Judgment is lazy.
Consider a scenario with me. You see someone driving a nice car. It is, in fact, considerably nicer than the car you are driving. Perhaps it’s even the specific kind of car that you wish you were driving at that very moment. So what do you do?
Maybe it’s something like this: you immediately presume they are in debt up to their eyeballs. Then you begin to evaluate their entire lives and spending habits, all the while trying to make yourself feel better because your air conditioner doesn’t work, somehow determining that you are of a greater quality than they are precisely because your car is of lesser quality than theirs is. And so it goes.
Now that’s a pretty extended scenario, but it hits home with me. It hits home with me any time I see someone who has something I wish I had, whose kids are behaving or doing something I think my kids should do, or they are receiving some award or recognition that I think I should be receiving. That’s when judgment rears up; that’s when I’m tempted to make a snap evaluation of a person based on a given snapshot I see before me.
What I don’t know is the truth of the situation. Did they win a contest? Have they saved every penny and paid cash for that car? I don’t know, and I’m content not to know. That’s because judgment is, frankly, easy.
It takes no time. It takes no real effort. And it certainly takes no sacrifice. It is based purely on assumption. This is why you could say that judgment, among other things, is a lazy substitute for intimacy. And this is not the way of Jesus. Consider just one example:
In the town of Jericho, there was a certain man known both for his short stature and his greed. Zaccheus was a social pariah, an outcast from his own people. And yet there was a longing desire in him for something more, something else – something so strong that he was willing to scurry up a tree just to catch a glimpse of Jesus passing through his town. And how did Jesus respond?
“Zacchaeus, hurry and come down because today it is necessary for me to stay at your house” (Luke 19:5).
Notice the divine imperative in this sentence. Jesus didn’t ask if He could come over; He didn’t request some of Zaccheus’ time; instead He said that it was absolutely necessary for Him to be at his house. Predictably, the others of the town responded with judgment:
“All who saw it began to complain, ‘He’s gone to stay with a sinful man'” (Luke 19:7).
They certainly knew a bit about this tax collector, but not one likely knew him. Not really. Certainly not with any degree of intimacy. And so they took the easy road of judgment, while Jesus took the hard road of fellowship. And His ministry is full of examples like this – women of questionable reputation, diseased outcasts, children – all who were judged by the casual bystander, sentenced by those who did not know them.
Real relationships take time and effort and sacrifice. Though the sacrifice might be small, it is indeed a sacrifice to intentionally seek someone out. To ask them questions. To genuinely listen. To hear them, know them, understand them, empathize with them. All of these things are small ways in which we die to ourselves. And when we are dying to ourselves, we find ourselves much slower to judge others.