Do not judge, or you will be judged. For with the same judgment you pronounce, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.   Jesus

I sometimes imagine every person walking around with a proverbial righteousness yardstick which they can use to measure others with. For the majority, these sticks are likely about the same, even if the unit of measure is perhaps different, but there are some who feel no one could ever measure up to their own perception of righteousness. These individuals have a very long yardstick they use to judge those around them and these persons feel their yardstick is the only true measure of God’s righteousness. They believe they are capable of judging those around them as righteous or unrighteous, however only God can truly judge. Jesus confronted some of these people in his day and they were called Pharisees. 

The Pharisees were a small group of religious zealots, believed to number about six-thousand, who felt they were the "true Jew". They had great influence over other people because their words, no matter how wrong or oppressive, were believed to be true in spite of offering up no valid proof.  This is because they spoke these words with force and intimidation, were often testy, and their manner made it difficult  to speak against them. They could be very crafty. 

The Pharisee were isolationists who looked down on all others as inferior and felt they alone were the gatekeepers of salvation. The Pharisee devoted more to the study of words and doctrines than to actual care for others so feeding the poor, clothing the unclothed, providing care for the sick and injured was all beneath them. When Jesus came doing these things it was in direct opposition to the Pharisee and placed them in a very bad light. 

The Pharisee considered themselves to be the "called out". Their Aramaic name (Φαρισαῖος) literally means "separated". They ignored the important matters such as justice and mercy, in favor of an exactitude of doctrine through an intense study of the law. Jesus turned the tables on their philosophy of life and, if the manner in which Jesus spoke of and to the Pharisees is any indication, God was not in any way pleased with the way of the Pharisee. Their piety was false.

In Matthew the Pharisees are depicted by Jesus as having these characteristics and more:

  • Hypocrites,
  • Children of hell
  • Blind
  • Whitewashed tombs
  • Brood of vipers
  • Leading people astray
  • Straining out a gnat to swallow a camel
  • Cleaning the outside of the cup while leaving the inside filthy

Jesus told a parable of an encounter with a Pharisee and it is found in the book of Luke:

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”


There can be no assumption of righteousness based on any sort of affiliation with any earthly organization or movement. This Pharisee assumed his position and affiliation with the Pharisee sect brought him some form of overt righteousness above all others. It did not. This man the Pharisee observed in the distance, this tax collector, the Pharisee simply lumped together with extortioners, adulterers and, for good measure, pretty much any other "unjust" man he felt might walk the earth. All evil or deficient persons were equivalent to this tax collector in the view of this Pharisee and he, of course, exempted himself from such scrutiny, so he never measured himself against his own righteousness yardstick. When he looked in the mirror he saw only perfection without blemish. 


This tax collector was likely a man with a very bad job he  inwardly hated.  I once held a position in a government agency under intense scrutiny by prosecutors for fraud and other crimes. I did not know this when I accepted the position, but quickly learned this when I arrived at work about a month into the job, was hustled into an impromptu meeting, and it was announced several of the top officials had just  been arrested that morning for their actions but "we will get through this". They were later convicted and sentenced but their arrest did not change the culture of this agency in any way. Each day I needed to hang my moral compass at the door, hold my nose, and just do my job. I held a lot of power over people's lives in my position. Lives that had already been destroyed by serious injury. The modus operandi of this agency was to deny everything, in any way they could, then let the lawyers fight it out in court. I had an attorney assigned to me and was expected to keep them busy. The fight could take years and meanwhile people lost their homes, their vehicles, their savings and ended up homeless when their resources ran out. The blame for this was always shifted elsewhere but it was our actions that so degraded their lives and any attempt on my part to show any mercy or compassion was met with distaste by those above me. What we did as an agency was extremely cruel and we were schooled regularly by management in what was termed "the paper bag test". If you could deny something, even if it was plainly evident it was due the person, and did not need to wear a paper bag over your head when you left work that day, do it. Perhaps this tax collector found himself in a similar position. I had obligated myself in writing for a year when I accepted the position and when my year was done I was too.

This Pharisee was likely not far off base in his outward assessment of this tax collector's character, but he had no way to see this man's heart to see the real man beneath. A tax collector was often a brute beast who laid waste to people and property in order to extract tax money. This is what was expected of him, it was just part of the job. A tax collector was much like a shakedown artist not far from what is depicted as an “enforcer” in mob movies. One who collects “protection money” for "da boss" and if one chooses not to pay what they owe "da boss", the enforcer would then just breaka their legs. But it was for their own protection, of course, so something worse wouldn't happen to them next time.  That was the life of a tax collector and they were generally hated among the population.  All tax collectors were considered unscrupulous simply by association with the position, even if they were doing their job fairly.  Many were thieves, skimming taxes off the top, then overcharging citizens to cover their tracks. We can see this in the story of Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, who became very wealthy by way of fraud and intimidation but had a change of heart:

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.  A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”  So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus was able to look up into that tree and see this man Zacchaeus had a good heart.  The Pharisee, on the other hand, just like the rest of us, saw only the outer representation of the man and could not read his heart. To the Pharisee this man was just a tax collector, a cheat, a thief, potentially even had murdered in the process of his job. He was not worth much to the peace and safety of society so he instantly judged and rejected him. But to God this tax collector in the parable was a good man inside and had found his way to a point of contrition. It is he who was honored by God that day, not the one who had isolated himself from the rest of the "riff-raff" and devoted his life to an ultra-literal interpretation of all things with a false show of piety. 

