READ Proverbs 18:1-24
SITUATION For Jews, the individual was not separate from the community. Antisocial behavior was considered a terrible crime in Israel and Judah.
OBSERVATION There are three warnings in this chapter against forming hasty opinions.
INSPIRATION We aren't good enough to judge. Can the hungry accuse the beggar? Can the sick mock the ill? Can the blind judge the deaf? Can the sinner condemn the sinner? No. Only One can judge and that One is neither writing nor reading this.
Not only are we unworthy, we are not qualified. We don't know enough about the person to judge him. We don't know enough about his past. We condemn a man for stumbling this morning, but we didn't see the blows he took yesterday. We judge a woman for the limp in her walk but cannot see the tack in her shoe. We mock the fear in their eyes but have no idea how many stones they have ducked or darts they have dodged.
Are they too loud? Perhaps they fear being neglected again. Are they too timid? Perhaps they fear failing again. Too slow? Perhaps they fell the last time they hurried. You don't know. Only one who has followed yesterday steps can be their judge.
Not only are we ignorant about yesterday, we are ignorant about tomorrow. Dare we judge a book while chapters are yet unwritten? Should we pass a verdict on a painting while the artist stills holds the brush? How can you dismiss a soul until God's work is complete? "God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure he will continue it until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes again" (Philippians 1:6).
Be careful! The Peter who denies Jesus at tonight's fire may proclaim him with fire at tomorrow's Pentecost. The Samson who is blind and weak today may use his final strength to level the pillars of godlessness. A stammering shepherd in this generation may be the mighty Moses of the next. Don't call Noah a fool, you may be asking him for lift. Do not judge before the right time; wait until the Lord comes" (1 Corinthians 4:5).
A condemned criminal was sent to his death by his country in his final moments, he asked for mercy. Had he asked for mercy from people, it would have been denied. Had he asked it of the government, it would have been declined. Had he asked it of his victims, they would have turned a deaf ear. But it wasn't to these he turned for grace. He turned instead to the bloodied form of the One who hung on the cross next to his and pleaded, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And Jesus answered by saying "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). (From In The Grip of Grace by Max Lucado)
APPLICATION Are you consciously or subconsciously judging someone? Try to determine what is behind your attitude. Are you jumping to conclusions? Do you know the whole story? List a number of reasons why you are unqualified to be that person's judge? Ask God to give you a heart of compassion instead.
EXPLORATION Warnings against Judging -- Matthew 7:1-5; 1 Corinthians 4:5; James 4:11-13.
"Unfriendly people are selfish and hate all good sense." v.1
"Fools do not want to understand anything. They only want to tell others what they think." v.3
"The words of fools can start quarrels. They make people want to beat them." v. 6
"The words of a gossip are like tasty bits of food. People like to gobble them up." v. 8
"The Lord is like a strong tower; those who do right can run to him for safety." v.10
"Anyone who answers without listening is foolish and confused." v.13
"The mind of a person with understanding gets knowledge; the wise person listens to learn more." v. 15
"The person who tells one side of the story seems right, until someone else comes along and asks questions." v. 17
"People will be rewarded by what they say; they will be rewarded by how they speak." v. 20
The Devotional Bible - Experiencing the Heart of Jesus, Max Lucado General Editor, Thomas Nelson Publishers, New Century Version
Today, why not tell a better story?