. Amen.

In Search for the Essentials

Read Matthew 22:34-40


“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples.” (John 13:35)

DiscipleTattooWhen it comes to how Christians should treat each other regarding theological and doctrinal differences, there is a seventeenth century quote that says, “In the essentials unity, in the non-essentials liberty, in all things, charity (meaning love).” Yet, it seems as if that is much easier said than done in Christianity, or any religion for that matter. People tend to invest themselves in their religions, and they identify themselves by their beliefs, and so doctrines and theologies become awfully personal.

As such, attacks against one’s beliefs often ends up getting translated as an attack against oneself. I have, no doubt, been both on the receiving and the giving ends of those attacks. If we are honest, most of us have been. Sometimes when one questions someone’s beliefs, he or she is not meaning to “attack” at all; however, it gets interpreted that way because of the personal nature of faith. Yet, there are many times that one just vehemently disagrees with the beliefs of another, often feeling that their beliefs are threatened the opposing beliefs of another, and so they react in ways that are both spiritually damaging and ungodly.

Sometimes it isn’t even beliefs that called into question, but personal practices or forms of expression. For instance, I have been questioned before because I have eight tattoos. I have been asked, “What would Jesus think of you having those tattoos? Surely, you must know that Jesus was a good Jewish boy and he would not have condoned your marking your body up like that.” What does one say to such a comment? It is true that Jesus would not have been down at the tattoo parlor getting WWJD and fish symbols tattooed to his body; however, it is also true that Jesus wouldn’t have been eating shrimp. He wouldn’t have eaten pork. He wouldn’t be wearing clothing with mixed fibers (e.g. shirts made with cotton and polyester). Yet, the majority of Christians have no problem eating and wearing such things.

Of course, I could go on quoting Jesus on what defiles a person, or perhaps quoting Paul on how Christians are free to do all things in Christ, though not all things are beneficial. But that is beyond the point. How do we, as people of faith, live into the quote above? First off, what are the essentials? It seems that there are no groups of Christians that can agree on just what the essentials are. One group will hold the Apostles Creed as the essentials; however, other groups might dispute one or more of the Apostle’s Creed as essential. What’s more, even if they accept the Apostle’s Creed as essential, they might interpret its parts differently than others, leading to conflict. If people can’t agree on what is essential, then it is impossible to move beyond to what is non-essential.

Where is charity in all of this? Where is love? Thankfully for us Christians, Jesus answered what is MOST important for all people of faith, and I will extend this decree to all people of faith…and not just Christians. What is most important, what is essential, is this: that you LOVE God with all of your being, and that you LOVE your neighbor as yourself. For Jesus, those two commands summed up all of the laws of Judaism and were what was essential to that religion. As such, that is what is essential for Christians as well, and be hard pressed not to see that as essential for all people, regardless of faith. If we all were more unified in our LOVE of God, as opposed to our LOVE of OUR IDEA OF GOD, and if we were all unified in our LOVE OF NEIGHBOR, then we would find out that the non-essentials would fade away and that CHARITY would rule the day. This is what we, as beings created in the image of God, are called to do…to LOVE and to never cease in that LOVE.


“So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For He will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.” Paul of Tarsus, (1 Corinthians 4:5)


Lord, give me the grace to be graceful and give me peace enough in my own beliefs so that I do not feel threatened by the beliefs of others.  In you, I am secure. Fill me with your love so that I may, in turn, love others. Amen.

Extreme Makeover

Read Matthew 7:1-6


“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.” (Psalm 139:14).

dreamstime_l_20636837Have you ever seen the show Extreme Makeover? It was a show on TV that centered around taking people who were considered to be in need of a “new look”, bringing them to Hollywood, and giving them a makeover.  These makeovers weren’t just a day out to posh clothing stores and applying top of the line makeup; rather, these makeovers included plastic surgery such as face-lifts, breast augmentation, liposuction, and other appearance-altering surgeries.

In the American culture, more focus is given to how we look than to any other thing. Everywhere we go we are inundated with images that tell us we are not as perfect as someone else thinks we should be.  I hear my own daughters saying, “I wish I looked like that,” every time they stare at these unrealistic images of women who, outside of Photoshop, don’t really exist. 

We are all in a race to look the best that we possibly can so that people don’t judge us. God forbid if we look unkempt or frumpy when we go out to the supermarket. God forbid if someone sees us in our PJs or if we aren’t wearing enough make up to mask our “imperfections.” The fact is, many of us spend a great deal of time trying focusing on how we look and for good reason. We all have learned that we get judged by our appearance. I am sure that you are nodding your head in agreement as I write this. Our culture focuses too much on appearance.

What is sadder than what I have already written about above, is the fact that the church is no different than the rest of the world and, in some cases, it can be far worse in its judgment. If people don’t look the right way, if they don’t smell the right way, if they don’t say the right things, if they don’t believe things the way we do, and if they don’t fit in with our way of doing things then they are clearly NOT ONE OF US!

That is the mentality that fills the hearts and minds of many people in the church and it is a sad one considering that Jesus, himself, wouldn’t have fell in line with any of our categories. We are so busy judging others that we often forget the true reason we are the church to begin with: namely, that we were loved by God and given undeserved grace despite our not doing things the “right” way. Who has more of a right to build up walls of distinction more than God? Can anyone of us claim that right?

The question for us is this, if God chose not to judge us, what makes us think we have the right to judge others? If God chose to accept us how we are, what gives us the right to demand that others undergo an extreme makeover? If God is cool with difference and diversity, why are we so fearful of it?  The challenge for us is to embrace the uniqueness of others and celebrate them for being who GOD MADE THEM TO BE. Remember that God made you who you are. Just the same, God made others who they are and we are called to celebrate in that fact. Let us makeover our hearts and warmly welcome people, as they are, in God’s love and God’s grace.


“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.” – Wayne Dyer


Lord, makeover my heart and help me to be an extension of your love and grace so that others may know, through me, that you love them. Amen!