This Pharisee scoffed at this tax collector without investigation then prayed and boasted to himself about his own perceived righteousness. The tax collector, in a moment of true humility, momentarily acknowledged his absolute nothingness directly to God, not even lifting his face because he was such a broken man. He had likely kept a tough facade on the exterior throughout his career but was secretly  keeping score of his own failings deep inside. He may have been a brute on the outside but he still had a conscience. The Pharisee was a brute in other ways and lacked any conscience. He too kept score, but he kept score of others failings and never his own. Undoubtedly he was able to "find a law" that would justify his heart of stone feelings toward this tax collector and kept his distance from this tax collector, thinking himself to be a “man of God”, this tax collector unworthy of his very presence. He was likely worried he might become stained by him should he get too close. Avoid all appearance of evil was likely on his mind when he rejected him in this way.  We read how Jesus was put down for being too close to those felt to be of no value. Jesus would have stayed at this tax collector's house, taken a meal with him, cared for the wounds of his soul, just like he did with Zacchaeus. Jesus hung with a crowd most considered to be "low lifes" and "sinners", not those who basked in their own self-righteousness and seemed pious.

This Pharisee felt his actions of "faith" and "piety" proved his closeness to God but, in truth, the Pharisee was nothing but air and a facade. Less than zero since his actions of false piety were actually causing him to be indebted at the end of his earthly journey. When he saw this man, this tax collector, he didn't provide aid and comfort to him, he instead whipped out his extra tall yardstick of scriptural knowledge, keeping in mind his own "righteous" life, then began to size him up with his imagined shortness of righteousness, further boosting his own bloated ego in the process, making him feel tall. Without ever measuring himself, he declared his own righteousness to be far above that of the tax collector. He declared this to himself because did all the right things. He fasted regularly, score, tithed on his gross income and then some more, score, undoubtedly made long loud flowing prayers in the street in perfect vernacular as a show of his fervent religious “faith” toward God. Score again.  Undoubtedly he was a great scholar of the law, studied the  scrolls religiously and precisely in the Aramaic language and knew the mind of God perfectly. Score yet again. He could probably recite the prophets and poets verbatim when it was convenient for him. Double score. He was likely a regular at the temple, perhaps even selling sacrifices to the poor to save them some time as they entered seeking forgiveness. Huge score for the win! He was proud of his pious nature and this Pharisee saw his judgement on the tax collector as his duty. He was assured within himself he was doing God service. He wasn't. This Pharisee’s god could only be viewed in a mirror. This poor tax collector, expected to measure up to this Pharisee’s self-righteousness, perhaps felt himself a fraud at that moment, one who would fall far short of this Pharisee's standards of religiosity and knowledge. But simply by his momentary contrition it was he, the tax collector, who walked away from that place standing tall in the eyes of God. The Pharisee only acquired more debt, payable at the end.

No one can possibly measure up to this Pharisee's self-righteousness yardstick because it is impossibly tall. This Pharisee never held this yardstick to his own life because deep down he knew he could not measure up to the righteousness he boasted to have attained. It was all whitewash. This made him far worse than a hypocrite because this Pharisee, lifted up with pride, had a haughty spirit. It is these two things, pride and a haughty spirit which make up the recipe of destruction of one's self.  Jesus, a man who never wore flowing robes, never sought a position in the temple, professed affiliation with no earthly structure, lived a homeless existence, broke the law of Moses on a regular basis, and did not fit into any mold of a religious person, did not like Pharisees.



If Jesus was right, and I tend to think he was, the righteousness yardstick we carry and measure others with is the exact same yardstick we will be held to account with on the day of our judgment. Many on that day, when measured with the yardstick they carried in their life, will not  measure up and will be found wanting. A little humility can go a very long way to make one stand tall in the eyes of God. Carrying a very short yardstick through life can be a wonderful thing for a person in the end when they are placed against it to see if they stand tall or are lacking. 

For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.  For each one shall bear his own load.   From the Letter to the Galatians

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.  For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function,  so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.  From the Letter to the Romans

In a letter written to the Romans (text shown later); Paul begins by juxtaposing Jews and Gentiles and the opportunity he believes each has for salvation. It's a bit of a word salad but this text addressed some of the degrading issues in the area at the time. It appears perhaps some were expressing prejudice against either Jew or Gentile, feeling they were the ones more accepted by God than the other side. This problem with sorting the "approved" and "disapproved" continues in our world today and is even the cause of some wars.  

