The Foolishness of Hasty Judgments

by Steven Harper

The wise writer said, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13). But how foolish men are in making hasty judgments, often without hearing the evidence — or at least all of the evidence. Daily — on local and nationwide radio talk shows, around the water cooler at work, in phone conversations, and through e-mail correspondence — people are making hasty judgments about others and often without a bit of evidence. Often, someone has simply formed an opinion about a person or a matter and they proceed as if they were eyewitnesses to someone's supposed evil deeds and spread the slander and innuendo as far and as wide as they possibly can, ruining the reputation of good Christian men and women whose sole error was believing people would actually talk to them if they believed they had done something wrong.

Jesus met with such individuals when He walked this earth, and He addressed this erroneous thinking which seems to be so infectious even today. Apparently, some had told Jesus “about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices” (Luke 13:1). At some point, some must have inferred that these Galileans were 'deserving' of such punishment because Jesus asks, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?” (Luke 13:2). And then He got to the real problem: their own self-righteousness. He went on to say to them, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). He then asked, “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?” (Luke 13:4), and then reiterated, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5).

These Jews were apparently so busy judging others to be guilty of sin that they could not see that they were in grave danger because of their own sins! Jesus hints at the coming punishment and retribution of God that would come upon Jerusalem (cf. Matthew 23:34-36) as something that should have been more significant, yet they refused to believe that they even needed to repent. At the same time, they saw it was fitting that others would die such inglorious deaths as were mentioned in this text, believing their own sins brought it upon them. They made hasty judgments about others, but they were not so hasty in condemning themselves!

But that is merely symptomatic of the greater problem of self-righteousness.  One who is so convinced he is right and everyone else is wrong will continually be making hasty and unfounded judgments about others, if for no other reason they are making a weak attempt at making one's self look better. [The false concept that tearing someone else down will somehow make you stand taller.] Not until we see that the solution to our shortcomings is comparing ourselves to Jesus and striving to be more like Him every day (cf. Ephesians 4:13) will this mindset cease to exist among men. As long as we refuse to honestly examine ourselves (cf. II Corinthians 13:5), we will never see our own faults, but we will spend a lot of time pointing out the faults of others and hastily judging others [without evidence] to be worthy of the severest of criticisms and punishments.

The supposed 'friends' of Job were experts at this! When they came to Job [ostensibly to comfort him], they railed at him, coming up with some fantastic accusations for which they had no evidence other than the depths of their own imaginations. In one short passage, Eliphaz accused Job of withholding food and water from those in need, turning away from the widows and the orphaned, and believing God could not see his evil deeds done in the cover of darkness (Job 22:5-16). And what was the evidence for these strong and slanderous accusations? There was none! Later, God would say of Job's friends, “you have not spoken of me what is right” (Job 42:7).

But this is the way of the self-righteous! He will look upon the misfortune of another as 'retribution' or some sort of deserved punishment for wickedness that may not be observable to the public eye. ["I know he's done something wrong, though I don't have the evidence!"] Sometimes, in spite of the evidence, the self-righteous will still convince themselves [and maybe even others] that one is worthy of punishment. Our prime example of this is the religious leaders of the first century and how they responded to Jesus! Friends and brethren, men like them are amongst churches across this country even today!

We find another couple of occasions in the Bible in which other hasty and foolish judgments were made. Once, when Jesus was walking through Jerusalem, He saw a man who was blind since birth, and His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:1-2). On the surface, the question was ridiculous and, at the least, uninformed: How could this man have sinned before he was born? Yet others believed this was the case, too (cf. John 9:34). But Jesus answered their misconception, revealing the true reason for his condition: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). A parallel situation is seen with Paul on the island of Malta (Acts 28:4). In both situations, the reality was quite different from the reason they had imagined, but that will most often be the case when men make hastily-formed and uninformed judgments upon others.

Now, let's take a look in the mirror.

How often do we — during Bible class situations or after hearing a lesson from God's Word — think about how it applies to someone else, whether it be erring brethren, denominationalists, or the worldly? How often do we hear comments about how 'this denomination is guilty of this error' or ' that brother did that' rather than taking the Scripture and asking, 'How does this apply to me?' Brethren, is this what we think Bible study is all about — finding reasons to point out the errors of others? Are we searching the Scriptures, but merely to find some cause for condemning another, rather than giving them something by which they might be saved? God forbid!

When Peter preached that first gospel sermon, the audience who responded positively was not thinking, "Yeah! You tell 'em, Peter! What a horrible thing they did in killing the Son of God! Let 'em have it!" No, friends, they were thinking, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)! They were convicted in their hearts that they were personally guilty, and it was these pangs of guilt that moved them to seek the answer for their condition. Friends and brethren, that is exactly the attitude we must have in each and every study of God's Word! If, at any time, we begin thinking about how a certain passage of Scripture applies to "them" rather than "us" or "him" rather than "me", we have lost sight of the very reason we study God's Word!

And when we go out into the world with the Word of God in our hearts, it is not for the purpose of saying to ourselves, "Now I know what is right and I can judge everyone else either right or wrong." That is not our place and we do not have that right. Instead of thinking first "Here's what is wrong," why don't we start thinking "How can I help them?" Instead of making hasty and uninformed judgments — usually based on outward appearances — why don't we give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the best in others? Why don't we leave off the judgments and simply speak the Word of God to them? If they have an honest heart, it will soon be made evident. But there is the necessity: evidence!

Don't be too hasty to make a judgment about others. Knowing God is delaying our judgment that others might be saved (II Peter 3:9), we should spend more time in our efforts to save, rather than judge, those who are not yet believers.

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