My daughter has the gift of intellectual curiosity. Remember those rapid-fire machine guns that always showed up in the old movies about gangsters? That’s how fast Katie can spit out questions that are too hard for her mother to answer. Because of her penchant for seeking answers to life’s many mysteries, she loves the saying about curiosity killing the cat but satisfaction bringing it back.
When it comes to curiosity, most of us would benefit from becoming a little more curious about our own emotional reactions. Take anger. What is really powering it? Frustration, fear, sadness, hurt? In her book, Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus, Lois Tverberg points out that being angry often indicates that we have made a negative judgment about someone.
The stranger who cut me off in traffic: he’s a jerk. The surly clerk behind the counter: she should be fired. The teacher who gave my child a failing grade: he’s incompetent. On and on the judgments go, powering our anger despite the fact that there may be a thousand explanations for why people do what they do. Maybe the stranger who cut us off was heading to the hospital with chest pains. Perhaps the clerk was going through a divorce. Maybe the teacher who failed our child is simply telling the truth. The point is that we can never fathom another person’s heart.
Tverberg points out that Jesus warned his followers against calling anyone a fool because to do so was to render “the final verdict on the person. . . . A person who is ignorant can learn, but for a ‘fool’ there is no hope,” she says.1
I don’t think Jesus was telling us to throw out our brains when he told us not to judge. He wasn’t urging us to paper over sin or act as if nothing was wrong. But he was saying we are not equipped to judge another person’s heart. Only God knows people well enough to do that. To judge others is to be guilty of arrogance because it means usurping God’s power and authority.
The next time you discover you have rendered an angry judgment against someone, ask God’s forgiveness. If you’re angry at yourself, remember that God is the only wise judge, even of your own heart.
- Lois Tverberg, Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 113–14.