When it comes to following Jesus, what’s the payoff? What is that, when you’re 70 or 80 years old you look back and say: “I’m so glad I followed Jesus because ___________.” When your kids & grandkids are gathered around your deathbed and you tell them:...
Thoughts, Musings, & Tips For Finding More For Your Life.
I have been hearing a lot of great feedback about the series of messages we’re in on James. It’s been an easy series to write because I’m just letting the scriptures speak for themselves. It’s however not been an easy series to preach, because I’m letting the scriptures speak for themselves. James is an incredibly practical book while simultaneously being an incredibly provocative book. It’s challenging isn’t it? I only have one regret when it comes to this series. I wish I had more time to go through it. Planning is really important to me so I try plan my preaching schedule well in advance. I gave myself 7 weeks to journey through James – I wish I had given myself more. With that thought in mind I am going to periodically jump over sections of the book on Sundays but I will supplement those times by writing an article or blog about the portions that have been passed over. Today I want to come out of James 2:1-11 and talk to you about Judgment & Favoritism. I pray that God will use these words to continue to challenge you from His Word.
Have you ever been judged? Of course you have. And, none of us like it. No one likes being sized up. No one likes being analyzed or criticized or categorized. Yet, we do it every day. We size people up. We look at people and affix an endless number of labels to them. We judge what people wear, what they drive, how they walk, the size of their waistline, how they wear their hair. The list of examples could go on and on. This is a serious problem in our culture, and it was during James culture as well. So much that James takes this topic head on. I want to look at what Pastor James has to say about judgment & favoritism as well as what his older brother Jesus had to say as well. Let’s start with James.
Look at how Chapter 2:1-11 reads in the New Living Translation:
“1 My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? 2 For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. 3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, 4 doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives? 5 Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? 6 But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? 7 Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear? 8 Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 9 But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law. 10 For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. 11 For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law.”
I don’t think there’s anyone who would be reading this blog who hasn’t thought about judgment. However, many of our thoughts on judgment have focused on the effect it has on others. We’ve likely considered the lasting hurt our judgment has inflicted on others, but James has an interesting angle on this issue. James considers the effect judgment has on us – the actual source of the judgment. He lets us in on an insight that I have never considered. When I judge someone, it actually creates more pain on me than it does on the person I am judging. Many times, when you judge someone they have no idea you’re judging them at all. Judgment has a lot to do with assumptions. We assume things we have no idea about.
Years ago I had an amazing kid in my youth ministry. Even to this day there have been few people God has placed under my leadership who have more natural talent or potential. He had a clear call on his life to serve God in full-time ministry. He dove into serving in our youth services and on our service teams. He acted in dramas and served as an intern to Sonny & I. I was so excited to see him growing and striving to fulfill his potential. I served at that church for a few years before I transitioned to another church to serve as their youth pastor. When I left the church this young man was in he almost immediately took several steps backward. Before long he wasn’t attending church at all. It took a few years but I was finally able to connect with him and got to ask him why he wasn’t serving God anymore. His answer caught me a bit off guard. He told me point blank – “It’s because of you.” I didn’t even know how to respond other than to ask him what I had to do with it. I had mentored him. I had spent countless hours pouring into him. I loved him like a little brother. He went on to tell me that I had told him I was going to be at his church forever, but the minute an opportunity was presented for me to go work at a bigger church with a bigger youth ministry I broke my promise and walked away leaving him and his friends in the rear view mirror. He felt like I was a fake and a hypocrite. What my young friend did was make an assumption about my actions. He judged my motives based upon my actions. He had no idea what went into me making that decision from my end. The truth was, I wanted to serve as the youth pastor at his home church my whole life, but unfortunately that decision was not left entirely up to me. When my Senior Pastor retired after leading the church for 30 years, a younger Pastor from another state was brought in to lead the church and that Pastor had a team of his own that he wanted to lead with. I was given my notice to find another place of ministry. In case you’re not catching my drift, I was fired. I hadn’t communicated that fact to the students or the church because I wanted to protect their view of the new Pastor. I didn’t want their view of him to be hindered by their love of & loyalty to me. When I explained that to my young friend years later he understood, but it had cost him years of hurt and disappointment and unfortunately had changed the trajectory of his life. The point is, by making an assumption about me and judging my actions, he hadn’t brought any hurt to me, he only brought hurt to himself.
Dr. Jim Richards defines judgment as; “Assuming to know why someone did what they did or said what they said.” Knowing what happened is an observation; trying to figure out why it happened takes us into the realm of judgment. We have to be able to separate facts from the presumed motive.
What does Jesus say about Judgment & favoritism?
