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In judging, we play God. A sign of idolatry is the inclination to judge. When people fail to satisfy our demands, we criticize and condemn them in our hearts, if not with our words.
The truth is that when we judge others – criticize, nit-pick, attack, condemn – we are literally acting like a god. We commit the sin of Lucifer, coveting the judgment seat reserved only for God. Scripture tells us clearly “There is one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you that you judge your neighbor?” (James 4:12)
When we fight, accusations fill our minds. We play the self-righteous judge in the mini-kingdoms we establish in our families, workplaces and churches. When we judge others and condemn them in our hearts for not meeting our desires, we are imitating not Christ, but the devil. We have doubled our idolatry: we have let an idolatrous desire rule our hearts, and we have set ourselves up as mini-gods. This is the formula for destructive conflict.
This is not to say that it is inherently wrong to evaluate – even judge – others within certain limits. Scripture teaches that we should observe and evaluate others’ behaviors so that we can respond and minister to them in appropriate ways, which may even involve gentle confrontation. But we cross the line when we begin to judge others based on feelings of indignation, condemnation, bitterness, or resentment.
Sinful judging often involves speculating on others’ motives. Most of all, it reveals a self-centered love for ourselves and the absence of a genuine love and concern toward others. These attitudes show that our judging has crossed the line, and we are playing God because they have failed to meet our expectations.
Expectations are not inherently bad, but expectations can become conditions and standards against which we judge others.
Instead of giving people room for independence, disagreement or failure, we impose our expectations on them. We expect them to give allegiance to our ways of doing things. We don’t go out of ourselves to find out what is going on with the other person. All we care about is that the person meets our demands and expectations. When they refuse, we condemn them in our hearts and we go out of our way to ensure destruction for that person.
My dear brothers and sisters, we are Christians. That means we follow the ways of Christ. No one can justify this kind of destructive behavior in their lives. Love and help build up your brother, give him the benefit of the doubt that is what Christ would say to us.
The Rev. Allan Frederick is priest at St. John’s Catholic Church in Carrollton, Ky.