Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. – Matthew 8:1, 2
One of my favorite pastimes is spending time browsing through the different books in a bookstore. Even as a boy there was always something about a good book that fascinated me. To this day, for me to spend time in a bookstore is like a little child spending time in a candy store. Like the little child knows that he cannot have all of his favorite candy and has to choose which candy he really wants, I too find myself having to make the choice of which book or books I really want to buy at that time.
Making the choice of which books to buy and which ones to leave behind until another time is not always an easy one. I may look at several books, and even put them in my shopping basket, but when it is time to check out, I look at the books that I have selected and make my last decision of which to buy. Usually I base my decision on the information that I can glean about the book from its front, inside, and back covers. Sometimes it is the title of the book that will spark my interest about what the book is about. Sometimes it is the short synopsis of the book that can be found on the inside or back cover of the book that interest me enough to want to know more about the book. Whatever the case, I find that my judgment as to which book or books to buy becomes based solely on the covers of the particular book.
Just as the cover of a book does not tell us everything we need to know about the book, neither can the outward appearance of a person tell us everything we need to know about that person. Just as we must open the cover of a book and read its contents to learn more of what the book is about, we must take the time to get to know a person to learn more about him or her. The cover of a book can give us some insight about what the book might be about, but it is the actual contents of the book that tell the true story. In the same way, our “covers” or outward appearances may disclose somewhat of who we are, but the thing that reveals who we truly are is the content of our character.
We live in a world where people find it easy to judge others for one reason or another. Oftentimes they base those judgments on what they see on the surface and not on actual facts. Some people find it easier to criticize and condemn another than to understand and help lift another. They are quick to point out the faults in others, but become blinded to the fact that they have faults of their own.
In Matthew 7:1-5 we learn:
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam [is] in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Luke 6:37 teaches us, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.” And John 7:24 reminds us to “judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”
In a talk given on 1 March 1998 at Brigham Young University titled “”Judge Not” and Judging”, Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught that “there are two kinds of judging: final judgments, which we are forbidden to make, and intermediate judgments, which we are directed to make, but upon righteous principles.”
Concerning intermediate judgments, Elder Oaks taught that, “these judgments are essential to the exercise of personal moral agency. Our scriptural accounts of the Savior’s mortal life provide the pattern. He declared, “I have many things to say and to judge of you” (John 8:26) and “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see” (John 9:39).”
Elder Oaks further taught that “the Savior also commanded individuals to be judges, both of circumstances and of other people. Through the prophet Moses, the Lord commanded Israel, “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour” (Lev. 19:15).”
We all make judgments every day in the exercise of our moral agency. We make judgments in choosing our friends, in choosing our profession, in choosing how we will spend our time and money, and in choosing our eternal companion. However, we must exercise caution and ensure that our judgments of people are intermediate and not lasting, and that the judgments we make are righteous judgments. Righteous judgments are guided by the Spirit of the Lord, not by anger, revenge, jealousy, or self-interest. The Book of Mormon, in Moroni 7:15-16 teaches:
15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
In John 16:8-13 the Savior taught that one of the missions of the Comforter He would send would be to aid in judging the world by guiding the faithful “into all truth”:
8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
9 Of sin, because they believe not on me;
10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, [that] shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
Doctrine and Covenants 1:10 reminds us that the day will come when “the Lord shall come to recompense unto every man according to his work, and measure to every man according to the measure which he has measured to his fellow man.” Therefore, the criteria we use in judging others may be applied by the Lord in judging us. Thus, we may actually be judging ourselves when we judge others, in the sense that we are establishing the measure of justice and mercy that will be measured to us in the final judgment. Further clarification of this is given in the Book of Mormon as recorded in Alma 41:12–15:
12 And now behold, is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature?
13 O, my son, this is not the case; but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again aevil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful.
14 Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.
15 For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all.
If the Lord uses His own criteria for judging us, we are assured of a just and merciful judgment (Psalms 103:8; John 5:30). Are we confident enough with the criteria we use in judging others that we are willing to have the Lord judge us according to our criteria rather than His own? Do we want Him to judge us in the same way we judge others? If not, then perhaps we should be hesitant to criticize and condemn others.
The summation of the matter is this: “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:1-3) “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29). “Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of [his] brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” (James 4:11-12)
Growing up I’ve had an intense focus on trying to do what is right. Over time I’ve gained a strong sense of confidence in my goodness and righteous desires. I have come to know deep down that I honestly want to do what’s right.
However, I haven’t always had this confidence in others…
Seeing all the evil displayed on television, hearing about all the crimes committed, and seeing others living a lower standard of moral living has led me to doubt the goodness of others, even some within the restored Church.
However, my negative perceptions have changed in recent months. I now am astonished at how many AMAZING, GOOD and CONSECRATED people there are in the world!
Let me tell you how my view of people in general became more positive.