In Matthew 7:1-5 He says;
“1 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. 3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”
It’s so much easier for me to see your speck than it is for me to see my log. It’s natural for me to see what’s wrong with you, while hoping you don’t see what’s wrong with me. I want you to view me as perfect because I not only judge you, I also judge myself. I want you to look at me like I’m perfect because of my own understanding of my deficiencies. I make the assumption that, if you knew about me what I know about me, you may not want to know me at all. I am judging myself right out of my own reality and our potential relationship. If I can see what’s wrong with you maybe it’ll be a relief for what’s wrong with me. Unfortunately, we don’t only judge others and judge ourselves, we also judge God. We try to assume to know why He did what He did. When something bad happens to us or someone we care for, we immediately begin to ask why He caused it, or in the very least why He allowed it to happen? When we assume God’s motives we put ourselves into a position of judgment or authority over Him. We fail to remember that God has but one motive. God’s only motive is Love. His only motive is good. His ways are higher than ours, His view is higher than ours. He sees the end from the beginning. He understands the outcome when we don’t. We simply can’t judge His motive when we don’t have all the facts.
So, a question arises; what do we need to do? How do we stop? How do we stop judging others, ourselves & our God? I wanna give you:
4 Things To Combat Judgment In Our Lives
Here’s the first. We need to…
1. Value People
Philippians 2:3 says;
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves”
The great theologian and Apostle of the Church Paul tells us that the act of valuing others requires the characteristic of humility. Judgment is the complete opposite of humility. As soon as we judge someone we elevate ourselves above them. We become the authority on their actions. We assume to know why they did what they did or said what they said. We assume we know why they hurt us. I hate to break it to you but that’s not humility. It takes humility to value people. Now, it doesn’t take a lot of humility to treat someone good if they have something to offer you. But, when there’s nothing to gain from that person we tend to not value them.
When I was attending college in Minneapolis, I met a guy named Red. I met Red because he was a regular “customer” at the Walgreens by my apartment. I put the word customer in quotes because there was a 50/50 chance that Red wasn’t going to be paying for the items he needed from the store. Red was homeless and a seemingly hopeless addict. He would use whatever resources he could to escape his current reality. One of his primary sources of alternate reality was Lysol. You read that right – Lysol – the air freshener. Red would get the biggest can of Lysol he could from the store and spray it into a paper cup then drink it. Apparently, not only does Lysol instantly remove 99% of germs, but it also immediately gets you 100% messed up. It would have been easy for me to assume Red was just some loser base head, but even back then, before Jesus, I valued people. Let me take a side note and say, we have to be careful who we devalue, because God values every single person. God knows something about that person that you don’t know. Every person is the way they are for a reason. We may not know anything about that person but God does. God knows every moment of their life. For example, God knows that Red wasn’t always drinking Lysol on the streets of Minneapolis. God knows that Red used to be police officer in Phoenix Arizona and was a member of the SWAT team. God knows that one-day on a raid of a drug house Red was distracted by a sound for a split second. He was distracted just long enough to take his focus off the partner whose back he was responsible to watch. He was distracted just long enough for that partner to be shot in the head by one of the drug dealers inside the house. Red turned around to watch his partner fall to the ground dead. Red shot and killed the dealer who shot his partner then in a fog he walked out of the drug house. He didn’t stop walking until he hit Minneapolis. I don’t know why he picked Minneapolis, but in listening to his story, I can understand a little better why he wanted to escape reality. So, while Red is pan handling for enough money to buy another can of Lysol, God knows the back-story and values him while you judge him. My point is, the more we get to know about people, the more our grace goes up & our judgment goes down. We go from zero to judgment so quick but 1 Samuel 16:7 says;
…people judge by outward appearance, but the lord looks at the heart.
Don’t you think there are people in your life you could value more?
Here’s the second thing to combat judgment in our lives…
2. Accept People
Romans 15:7 says…
“Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.”
Acceptance is so simple, when you understand the outcome. God will be glorified when we accept each other. It is the model of Jesus. Jesus clearly communicated that you don’t have to change anything about you. That’s what Jesus does. He accepts us as is. We don’t have to change a thing to be accepted. It’s throughout the New Testament. Jesus accepted sinners. He accepted a woman caught in the act of adultery and a man possessed by demons and the list goes on. He accepted them because, from His eternal perspective, they had great worth. Let me give you a picture of acceptance.
If I took a $100 bill and handed it to you, almost all of you would readily accept it. Now keep in mind, you have no idea where that $100 bill has been, whose dirty hands have been on it, or what it’s been used for. That $100 bill may have been a part of a drug deal or a hit on someone’s life or paid for pornography or prostitution. We have no idea the evil or the good that $100 bill has been used for. When I hand you the money, you don’t care in the least how dirty or wrinkled it is, you immediately think what you could do with that money, because no matter how wrinkled or dirty it is the value of that $100 Bill is still $100. The $100 bill hasn’t lost one ounce of value since the day it rolled off the press. It would probably never even cross you mind where that money has been or who that money has been with when you decide whether or not to accept the $100 bill.
