The Judge in the Mirror

MirrorThe Baal Shem Tov taught that in the heavenly court there is no one who can judge you for what you have done in your life on earth. So this is what they do:

They show you someone’s life—all the achievements and all the failures, all the right decisions and all the wrongdoings—and then they ask you, “So what should we do with this somebody?”

And you give your verdict. Which they accept. And then they tell you that this somebody was you. Being now in heaven, you don’t recall a thing.

Of course, those who tend to judge others favorably have a decided advantage.

Better get in the habit now.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

I’m tempted not to write a commentary on the words of the Rebbe as interpreted by Rabbi Freeman because I think they speak for themselves, but I suppose I should add a little something. I’m sure that, as believers, we’re aware of the teaching Jesus gave in Matthew 7:1-6 about not judging others, however that doesn’t seem to stop us from doing so. We can always find amble excuses for why we have the “God-given right” to judge others and we can back it up with scripture to validate our attitude. We also know that even the Adversary can use scripture to backup his activities, as we see Matthew 4:1-11, but that doesn’t stop us from pulling the same stunt when it suits us.

So how do we “discern good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14)? and moreover, what do we do when we believe we have discerned good from evil, particularly among those within the body of faith?

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. –Matthew 18:15-17

This is a well-known formula that I’m sure most of us don’t use in real life (I actually have and believe me, it’s tougher than it looks), particularly on the Internet where we post our judgments for all to see. Right before his teaching on how to approach a brother who has sinned against you, Jesus tells a parable.

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. –Matthew 18:6-9

That sounds pretty harsh, but notice that the Master isn’t telling us to literally mutilate ourselves or to commit such acts against someone else. Also, as I recall, God gave all authority to judge the earth to Jesus, not to us, so we might want to keep that in mind.

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? –Romans 2:1-4

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking you don’t do the same things as the people you judge, so you’re covered, right? But what if the sin others are committing is judging others and then you do the same to them?

If you’re going to judge, put away all of the excuses you use to bash others with and take a look in the mirror. Ask God to help you be honest with yourself. Ask God (you are not going to want to do this) to help you see all of your flaws, bumps, bruises, warts, and sins. Then, as Rabbi Freeman suggests, judge yourself. What will that judgment be like?

3 thoughts on “The Judge in the Mirror”

  1. James, I like your writing on judgment. As the Messiah nears it is so important to be in a “state” of holy reverence. It’s hard to be in that state while in a state of judgment of others. I am a person who likes everything in order, all things lined up, I want everything to be perfect at all times so I understand the temptation to examine others and accuse. But I am trying to get my eyes off of others sins, what are they in comparison to mine? I want to submit myself to the searching of the almighty, and in Yeshua be found ready at his coming.
    Every day I have to look to Yeshua as the author and finisher of my faith, I have not been successful at authoring or finishing anyone else’s faith. “If you oh Lord kept a record of sins, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” Psalm 130
    Who can forgive us? Who forgives? Shalom

  2. Thanks, Steven. I think we all struggle with the temptation to judge others and I think we struggle after we’ve given in to that temptation. It helps to imagine that everyone has a mirror attached to their face so when you see them, you see you.

  3. Growing up I had a terrible problem with judging others, and being overly judgmental with myself. I was just an all-around hot-rot of judging. I think it’s much better now than before, thank God.

    And that Besht story is powerful. I had never thought if it quite like that before!

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