Becoming Amazed at the Goodness of Others
Over the past several months I’ve been blessed to hear the testimonies of dozens of returned missionaries and converts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for our Mission Prep project. In doing so, I’ve heard amazing stories – times when God saved people from death, and miracles when faith was exercised and people were healed through Priesthood power. I’ve heard testimonies of such conviction that afterward I couldn’t help but kneel and offer a prayer of gratitude for having had the opportunity to hear such a powerful testimony.
It’s been amazing to see dozens of people share their testimonies and hear their strong convictions. I’ve been amazed how even people I wouldn’t have thought had a strong testimony (from my first impression of them), have demonstrated amazing faith and commitment to the Lord.
On many occasions I’ve been proven wrong in my negative assumptions about others.
Through hearing the testimonies of others, I’ve learned a few lessons.
Lessons I’ve learned about others
- Most people have righteous desires. Though some people want to do evil things, I believe the vast majority of people are trying to do what’s right.
- Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Just because I’m with myself 24/7 and am intimately aware of my personal efforts and growth, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t others trying and growing just as much, if not more than me. It’s been wonderful and humbling to recognize my own personal strengths and weaknesses, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of others.
- I shouldn’t judge people based on my first impressions of them. Time and time again, I’ve been surprised by the wonderful conviction and testimony of others. It’s not our role to judge others, plus we’re usually not that good at it anyway :).
For any of you who might be tempted to have a pessimistic outlook on people, I invite you to change your perspective.
I’ve found the best way to grow my confidence in the goodness of others is to talk about spiritual subjects with them and ask them to share their innermost yearnings. When a testimony is shared, the receptive listener and the speaker are brought closer together in the unity of the faith (see Ephesians 4:13).
Amid the six-plus billion people in the world, I’m convinced that there are millions of people striving to be obedient to God. In most communities there are people who inspire others all around them with their goodness.
Although there is great darkness in the world, there is also great goodness in the hearts of many people in the world. To see the goodness in others, have them share their testimony with you. Listening to others’ testimonies has increased my confidence in the goodness of others and can do the same for you.
Scripture References: Romans 14:3, 10, 13
3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.
Whether we are realize it or not, we live in a very judgmental world. We are all judged in one way or another — by the way we talk, the way we walk, the way we dress, the way we act or react in given situations, the people we associate with, the car we drive, the house we live in, the music we listen to, the type of job we have, our level of education, and on the list goes. Not only are we judged, but whether we are willing to admit it or not, we all tend to be a bit judgmental at times of others for one reason or another. The act of judging even reaches into the Church. Often times the level of someone’s faithfulness as a member is unfairly based on the perceptions of others. Too often we are quick to criticize what we think someone else is doing wrong, but fail to see, or refuse to admit, our own short comings.
Before rushing to judge someone else, we should take a step back and place ourselves on the witness stand and do a little cross examination of our own lives. What makes us so holy, righteous and perfect? Are we doing everything that we are supposed to do to live up to the standards that we use in judging the behaviors of others?
During the cross examination of our lives we should perhaps ask ourselves questions similar to the following:
First, is the type of music that I listen to uplifting and edifying? Are the lyrics of the songs in harmony with gospel principles that I have been taught, and does the music I am listening to help to strengthen my testimony in any way? Is this the type of music that I would feel comfortable listening to if my church leaders or other church members were around to hear? Is the music that I am listening to really any better than the music that someone else listens to, and I am quick to judge them for listening to that type of music?
Second, are the types of movies that I watch in harmony with my standards and beliefs? Are they edifying and uplifting? Do I use wisdom and discernment in choosing the types of movies that I watch? Or, do I turn a deaf ear and a blind eye and dismiss the fact that there may be such things as nudity and profanity in the movie, or even an excessive amount of violence? What exactly do I consider to be a good movie? Are some of my movie choices really that different from the ones that I criticize and judge others for watching?
Third, let us not forget about our internet activity. The internet is a great tool. Unfortunately, just as it can be used for good, there is a lot of darkness that lurks within its many pages. Before judging others for their internet activities let’s ask ourselves about the places that we visit on the internet. Do we avoid places that we know we should not tread, or do we take the attitude that a “little peak” won’t hurt anything? Do we take the attitude that no one will ever know that I visit certain sites? Do we tell ourselves that it is OK because we are not really hurting anyone when in reality we are indeed hurting our own testimonies?
Fourth, what about our conversations with others? Do we enjoy listening to profanity or off color jokes? Do we use profanity or initiate off color jokes? Do we tolerate certain conversations so that we can appear to be a part of the crowd? In our conversations do we make jokes about or say unkind things about others (even if we know what we are saying is not true) just to gain favor of our “friends”?
The bottom line is that we should examine our own lives and see whether or not we measure up to the standards that we are trying to hold others to. We need to first make sure our own houses are in order and then we will be more capable of helping others put theirs in order.
I am reminded of the words found in the Book of Mormon in Mosiah 29:12, “Now it is better that a man should be judged of God than of man, for the judgments of God are always just, but the judgments of man are not always just.” I am also reminded of the words found in 1 Corinthians 6:2-5:
Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?
And finally, the words found in John 8:15-16, “Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.”