The Judging Temptation: Not Easy to Change

The Judging Temptation: Not Easy to Change September 14, 2022

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When scribes and Pharisees brought to Christ a woman taken in adultery, claiming a law that she should be stoned, He said to them, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. All of them withdrew. The Savior refused to condemn her, saying simply, “go, and sin no more.”  Judging others is easy to do—pointing fingers or assuming guilt—but often not easy to overcome.

Easy to Point Fingers

In a crowded store, a toddler sat in a stroller, screaming and pounding his fists. Irritated by the noise and the “obviously spoiled child who was not properly disciplined by his mother,” other shoppers frowned and complained to one another.

In a toy store, a young child was running and crying. Parents of other children pointed to him as a lesson for their own child from “that brat crying for what he wants.”

This finger pointing was easy to do. But those judging the children and their parents didn’t know that the screaming toddler’s family had just moved to a “scary new country” with a confusing language. The pointers in the toy store didn’t realize that the child they had judged was having an autistic meltdown and needed relief from a painful stimulus.

A nearby shopper in the crowded store smiled and spoke kindly to the toddler’s mother. An employee in the toy store followed the mother and her child with autism, offering resources of the store to help. Instant judging can cost us opportunities to treat others as Christ teaches us. Good opportunities can be easy to find

When the woman taken in adultery was being dragged through the streets, finger pointing (or its New Testament equivalent) undoubtedly took place. But Christ knew the woman’s heart, and He knew the hearts of her accusers. The Joseph Smith Translation of John 8 adds that the woman then “glorified God” and believed throughout her life.

Easy to Create Narratives

People are curious, and judging becomes more deliberate—and often meaner—when one wants a story to tell.

Perhaps you meet someone new in your neighborhood who is divorced. Do you ask her, “Was it your fault?” If she does not provide details, do you find yourself doing what Peggy Worthen (2022) referred to in a BYU Devotional as “creating our own narratives [when we] lack full information.”  If the woman is working outside her home, do you assume she probably chose a career over her children? Do you ask her closer neighbors if her children seem to be neglected?  If you “just happen” to drive past her house, do you notice what hours her car is in her driveway? Judgments to spread  are easy to find.

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf (2012) had good advice for gossipers and other judgmental individuals: “Stop it! It’s that simple.” He continued, “We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children.”

Elder Dale G. Renlund (2021) showed agreement:

Our love of God and our discipleship of Jesus Christ generate genuine concern for others. . . . We worry less about our own sensitivities and more about our neighbor’s. . . . We [should] assume that those with whom we disagree are doing the best they can with the life experiences they have.

When the scribes and Pharisees brought the “adulterous” woman to Jesus, they related only that she was taken “in the very act” and that Moses had approved stoning as punishment. Christ, of course, knew the character and obvious intent of the accusers, so the real narrative was divinely given. Elder Uchtdorf generalized to us: “Brothers and sisters, let us put down our stones.”

Sometimes Not Easy to Change

Christ’s teachings about judgment include his parable of the wounded traveler and the compassionate Samaritan. As a lawyer attempted to manipulate Christ into a position he could  judge, he asked for a commitment to who his neighbor might be.

We know the details. The traveler was attacked by thieves, seriously injured, and left almost dead on the roadway. Two prominent members of the traveler’s own religious and cultural group walked past. A priest moved to the other side of the road. A Levite went over and looked at the sufferer before going to the other side. Perhaps they judged him as outside their “neighborhood” or unworthy of their attention—decisions easy to make.

Samaritans were outside the religious and cultural neighborhood of the Jewish victim. But the Samaritan who passed saw only someone who needed help. He didn’t ask how many thieves had been involved, who had struck first, what had been stolen, or how wealthy or worthy the suffering man was. Judgments and narratives were irrelevant.

This righteous Samaritan gave aid with what he had with him, then transported the victim to an inn, to continue giving care throughout the night. When the Samaritan left, he paid the innkeeper to continue the wounded man’s care, promising to pay any additional charges when he came again.

The Savior taught directly, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged, condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned” (Luke 6:36-37). Obeying His teachings may require changes in the way we think as we go about our lives, changes that might not be easy. The priest and the Levite who avoided their wounded countryman had major changes remaining. Do we?









About Eric Richards
Eric grew up attending the Mountain View Baptist Church in San Diego before missionaries baptized him and his mom. Later his own mission began in Honduras, and his son was called to serve in the same mission. Eric has served in several bishoprics, and as ward mission leader, high councilor, and stake Sunday school president. He is currently stake executive secretary. Professionally he teaches institute and seminary in the Utah North Area. For five years his team wrote the online seminary curriculum. He presents at BYU and BYU-Idaho Education Weeks, and he is active in interfaith dialogues and forums across the country. He’s best known for his popular "brotherichards" instagram and facebook accounts. He is the author of Preparing for the Second Coming and six popular fireside CDs at Deseret Book. Most of all, he loves teaching and being with valiant Christians around the world. You can read more about the author here.

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