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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

TV Talk Show Theology

April 4th, 2002

Hello! And welcome to our show. We’re glad you tuned in. Today’s topic promises to be a hot one!

We’re talking with parents who claim, “My Teenage Gothic Vampire Wild Child Is Out of Control!” With us on stage is Mary and her 15-year old daughter Susie.

“So, Mary, you’re having difficulty with your daughter?”

“Yes, I am. I just don’t know what to do with her. She used to be soooo sweet and nice. But now my little Susie has changed.”

“How has she changed?”

“She’s got attitude. And she won’t listen to me. I’ve talked and talked with her but she just won’t listen to me.”

“And I understand there’s been some wild behavior on her part?”

“My, yes! Why just last week she stayed out all night without calling to tell me where she was. Then she got kicked out of school for eating all the goldfish in the science lab aquarium and biting her English teacher on the neck.”

“Is this true, Susie?”

“I dunno. Maybe. Maybe not.”

“So did you really eat the goldfish in the science lab aquarium?”

“I was hungry. The teacher wouldn’t let me leave class to get some lunch.”

“So what did your English teacher do that caused you to bite him on the neck?”

“He didn’t like my poem. He said it had “dark overtones”. Whatever that means…”

“So you bit him on the neck. Isn’t that a little extreme?”

“Hey, you cant judge me! You got no right to judge me!”

“So you’re saying that biting your teacher was an appropriate response?”

“You can’t judge me. Because you don’t know all about me. It even says in the Bible “judge not”. So if the Bible says, “judge not” then who are you to judge me?!”

Click.

In the category “Bible Verses Ripped Kicking and Screaming Out of Context”, Matthew 7:1-5 easily ranks in the top five. The phrase “judge not” is a favorite of TV talk show guests the likes of which you might see on Jerry Springer, Ricki Lake, or Jenny Jones.

Here’s what the passage actually says. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. for in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank our of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Every verse in the Bible has an immediate context. The immediate context of these verses is Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. He’s giving instructions on how to live a meaningful life. Here He reminds us to be careful about having a judgmental spirit and why it’s a good idea to spend more time evaluating our own attitudes than to be critical of others.

Here’s what this text doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that we should never be discerning. Or that we never judge something to be good or bad. Follow Susie’s TV talk show theology through to its logical conclusion and we’d eliminate our ability to discern what is good and what is harmful. If “judge not” means we’re never allowed to make distinctions between good and bad then total anarchy is right around the corner.

Susie is correct in that we don’t all about her. But that isn’t a pre-requisite for making a judgment regarding her behavior. Her treating the aquarium like a sushi bar and playing Dracula with the English teacher is reason enough for school officials to make the judgment that Susie is no longer welcome in their building.

The correct meaning of these verses doesn’t prohibit pronouncing judgment but rather reminds us that we are to examine our own attitudes before directing judgment toward others. It’s a set of verses that reminds us to get the sawdust out of our eye before we try to remove the redwood tree from our neighbor’s eye. When we do that on a consistent basis, we realize how often we personally fall short of God’s standard.

Remembering our own imperfections and that God deals justly, yet graciously with us in spite of them, makes us more gracious and forgiving with others. We’re still able to say to Susie, “Don’t eat the goldfish”. We just say it after we’ve made sure our goldfish are still swimming.