The same is true of you. Regardless of how wrinkled or dirty you are, regardless of the journey you’ve been on or the current location in which you find yourself, none of that determines whether or not Jesus will accept you. Today Jesus will accept you and assigns the same value to you as He did the day you were born. Do you live by the same virtue? Do you accept people in their current tattered condition as to be glory to the God who accepted you in your most tattered condition?
Don’t you think there are people in your life you could accept more?
Here’s the third thing to combat judgment in our lives…
3. Forgive People
This is the most difficult, but if we don’t forgive, we will stay locked in a box of judgment. We will never get free if we don’t forgive. In the Gospels, Jesus’ disciples ask Him to teach them how to pray. Jesus responds by reciting a prayer that is now famously referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer.” Look at how it reads in Matthew 6:9-13…
9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ’
If you’ve been a Jesus Person for very long, you probably know that prayer, and may even be able to recite it from heart. But, check out what Jesus says next. In the verse right after “The Lord’s Prayer” Jesus says this…
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Not only is it important to forgive, but according to Jesus it is necessary. Jesus says that because He knows that forgiving others is a matter of the heart. If you can’t forgive others, you ultimately can’t forgive yourself. If you can’t forgive yourself, you can never see yourself through the lens of Jesus. You are not who you think you are. You are more than you will ever see yourself to be, but you have to forgive yourself, and for that debt to be forgiven, you must first forgive your debtor. You have to forgive those who have hurt you, abused you, disrespected and dishonored you. We’re hesitant because we think we’re giving the offender power, but in truth, when we forgive we’re taking the power back. That person no longer has the power to minimize your life or hold you hostage by their actions. We’re hesitant because we think we’re giving the offender our trust back, but we’re not. We’re actually taking our trust from them and putting it in God. When we forgive we acknowledge our trust in God to heal our hurts and hearts. Forgiving people isn’t based on our feelings but on God’s heart. Even after enduring unimaginable torture, from the cross Jesus said; “Father Forgive them…” and the “them” He was talking about included me and it included you.
Don’t you think there are people in your life you could accept more?
Here’s the fourth thing to combat judgment in our lives…
4. Get Close To People
Relationship is essential. The closer you get to people, the further you get from judgment. On the flip side, isolation is a breeding ground for judgment. Some of the most critical people I know have no meaningful relationships. It’s no wonder they sit around and think of everything that’s wrong with everyone they know. They probably think those people are sitting around thinking about what’s wrong with them. It’s a vicious circle. Relationship is the antidote to judgment. It’s why we have Life Groups. If you can surround yourself with people who care about you, suddenly the overwhelming problems of your life become more manageable because now you have someone with whom to share the burden. There’s a fascinating portion of scripture in the book of Luke. You’ve probably heard it or read it before, but let me try to give you a different perspective on it today.
Luke 6:38 says…
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Like you, I’ve heard that scripture as a pre-offering message about money. Let’s be honest, I’ve used that scripture as a pre-offering message about money. In truth, that scripture can be used in regard to money because of the principle of sowing and reaping. But, in this scripture Jesus is actually talking about relationships. Reading the verse before will help you see the context. Look at John 6:37-38
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
That’s the picture of a beautiful relationship. People respond in direct accordance to how we treat them. If we treat them with generosity, they’ll respond with generosity. If we treat them with love, they’ll respond with love. Treat them with acceptance, they’ll respond with acceptance. If we treat them with cynicism, they’ll respond with cynicism. If we treat them with criticism, they’ll respond with criticism. Treat them with judgment, they’ll respond with judgment. It’s interesting to note that when you give, you generally get back more than you gave. That rings true for the positive as well as with the negative. Today I want love, so I will give love. I don’t want to be judged so I won’t judge. How do I do that? I get close to you and I let you get close to me. The closer I get to you, the less I’ll judge you because I begin to understand why you are the way you are.
Again, relationship is the antidote to judgment. A relationship with other people, but more importantly, a relationship with Jesus. He’s the only one who knows you, understands you, and yet still values you, accepts you, forgives you and longs to have you close to Him. Are you close to Him today? If you’re not, you can be. All you have to do is ask. If you’ve never done that, will you do it now? All you have to do is read these words and believe them in your heart:
Dear Jesus, I’m sorry. I’m a sinner. I repent of my sins and ask you to forgive me. Would you come into my life and make it new. I can’t live the way I’ve lived any more. Save me from myself. Empty me of me and fill me with you. I receive you as my personal Lord and Savior. In Jesus name Amen.
If you prayed that prayer we want to help you walk the Jesus Journey. Will you do us the honor of emailing us to tell us you’ve received Jesus as your Lord and Savior? I want to personally connect with you. Thanks.