Passing Judgment

Jane Olson

READ : James 4:11-12

Who are you to judge your neighbor? (v. 12)

Do you secretly relish tabloid headlines? Reading about the latest celebrity divorce gives me a sense of satisfaction: I may not be rich or famous, but at least my life isn't a trainwreck.

Confronting our own sin is hard; it's much easier to find fault with others. But James reminds us that it's not our business to judge. In a letter that focuses on Christian behavior, it's good to have frequent reminders that God calls me to greater holiness—not to appraise the holiness of my neighbors.

Often we mistake the circumstances of our temperament and upbringing for personal righteousness. I am the product of a loving, Christian home. The fact that I am devout, sober, and law-abiding may have more to do with my upbringing than personal achievement. What about those who are attempting holy living with far fewer natural advantages? We cannot know how Christ is at work in the heart and life of our neighbor, so we ought not to make presumptuous judgments.

Christ is the ultimate judge of all people. For those of us who feel like failures, this is a great comfort: he who loved us enough to die for us is the one who pronounces final judgment on us. For those who pride themselves on their moral uprightness, it serves as a warning: we are not being judged by our standards or by our “goodness” relative to those around us. We are being judged in comparison to the perfection of Christ.


Lord, give me compassion for my neighbor.