July 23 I Saturday
“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. They worship Me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” —Matthew 15:7-9
We live in the midst of division and we can inadvertently contribute to the divisions that exist within our society because deep in the human heart we love to judge one another. We actually revel in it. When we drive our cars, we judge others. When we stand in the grocery store, we measure others in line. When we go to the gym, we measure our performance against others. In fact, we have built million-dollar businesses around our desire to weigh in on the performance of others.
Social media has amplified our ability to weigh in on everything, even if we are not experts in the topic at hand. We take partial information and love to espouse our ideas and our judgments for the whole world to enjoy the vast wisdom flowing from our keyboards. Hence, Jesus turns His attention to a danger for someone who has actually embraced a life of righteousness—the desire for us to judge others who have not embraced that life. Jesus tells us, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1).
During Jesus’s time, the Pharisees were the guardians of the Law and had created a system of legalism. On top of the 39 Old Testament books that contained more than 600 commands, the religious leaders observed the traditions and interpretations of the elders contained in the Talmud, which held an additional 6,200 pages of rules. The intent of the rabbis compiling this information was to help people live a holy life, but the impact was that it created a stifling environment where people could not live up to the expectations. This marginalized whole segments of society and misrepresented God in the process.
We can actually take the teachings and the laws of God and attempt to live them out apart from the life of God. What results is a warped reflection of what was intended, which is why Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, saying, “These people honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me” (Matthew 15:8). The religious leaders held onto God’s Word but completely lost sight of His ways. In the spirit of judgmentalism, they had weaponized their theology and flaunted their ability to point out the faults of others. The same thing can happen in our present-day church too. We can take the teachings of Christ and seek to live them apart from the Spirit of Christ, and it results in a warped reflection of who He is.
May we recognize who the true Judge is—Jesus—and seek to accurately reflect His righteousness with the grace He offers, embracing His kingdom rather than our own judgmentalism.
Prayer: Dear Lord God, please forgive me for the times when I have focused my attention on judging others. Help me to prioritize Your kingdom and Your gracious judgment so to live out an accurate reflection of You. Thank You, Lord.