Dr. Robert R. Ball
Sermon: Here Come De Judge
first presented August 1, 1971
Scripture: Matthew 7:1-5
Dr. Robert R. Ball
Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church
Houston, Texas = August 1, 1971
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you
will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”
-Matthew 7: 1-2
SOMEONE says, “Here come de judge!” Then Sammy Davis Jr. rollicks
across the stage looking more like a kid “trick-or-treating” than a judge. The robe
doesn’t quite fit and the wig isn’t quite straight and everyone dies laughing. Week
after week they keep laughing at that same pointless line. So I asked Marlene,
“What’s so funny? Did I miss part of it?” She’s so tickled she can hardly answer.
Finally she sputters, “I don’t know.” Then she cracks up all over again like it’s the
funniest thing she’s ever heard in her life.
IS IT the sight of a black man in the unlikely role of a judge? Surely that’s not it;
we now have a black man sitting on the bench of our nation’s highest court. Is it
seeing “his honor” so ridiculously dishonored? That may be part of it. Or is it the
same reason our funniest jokes are always about life’s most serious subjects –
sex and marriage and death? The only things that are really ever funny are things
that are real – and judgment is very, very real.
WE grew up with it. Judgment surrounds us on every side from the very
* The parent says, “Do that one more time and I’ll blister you black and blue!”
* The teacher says, “Pass this test or I’ll flunk your fanny out of school!”
* The boss says, “One more sloppy job and you won’t have a job anymore!”
* The wife says, “Either you shape up or you can just find yourself another slave!”
* The policeman says, “One more ticket, buddy, and you lose your license!”
* The doctor says, “Keep on smoking and you’re going to die!”
Judgment is everywhere. We learn to expect it. Something is sure to get us in
the end. So it’s really pretty funny when judgment comes waltzing across the
stage like a clown.
IT’S funny because it’s different from what we expect. We all yearn, more
deeply than we even admit to ourselves, for appreciation and respect; but most of
what we get it the opposite. The people we want to love us keep telling us how
wrong we are, and instead of letting them know that we love them, we keep telling
them how wrong they are. Judgment makes us sick! I doubt that there has ever
been a parent who has not at some time looked at his sleeping child and thought
“All these horrible things I said about you are not
how I feel about you. I love you with all my heart.
If only you could know!”
JESUS says something pretty funny about judgment, too. In this scripture he
draws the picture of a man with a 2 X 4 sticking out of his eye, saying to another
man who has a speck of sawdust in his eye, that he’d better get that speck out of
his eye or he’s going to be in bad trouble. Like every good cartoon, this picture
gets right to the heart of it.
THE THINGS ABOUT WHICH WE ARE THE MOST DEVASTATING IN OUR
CONDEMNATIONS OF OTHERS ARE THE VERY THINGS WHICH THREATEN
AND TEMPT US MOST IN OURSELVES.
* The man who most resents the aggressive efforts of a fellow worker to butter-up
the boss, is the guy who yearns to do the same thing but feels too restrained.
* The woman who tells the most horrible stories about the divorcee down the
street would really like to try a few flings herself if she thought she could.
* The father who is the most suspicious of his teenage kids, is a man who
hasn’t yet made peace with the violent passions of his own adolescence.
* The kids who condemn their parents most severely for being dictatorial,
are the ones who really want to have everything their own way.
* The adults who squawk the most about the impertinence of today’s
youth, are usually the ones who have little respect for others
The caricature Jesus draws of the 2 X 4 and the speck is as fitting today as it
was then. WHAT WE CONDEMN SAYS MORE ABOUT US THAN ABOUT THE
PEOPLE WE CONDEMN.
Last spring, a member of the congregation told me of a simple little test she
had learned in a lecture she attended. Everyone was asked to write down on a
piece of paper the name of the person they respected the most. Then they were
to write what they liked best about that person, what they liked least, and what
they would change in that person if they could. When they had finished, the
lecturer told them to look at what they had written. “What you see before you,” he
said, “is yourself.”
This is exactly the point Jesus is making. We project onto others the guilts and
suspicions and fears and hopes that lie within our own hearts. We stand in
judgment of others because of the relentless burden of incriminating judgment
we impose on ourselves. We condemn others because we feel condemned.
SOMEHOW we know that. Man has always longed to be free of guilt. Many
times in human history in an effort to make themselves free of guilt, it has been the
fad for people to tell themselves there is no right or wrong: therefore, there is no
reason to feel guilty. It’s all in your mind. It’s a fad again today. So we stand up to
the whole creation and shout, “Don’t tell me what’s right and what’s wrong! You
can’t judge me! I’ll judge myself!”
BUT it won’t work. First, because it isn’t true. How we live does make a
difference! The person who says that it’s perfectly all right for him to treat others
like barnyard slop, gets as angry as a wounded buffalo when someone else treats
him that way. As they say, it all depends on whose ox is getting gored.
In the second place, being your own judge is not as neat as it seems. The
judgments that hound us by day and haunt us by night are our own judgments
on ourselves. Each of us has a picture in mind of what we ought to be. No matter
how much, intellectually, we may deny or reject it, that picture continues to torment
us. nearly always, it’s an impossible, unattainable ideal – made up of the
unrealistic expectations of others and our own aspirations of perfection. . . .
“I shouldn’t think such sexy thoughts.” “I ought not to be so fearful.” “A real man
can take care of himself.” “I wish i weren’t so judgmental.”
