By Father Andrew Harmon

Once upon a time, in a flower garden a new little plant poked itself up out of the dirt. The new plant didn’t know what kind of a plant it was. So it decided to look around at all the other plants in the flower garden and then be whatever plant it liked best. It looked first at a rose and said, “No, I don’t want to be a rose — too many thorns!” Then it looked at a tulip and said, “No, I don’t want to be a tulip either — I don’t like the shape of its petals!” Next it looked at a white lily and said, “No, not a lily. It has no color — what a boring flower!” Then it looked at a violet and said, “No, that’s no good, either — too small and it grows too close to the ground.” Just about then, when the new plant had criticized every plant it saw and concluded it didn’t like any of the plants, the gardener came along with his hoe and proceeded to dig the new, little, and so critical plant right out of the dirt. And as the hoe descended upon it to end its short life, the little plant realized that, after all, it was actually nothing but a weed!

Judging others, criticizing others — if we do it a lot, we end up as weeds! For judging others and criticizing others hurts us, in the long run, more than it hurts the person we judge and criticize — it gradually turns our hearts bitter and sour. And being critical and judgmental also damages others around us — it’s like a poison eating away at families, friendships, and churches.

The assigned gospel reading for tomorrow, June 28, is from the greatest sermon ever preached, the Sermon on the Mount delivered by our Lord Jesus Christ. The part in tomorrow’s reading is from the first part of Matthew 7. In chapter 7, verse 1, our Lord speaks very plainly about judging. He says — “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.”

Who does judging harm? First, it harms us if we judge others. For as we judge, so will we be judged. As our Lord went on to say in verse 2 of Matthew 7 — “For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”

One day all of us will be judged by God. In the Liturgy, the prayers refer to this as the “dread judgment seat of Christ”. And if we judge others, we just make our own judgment even more dread! How much better to refrain from judging others so that our own judgment may be less dreadful!

The Prologue From Ochrid is a book that tells about many of our saints. In this book, an anonymous monk is commemorated on March 30. In many ways this monk was not a very good monk. He was lazy, careless, and didn’t pray as much as monks are supposed to. Yet, on his deathbed, his face was filled with joy. The monks were surprised by this — they expected that because of his many failings he would be afraid to face God’s judgment. They asked him why he was so joyful instead of being afraid. The monk replied, “Angels have appeared to me in a vision. They showed me a paper listing all my sins. I couldn’t argue with their list — it was long and very accurate. But I said to the angels, ‘Christ said, Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. I, sinner though I am, have never judged anyone and I hope that, in the mercy of God, He will not judge me.”’ When the angels heard that I had never judged anyone they immediately tore up the list of my sins!”

If you don’t want to hurt yourself by making that dread judgment on the last day even more dreadful, then don’t judge others, remembering Christ’s words in verse 2 of Matthew 7—”For with the judgment you make will you be judged.”

And, second — we, of course, cause harm to others when we judge them. We look down on them, we criticize them, we gossip about them. We harm them in many ways.

And our judgments are usually inaccurate anyway! For, not being God, how can we really know the other’s persons heart and their true motives? So who are we to take over God’s job of being the judge?

St. Maximos the Confessor complained about people taking over God’s work of being the judge in his time when he wrote — “men have given up weeping for their own sins and have taken judgment away from the Son. They themselves judge and condemn one another as if they were sinless.”

We are small; we are sinful — so how could we ever make true judgments on others? But God is certainly not small and He has no sins to cloud His vision. God sees the heart, so He is the perfect judge — and we should leave that job to Him.

St. Dorotheos of Gaza tells a story about a man he knew named Isaac. Isaac had been very critical and judgmental of someone he knew. The man Isaac didn’t like died and an angel was sent by God to Isaac to say “Your enemy has died. You took upon yourself the job of judging him throughout his life. God has decided to ask you to now judge him after his death — should this man go to heaven or to hell?” Isaac was so frightened and horrified by the very idea that he would decide who goes to heaven or hell that he refused to answer the angel. Instead, he fell to his knees and begged God to forgive him for judging. And Isaac spent the rest of his life weeping for his own sins and paying no attention to the sins of other people.

May we follow Isaac’s example and focus only on our own sins, not those of other people. May we be obedient to our Lord Jesus Christ’s command — “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.”