The sixth and final universal habit common to man is judgment and hypocrisy. This is the most venomous one because it’s the cumulative effect of the five we sampled in Parts 1-5.
There are different kinds of judgment. Krisis is the Greek word for the kind that leads to a turning point. (In English, crisis.) When Scripture refers to God’s judgment of man, this is the word. The idea is to bring about a change, to restore and cure, even if by painful measures. The spirit and motive is love.
Then there’s the kind that’s simply analytical—to evaluate or assess differences. Biblically, that’s called discernment, good judgment. When Jesus says you can recognize a tree by its fruit, that’s discernment. When you weigh pros and cons without the will to do harm, that’s good judgment. So it’s no sin to make observations, form opinions, and make decisions based on them. In fact, we’re called to learn and practice this kind of judgment.
And then there’s the condemning, acidic kind: judgmentalism. The difference between judgmentalism and discernment boils down to motive. The spirit behind judgmentalism is scorn, ill will, and the wish to do damage.
For example, when my mechanic says that my car’s transmission is going bad, he doesn’t condemn me as a terrible car owner. His motive isn’t to accuse me of a crime or rake me over the coals, but to get maximum benefit out of my car. His attitude will reflect that, and I won’t react as if attacked. This kind of judgment doesn’t deny wrong, but neither does it spout off. It seeks no harm even if the message is unpleasant, for love does no harm to neighbors (Rom. 13:10).
But when you use criticism as a weapon to attack and condemn people, or deliberately use differences to stir up ill will, that’s the sinful kind of judgment Jesus refers to. It carries a mean-spiritedness that always escalates because the receiver, usually as poisoned as the next person, turns to tear you to pieces with payback. They can’t react any other way because they don’t know any other way.
It rarely occurs even to Christians that this doesn’t have to be normal. Yet it’s so common that we don’t even see its venom. And that is Jesus’ point. Judge not, and you won’t be judged and find yourself in constant crisis (Mat. 7:1-2).
But no one gets from point A to point B by merely avoiding C. Jesus knows you can’t find a healthy, Christ-like spirit that loves enemies simply by trying to not be judgmental, as I was taught. That approach builds failure right in. If you’ve tried it, you’ve experienced that failure first hand, just as I have.
Instead, you start further back and flush the habits and mind-sets that form a judgmental spirit. In this strategy, you don’t give them a foothold (Eph. 4:27).
Hypocrisy is to act or show off, to say one thing but do another, or to hold one standard for the self, but a different standard for others. Hupokrisis is the Greek word, literally meaning “stage actor.” It means to conceal under a false pretense, to disguise or pretend.
Acting as a form of entertainment is one thing; to live it as a spiritual condition is a great way to live a conflicted, double life addicted to attention and ego. Mixed messages are the outward symptoms of hypocrisy’s venom, but it’s usually visible only to others, rarely to the self.
An everyday example: out of so-called respect for someone who’s angry with someone else, people often treat others as enemies when they personally don’t have anything against them. They’re blackmailed with, “If you love me, you’ll make my enemies yours and despise them.” If you fail to comply, you’ll pay dearly. One of my adult children endured years of this hell in a (thankfully) now-ended relationship.
People who force this on you are double-minded hypocrites. They want you to love them, yet demand that you maintain the kind of spirit that’s set and ready to hate. They themselves tend to explode at the least provocation because the bigger the ego, the more petty the spirit. Their philosophy is, “Screw others before they screw you” because they’re so weak, they can’t afford the slightest wrong.
When you cooperate with this, you let someone else’s No be your No and end up a hypocrite yourself. You have enough of your own enemies to deal with. Your goal is a rich, clean spirit and strong well-being for yourself, and, to the extent it’s up to you, for neighbors. So you don’t need to add someone else’s bitterness and enemies to your list. You’re trying to love enemies and gain freedom, not gain enemies and reduce freedom. In Jesus’ own words, hell is a place reserved for hypocrites (Mat. 24:51).
Hypocrisy is super-devious even when you’re watching for it because it’s the plank in our eye that blinds us, as Jesus put it. First remove your own plank, then you can see to help others. And no one can do this for you. It takes a while to get that thing out, so patience is key.
But I can vouch that it takes even longer when you embrace willful anger, an adulterous mind-set of un-love, prideful swearing, score-keeping payback, and projected image. Then all you really want to do is beat your neighbor with your plank—hardly an improvement.
It’s tempting to put the word “Christian” in front of these habits to make them seem righteous and good. It’s the ultimate adultery and hypocrisy, exactly what millions of unsuspecting, well-meaning people do. Christian anger and contempt. A Christian mind-set that divorces God. Christian prideful swearing, score-keeping, and outer image.
That’s how the poison remains in “believers” who claim victory yet have no power over sin. They’re forgiven, but still as sick as ever because they believe they’re incurable. Even long after “accepting” Christ, the only difference between their life-styles and the rest of the world’s is forgiveness. (I lived this way for decades.)
So they find exactly what they seek: no cure in this life, a spirit owned by sin, relationship storms, and all sorts of turmoil that actually rejects Christ because there’s just no room for generosity, patience, peace, or love.
If you’re a Christian waiting for spiritual detox to happen to you, it won’t. It happens with you in partnership with the divine. It’s precisely by grace that God grants us some responsibility for who we become. Some may reject this extraordinary privilege, but that’s your true place with God in His kingdom, which Jesus died to secure, and continues to secure for you.
There’s little point in loving God’s Spirit and goodness if you’re not seeking to become good yourself and contribute to His plan. One day, everyone will be called to account for it.
Jesus’ strategy for human wellness and power over sin, freely given to all, is the Sermon on the Mount. His sequence matters; and you get to work with the Master of life, free of charge, to remove your own venom. But you don’t have to remove it from anyone else. In fact, God hasn’t granted that burdensome business to you. You can help, but you can’t do it for them any more than they can do it for you.
You also can’t serve two masters. You can’t drink paint thinner from Babylon’s cup and living water from Jesus’ cup and expect to find a clean spirit. The two liquids look similar, so your responsibility is to test and find out from Jesus which is which.
I hope you’ll share this with others who might need your help, or add your own observations in a comment.