So we go around a good bit of the time not liking ourselves very much. That’s
when we really give it to other people. If we have to live under such stifling
judgments, then we’ll be damned if we’re going to let others get off easy! We can
keep ourselves and everyone around us pretty miserable. Will we face the truth?
WE CAN NO MORE STAND IN JUDGMENT OF ANYONE, INCLUDING
OURSELVES, THAN WE CAN LIFT OURSELVES BY OUR OWN
BOOTSTRAPS! Judgment simply is not our bag.
Any judgment we make of anyone, including ourselves, is partial and distorted.
* In the first church that I served, I resented the Elder who came to worship every
other week. Months later I learned he had been visiting his dying mother in
* I had nothing for disdain for the man who walked out on his sweet wife and
five kids until later when I got to know his wife a lot better than I had before.
* I accepted the judgment that the black race is naturally inferior until I had
opportunity to experience some of the enforced hopelessness in which
* I knew that any decent person will always have a beautiful relationship
with his kids until I saw that image destroying middle class family life.
We are even less capable of judging ourselves than we are others. Who can be
objective about himself? Whether our judgments on ourselves are easy or hard,
they are never accurate.
LISTEN to what Paul wrote in his first letter to the Church at Corinth.
“But with me it is a very small thing that I
should be judged by you or by any human
court. I DO NOT EVEN JUDGE MYSELF.
I am not aware of anything against myself,
but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the
Lord who judges me.”
That’s what Jesus is saying. GOD ALONE IS THE JUDGE! God alone knows
the whole story and sees the whole picture. Psychologize as we will, we can
never know everything about ourselves. So let’s quit judging ourselves. God
knows the truth. JUDGMENT IS HIS.
God knows how selfish and unloving we have been. He saw his beloved Son
die as a result of human hatred. God understands that we yearn to be helpful and
respected human beings, even though many of our efforts seem to accomplish
just the opposite. God understands the torments inside of us that will not let us be,
and make us do just what we have vowed we would not do. He understands, and
he grieves. The cross shows the depth of his understanding and the depth of his
BUT GOD’S JUDGMENT IS NOT CONDEMNATION! His judgment is that
there IS a better way, a way to wholeness; and he himself comes to open the way
* God’s judgment is that we are only half alive because to live is to love; but
instead of loving, we spend our time condemning ourselves and quarreling with
* God’s judgment is that we cannot love until we have been loved. So he has
come to give us his love, and he gives it without any limit or reservation.
* God’s judgment is that we are perfectly capable of full and satisfying life,
making the world a place of peace, if only we would turn around and
believe his love.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his
only Son, that whoever believes in him should
not perish but have eternal life. For God sent
the Son into the world, not to condemn the
world, but that the world might be saved through
him…AND THIS IS THE JUDGMENT, that
the light has come into the world, and men loved
darkness rather than light because their deeds
So long as we insist on being the judges of our own lives, we will find plenty of
evidence to condemn ourselves. We will be hard and judgmental on others; and
our lives will be filled with the horrifying, distorted shadows of darkness. But it
doesn’t have to be that way. THE LIGHT HAS COME! When we allow God in
Christ to be our judge – when we accept and believe and depend on his love for
us – we are out in the light. Everything looks different. We are able to see ourselves
with a new truth and understanding and compassion. You can even learn to like
yourself! What a beautiful day that is for everyone, everyone!
C O N C L U S I O N
“Here come de judge” now has a new meaning – frankly, much more like the
comic relief suggested by Sammy Davis than it is like the stern taskmaster of our
* The Judge who comes to us in Christ is a Judge of mercy and understanding
and forgiveness and love. He comes to relieve us of guilt, not to condemn us.
* God’s judgment is neither rigid nor ridiculous. He judges us in
righteousness. He comes to make us right within ourselves, with others, and
God’s judgment does not mean that Someone is out there to get you if you stray
off the path. It means Someone is out there who has come in here to love you
because you ARE off the path.
With God as our judge, we no longer have to judge ourselves OR anyone else!
Life really changes. Last Sunday morning one of my kids put some scraps from
the sanctuary construction in the back seat of my car. By the middle of the week
they were still there. That didn’t please me, so I walked into the house ready to
say, “That’s pretty thoughtless of you to leave that mess in my car. Get it out or it
goes in the trash!” Then I thought of the scripture I’d been reading this week. What
would I accomplish by saying that? It wold make the point that I expect careful and
considerate behavior at all times , and it would let the kid know what a goof-up I
think he is. But is that what he needs to know to be a thoughtful person? Or is it
what I need to know to reassure me that I am an effective parent? I ended up
saying, “There’s some stuff in my car that needs to be moved.” It worked just fine.
This is the message of Christ, the Lord of Life: DON’T JUDGE! DON’T JUDGE
ANYONE – NOT YOURSELF, NOT YOUR KIDS, NOT ANYONE! Accepting God
alone as the Judge allows us to have a much better opinion of ourselves, and
allows us to treat others with the same respect and patience and appreciation
God shows for us.
If only we could show respect for EVERYONE – even our own kids – letting
them know what God lets us know: that we are FOR them rather than AGAINST
them! Jesus says that is eternal life. It is available to all who believe.
Dr. Robert R. Ball Sermon
from the collection of
Pamela Mudd Conlan