Discover more from Peter's Proverbs
Do Not Judge. Or Else
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
When advice comes in the form of a threat, a prudent man will pause. Threats are warnings of the harm that will come from a particular action or choice. When someone promises harm, one should take notice.
"Do not....or else"--that is the essence of this verse. Do not judge or else you will be judged--and we are given a none-too-subtle intimation that we do not want to be judged. That is a threat by definition.
Do not judge. Or else.
Why Not Be Judged?
Why should we fear to be judged?
Consider what it means to judge:
to form an opinion about through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises.
Why would we not want opinions formed about us, based on a careful weighing of the evidences regarding us?
The very idea seems at odds with human behavior, for in all of our daily interactions, from our style of dress to our mannerisms, we encourage others to form specific opinions about us. We seek to be seen as smart, beautiful, interesting, and innumerable other adjectives besides. We cultivate such opinions at every term. Why should we fear what we seek with such fervor?
Perhaps we should fear because we do not get to choose on what evidences those opinions will be formed. We cultivate a specific image of ourselves, presenting evidences we choose, but we cannot prevent other evidences slipping in uninvited, disrupting the image we have crafted, eradicating the particular opinion we seek.
Perhaps we should fear because people do not see the same evidences the same way. What some view positively others will view negatively. In pursuing a particular opinion from others, we may persuade them of the exact opposite.
We should at least acknowledge that we do not seek to be judged so much as we seek a particular judgment. We seek approval from others; we do not seek scrutiny. We want our evidences accepted, not weighed.
When we are scrutinized, the outcome is unknown to us. When others weigh our evidences, we cannot know ahead of time what opinion will result.
When we are being judged, the judgment is unknown--and the unknown is the origin of all fear.
Being actually judged is most definitely something to be feared.
Why Not Judge?
When advice comes in the form of a threat, a prudent man will pause. Threats are not how moral truths are stated. Threats, by their nature, are not moral edicts.
This verse is a threat. There is no room for debate on that point. As it is a threat, we cannot say the counsel not to judge others is a moral principle. Rather, this verse is a warning. It is not a moral edict.
The warning is clear: if we judge, we shall be ourselves judged. Yet, as with every warning, there is also an offer: if we withhold judgment of others, judgment will be withheld from us.
There is a word that applies when judgment is withheld: forgiveness. When we forgive, we release any claim of requital or repayment. When we forgive, we put aside any conclusion reached by the weighing of evidences, and declare all such opinions no longer relevant.
When we forgive, we do not judge. When we judge, we do not forgive.
When we judge, we also cannot ourselves be forgiven. When we judge, we say that evidences matter. When we judge, we say that a person is the sum of the evidence. When we judge, we say that we also are the sum of the evidence.
When we forgive, we put aside the evidence. When we are forgiven, our own evidences are put aside.
Judgement Or Forgiveness?
All evidence, be it good or bad, are things that have been done, words that have been said. All evidence is necessarily that which has past.
When we forgive, we put aside the past. We release others from the burdens of the past, freeing them to make new choices for the future. When we are forgiven, our past is put aside, and we are free to make new choices for the future.
If we judge, we hold on to the past, and by so doing we hold on to our own past. If we judge, we declare our own past relevant. If we judge, we reject any thought of forgiveness, and demand that we be measured by our past--by the sum of all our evidences, both good and bad.
The threat and therefore the warning are thus a stark reminder that not only can we choose a path, but that we must choose a path. We stand at the fork in the road, and must choose whether to go to the right or the left. We must choose judgment or forgiveness.
If we choose judgment, we reject forgiveness. If we choose forgiveness, we reject judgment. There is no third alternative available. There is no middle ground. There is no compromise.
This verse is a threat, and it is a warning. It is a warning that should be heeded. It is a simple warning, yet complete in its message.
Do not judge. Or else.