Are you judgmental or arrogant? Do you find yourself looking down on others, assuming you are somehow an inherently better human being than they are; that you would never make the mistakes you see them doing? Most of us don’t see ourselves this way, but are actually exactly like that. To be completely honest, I personally have come to realize I’m highly judgmental and far too often subconsciously arrogant, because I often find myself thinking way too much of myself; in any given situation, making an almost automatic subliminal predetermination that whatever mistake someone else is making, whatever foolish or sinful or harmful behavior they’re engaging in, I certainly wouldn’t do that–I wouldn’t act that way–if I were them. And that is so wrong!
“Don’t judge others, or you will be judged. You will be judged in the same way that you judge others, and the amount you give to others will be given to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2 NCV)
Judgmentalness and arrogance are kissing cousins; both stem from a misunderstanding of my own condition apart from Christ–from the absence of genuine humility of spirit in me. It’s natural, I suppose, to want to feel I am better than someone; we tend to see life on a sliding scale, and if there’s someone who’s doing worse than I am, by definition that means I’m not the worst; I’m not at the bottom of the pile. But this is not love; it’s not how God sees humans and our condition, nor how He wants us to see things.
The Message paraphrase isn’t an interpretation–it’s not a word-for-word translation; there are even times when you have to sit back and ask, “how did they get that out of this?!” But in this instance, I like how it effectively conveys the idea of arrogance versus humility:
“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor. Don’t be flip with the sacred. Banter and silliness give no honor to God. Don’t reduce holy mysteries to slogans. In trying to be relevant, you’re only being cute and inviting sacrilege.” (Matthew 7:1-6 MSG)
Humility is recognizing that the same God who made me made them; that under exactly the same circumstances I would very possibly be responding to life exactly as they are–or be making even more foolish decisions; that I am who I am–that I have had the opportunities and blessings I have had–because God allowed me them, not because I am somehow inherently of a better caliber than others; ultimately and regardless of any achievements real or imagined, if God were to remove Jesus–Christ in me, the (only) hope of (His) glory–from the equation, I would be left an empty shell of nothingness, miserable and void of any real value or accomplishment in His eyes.
Which brings me to the truth of I Corinthians 1:30, “Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31 NLT) That’s about it; it’s all we can legitimately boast of–what Jesus Christ, the Word of God made a human being–did for us. Every other arrogance and boasting is genuinely unwarranted and unjustified!
I’m going to finish off with the entirety of this chapter, again in The Message’s paraphrase (I encourage you to read it on your own in an actual translation, for greater accuracy of interpretation). It shows us that the first Christians were no different than we, and struggled just as we do with a judgmental, arrogant spirit:
“I, Paul, have been called and sent by Jesus, the Messiah, according to God’s plan, along with my friend Sosthenes. I send this letter to you in God’s church at Corinth, believers cleaned up by Jesus and set apart for a God-filled life. I include in my greeting all who call out to Jesus, wherever they live. He’s their Master as well as ours!
May all the gifts and benefits that come from God our Father, and the Master, Jesus Christ, be yours. Every time I think of you—and I think of you often!—I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. There’s no end to what has happened in you—it’s beyond speech, beyond knowledge. The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives.
Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.
I have a serious concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus, our Master. I’ll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common. I bring this up because some from Chloe’s family brought a most disturbing report to my attention—that you’re fighting among yourselves! I’ll tell you exactly what I was told: You’re all picking sides, going around saying, “I’m on Paul’s side,” or “I’m for Apollos,” or “Peter is my man,” or “I’m in the Messiah group.”
I ask you, “Has the Messiah been chopped up in little pieces so we can each have a relic all our own? Was Paul crucified for you? Was a single one of you baptized in Paul’s name?” I was not involved with any of your baptisms—except for Crispus and Gaius—and on getting this report, I’m sure glad I wasn’t. At least no one can go around saying he was baptized in my name. (Come to think of it, I also baptized Stephanas’s family, but as far as I can recall, that’s it.)
God didn’t send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him. And he didn’t send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center—Christ on the Cross—be trivialized…The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It’s written, I’ll turn conventional wisdom on its head, I’ll expose so-called experts as crackpots. So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn’t God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered stupid…to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.
While Jews clamor for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti -miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God himself—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can’t begin to compete with God’s “weakness.”
Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.””
1 Corinthians 1:1-31 MSG)
So, are you judgmental? Are you arrogant? Do you find yourself puffing up about your perceived accomplishments while looking down on those who seem to have made a mess of their lives? Instead of thinking something of yourself, realign your thinking with how God sees this picture, and give Him the recognition for anything truly good He has allowed you to participate in in your life. Then, in humility and reverence for God, come alongside those you see struggling and help them also benefit from all Jesus has done for everyone!
Help me see the world through Your eyes. Help me have enough compassion and love in me to help those You also made, who I see are still struggling! Amen.