Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

By Pr Ay Nee Ng

Last week, I shared about being a new man/new woman. We looked into:

  • What it means to be a new man/new woman? It is a new sense of identity, new directions, and security that we are not lost; we belong to our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Am I a new man/new woman? This is the assurance we need and can find in God’s Word. It doesn’t depend on how we feel or what people think, but on what God’s Word tells us. We are a new creation when we turn away and repent from our sins and sinful ways.
  • How am I to walk in this newness of life? The answer is to cloak ourselves with the virtues that Colossians 3:12-14 mentions, putting our hope and future in God and not forsaking in assembling together.
  • As a new men and new women, we are called to be a blessing. First Peter 3:8-12 (MSG) sums it well: “Be agreeable, be sympathetic, love, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing. Whoever wants to embrace life and see the day fill up with good, here’s what you do: Say nothing evil or hurtful; snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you’re worth. God looks on all this with approval, listening and responding well to what he’s asked; but he turns his back on those who do evil things.”


The Gingham Dress
A true story by Malcolm Forbes

A lady in a faded gingham dress and her husband, dressed in a homespun threadbare suit, stepped off the train in Boston and walked timidly without an appointment into the Harvard University President’s outer office. The secretary could tell in a moment that such backwoods, country hicks had no business at Harvard & probably didn’t even deserve to be in Cambridge.

“We’d like to see the president,” the man said softly.

“He’ll be busy all day,” the secretary snapped.

“We’ll wait,” the lady replied. For hours the secretary ignored them, hoping that the couple would finally become discouraged and go away. They didn’t, and the secretary grew frustrated and finally decided to disturb the president, even though it was a chore she always regretted.

“Maybe if you see them for a few minutes, they’ll leave,” she said to him!

He sighed in exasperation and nodded. Someone of his importance obviously didn’t have the time to spend with them, and he detested gingham dresses and homespun suits cluttering up his outer office. The president, stern faced and with dignity, strutted toward the couple.

The lady told him, “We had a son who attended Harvard for one year. He loved Harvard. He was happy here. But about a year ago, he was accidentally killed. My husband and I would like to erect a memorial to him, somewhere on campus.” The president wasn’t touched. He was shocked.

“Madam,” he said, gruffly, “we can’t put up a statue for every person who attended Harvard and died. If we did, this place would look like a cemetery.”

“Oh, no,” the lady explained quickly. “We don’t want to erect a statue. We thought we would like to give a building to Harvard.” The president rolled his eyes. He glanced at the gingham dress and homespun suit, then exclaimed, “A building! Do you have any earthly idea how much a building costs? We have over seven and a half million dollars in the physical buildings here at Harvard.”

For a moment the lady was silent. The president was pleased. Maybe he could get rid of them now. The lady turned to her husband and said quietly, “Is that all it cost to start a university? Why don’t we just start our own?”

Her husband nodded. The president’s face wilted in confusion and bewilderment.

Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford got up and walked away, traveling to Palo Alto, California where they established the university that bears their name, Stanford University, a memorial to a son that Harvard no longer cared about.

You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who they think can do nothing for them.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel. ― Maya Angelou

Do not judge a book by its cover! Appearances can be deceiving! Let’s read what the Bible says in Matthew 7:1-3. “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matt. 6:14).

“Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you–and even more” (Mark 4:24).

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38).

We Judge But Are Told Not To
“Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1). We judge people by appearance or by the way they talk, do things, or hold themselves. We judge them. We are a terrible lot that needs redemption! And Church, I am really sorry if I may have done that to any of you.

Matthew 7:1 doesn’t speak of judgment in the civil courts of judiciary system by proper magistrates, which ought to be made and pass, according to the nature of the case; nor of judgment in the churches of Christ, where offenders are to be called to an account, examined, tried, and dealt with according to the rules of the Gospel; nor of every private judgment, which one man may make upon another, without any detriment to him. It speaks of rash judgment, interpreting men’s words and deeds to the worst sense, censoring them in a very severe manner, and even passing sentence on them, with respect to their eternal state and condition.

Jesus teaches us not judge. He is asking us to be more forgiving, to hear what people mean and not just what they say, and to be more giving. If we were so, we would be less judgemental. Jesus doesn’t forbid criticism, opinions, or the condemnation of wrongdoing. He forbids the spirit of censorship and fault finding that overlooks one’s own shortcomings while assuming the role of supreme judge in regard to the sins of others. We must not judge rashly or pass judgment upon our brother or neighbour without any ground.

The principle of your own judgment (Luke 6:38; Mark 4:24) will be applied in turn to yourselves.With what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete (measure), it shall be measured to you again” (Matt. 7:2). The judgment (κρίμα) is the verdict; the measure is the severity or otherwise of the verdict.

The Bible says we can judge ourselves and our own acts, but not make our word a law to everybody. If persons subject to a censorious spirit would put themselves in the position of the people they are judging, what judgment they would choose others should pass on them? The argument Christ uses to dissuade from believers from this evil, which the Jews were very prone to in that time, is “that ye be not judged”, either by others or by God.

Censorious persons rarely have the good will of their fellow creatures, but are commonly repaid in the same way by others or by God Himself, which is the most awful and tremendous way. Because these persons take upon them the place of God and usurp His prerogative, as if they knew the hearts and states of men, they will have judgment without mercy at the hands of God. Hence, that advice of Joshua, who, by the Jewish writers, is said to be the master of Christ is to:

  • Not make the worst of people.
  • Judge every man according to the balance of righteousness. When you see a man as it were in “equilibrium”, inclining to neither part, it is not clear from what he does that he is good or evil, righteous or unrighteous. When you see him do a thing which may be interpreted either to a good or a bad sense, it ought always to be interpreted to the best.
  • Be the first to repent and forgive others easily.

Here is a just reproof to those who quarrel with their brethren for small faults, while they allow themselves in greater ones. Some sins are as motes, while others are as beams; some as a gnat, others as a camel. Not that there is any sin little; if it be a mote or splinter, it is in the eye; if a gnat, it is in the throat; both are painful and dangerous, and we cannot be easy or well till they are got out. That which charity teaches us to call but a splinter in our brother’s eye, true repentance and godly sorrow will teach us to call a beam in our own.

It is as strange that a man can be in a sinful, miserable condition, and not be aware of it, as that a man should have a beam in his eye, and not consider it; but the god of this world blinds their minds. Here is a good rule for those who reprove: first reform yourself.

What Happens When We Judge?
“And with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:38). This was an unusual proverb among the Jews and is delivered as “measure against measure”. Remember, the judgment (κρίμα) is the verdict; the measure is the severity or otherwise of the verdict. What happens when do good or bad deeds? The principle of sow and reap applies to us. Let’s see some examples.

Examples in the Bible of bad deeds with bad consequences:

1. A woman suspected of adultery adorned herself to commit sin, and God dishonoured her. He exposed herself to iniquity; therefore, God stripped her naked. The same part of her body in which her sin begun, her punishment did.
2. Samson walked after his eyes, and therefore, the Philistines plucked out his eyes.
3. Absalom was lifted up in his mind with his hair, and therefore, he was hanged by it. Because he lay with his father’s ten concubines, they therefore pierced him with ten lances. Because he stole away three hearts, the heart of his father, the heart of the Sanhedrim, and the heart of Israel; therefore he was thrust with three darts.

Examples in the Bible of good deeds:

1. Miriam waited for Moses one hour; therefore, the Israelites waited for her seven days in the wilderness.
2. Joseph, who was greater than his brethren, buried his father.
3. Moses, who was the greatest among the Israelites, took care of the bones of Joseph, and God himself buried Moses.

What Does Judging (the Spirit of Censorship and Fault-finding) Bring Out in Us?
“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:3). “Speck” or “mote” means any little bit of straw or small splinter of wood that flies into the eye and damages it, hinders its sight, and gives it pain. It stands for little sins, comparatively speaking, such as youthful follies, human frailties and infirmities, and inadvertencies, which may be said to be light faults in comparison with others. This speck or mote is not to be vindicated or continued in, yet is isn’t to be severely looked upon and chastised.

However, people who judge will dwell on this speck or mote. They tend to scrutinize diligently into, aggravate, dwell upon, and sharply reprove the lighter faults of others. This conduct of failing to first examine ourselves but yet pointing the finger on someone else is condemned by Christ. Why not consider first the beam in our eyes? The word “beam” means greater sins, grosser abominations, and such as were more peculiar to the Pharisees like pride, arrogance, a vain opinion of themselves, confidence in their own righteousness, hypocrisy, covetousness, and iniquity. These are things they did not advert to in themselves when they loudly exclaimed against lesser evils in others. Such men who condemn in others, which either they themselves do or abundantly worse, must be of all persons inexcusable.

Jesus Christ forbids us to judge others because who are we to be called righteous when it is said our righteousness are like filthy rags. Judging others do not glorify God. Rather than looking at others as with a microscope, ready to censor and to find faults, let’s better help them and teach them the right way. Where is our heart for His people? Where is the way of forgiveness and understanding? Judging censors someone, and the whole life we may live with a limp, an inferiority complex, and feel a sense of worthlessness.

Don’t judge a book by its cover. It hurts another person, and in the end, you will be judged by your deeds.

  • We judge but are told not to (Matt. 7:1).
  • What happens when we judge? With the measure you use, it will be measured to you–and even more” (Mark 4:24). Measure against measure.
  • What does judging bring out in us? Judging (the spirit of censorship and fault-finding) brings out the worst in us, ways that are not pleasing to God, and everything opposite to what we are called to be (a new man or new woman).

This Saturday, 6th February, 2016, “the Brain” was on SBS 2. In the show, after living a life of being labelled an idiot, slow in class, spurned and ridiculed because of his looks and demeanour, a 21 year old guy, Zhou Wei, became classified as a genius on TV with a superb brain. His mind was able to calculate and do extremely hard mental mathematics; even the professor on TV gave up. The amazing part was that he had only studied up to the 5th grade. When he was 5 months old, he had a fright of his life and never recovered from it. He was timid and shy and was bullied in school. If you are slow, and not gifted, placement in school will be filled by someone else because of the sheer masses of people clamouring for education in China.

I like what the scientist in the show said: “We all can have a strong brain, but a genius mind is found in the most humbled folks.” Because of his loving mother and sister who persevered on with him, he is what he is today. They never censured or pass judgement on him but loved, nurtured, and cared for him.

Don’t judge a book by its cover!
Put on the new man or new woman of blessings.
Let’s pray for a spirit of love, forgiveness, grace, and mercy.