There is some acknowledgement in this text God selected the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to be the first to receive the commandments, then the law, but all of that ended under the new covenant. All became equal at Christ's death and resurrection and there is no longer any Jew or Gentile. 

Abraham, and his forbears until the time of Moses, lived by faith, and not by direct commandment or written law. For a time mankind even lived without any law and simply did what seemed right in their own eyes.  Jesus returned us to the original state of living strictly by faith, not by law, and things have now returned to be just like in the days of Abraham, except we have an eternal sacrifice now and need no longer sacrifice bulls and goats daily. It was hardness of heart that brought about the law. The law was a curse and not part of the original design. There is evidence the prophets of old came speaking of this but they found themselves cast out and killed by zealots, like the Pharisees of Jesus day, instead of being listened to. But I've drifted slightly from the main topic. 

The primary message here is this. There is none that is righteous. This statement from Romans, shown below in CAPS, was extracted very loosely from writings in the book of Isaiah.  Jew, Greek, Roman, Gentile, male, female, rich, poor, young, old...there is not a single righteous person living on earth. None. Not then, not now, not ever. I'm not, you're not, we are all unrighteous, just like that tax collector who found righteousness only through his inaction and a heart of contrition. No one is capable of being as righteous as the Pharisee assumed himself to be.  He was worshiping his god in the mirror, all the while thinking he was worshiping the God in heaven. He wasn't, even though the masses caused him to feel accepted in his manner of self-worship. A Pharisee spent his days seeking an ever finer point to the understanding of God but it was a vain pursuit. It is why Jesus spoke of them straining out the gnats while they swallowed camels. Granular thinking behavior was their specialty and it was a behavior Jesus found detestable.

The yardstick we each carry is just another piece of wood that decorates our home. It will in the end, after we have been held to its measure, burn. It has absolutely no value to us and should be ignored, stowed away and not ever used. I quote below from the amplified bible, not generally a version I prefer, but I use it here because it elaborates this statement to the Romans well.

There is none righteous [none that meets God’s standard], not even one. There is none who understands,there is none who seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have become useless;There is none who does good, no, not one.
Their throat is an open grave; They [habitually] deceive with their tongues. The venom of asps is beneath their lips.
Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and they have not known the path of peace. There is no fear of God [and His awesome power] before their eyes.
Paul stated this in a rather hyperbolic manner, intending to drive home a point. Paul, by nature, was a fervent man given to bold statements in his writings and it appears he was one who worked hard to restrain this fervent nature at times but was unsuccessful. I believe this fervent nature is what he considered his "thorn". But we can glean much from his writings and the fact remains we are all unrighteous in a form, but we are not completely unrighteous before God. We have been made righteous, without our effort, through the prism of the propitiation for our sin. Yet still, there are none who can, on their own, meet God's standards. No matter their actions, devices or assumed perfect granular doctrine. None. When we hold up a righteousness yardstick of our own making then judge others by their outward appearance we are deceiving ourselves. Only God knows the heart, only the Chief Shepherd is allowed to separate sheep and goat, the foundation of God is solid having this seal "The Lord knows those who are his". When we judge another man's salvation by our own standards, what follows is vanity, deceit, lies, bitter words, bloodshed, destruction and mischief. God can save who he will, no matter the rules, laws and processes we decide to put in place. This is the very trap this Pharisee had fallen into. He became so convinced he stood at the gate and had the keys to righteousness, to the exclusion of all those he found distasteful, which was pretty much anyone outside his sect, he elevated himself to a position he should not ever inhabit. It's a long fall from there. 
I witnessed a great deal of this granular, separatist, isolationist, doctrine and thinking in my time in the ABC. The separatist, doctrinal adamant way of the Pharisee is a core doctrine of the ABC and creates exclusion and isolation from others deemed to be less. The ABC is a school for pharisaic thinking. This crooked path it leads one through obscures the sight and those who stay on this path soon find themselves  blinded to the false judgments they make of others. Some begin to feel, just like this Pharisee, God is on their side due to their affiliation and advanced granular knowledge. They then feel free to judge others at will because, like the Pharisee, they believe they have a more perfect knowledge. They begin to feel, wrongly, they have become the holder of truth because they have sought out the "higher, deeper things of God" and thus have this more perfect knowledge they can wield like a sword of words. It is arrogance and pride. Our only path is to accept we are lowly, none are righteous without intervention of the propitiation, and we all know nothing. Below is a small bit of Psalm 5. I encourage a person to read the entire Psalm. David, a very imperfect man after God's own heart, wrote of this contrition. 

For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.
When I was ambushed, the "judgment" passed on me was declared to be "eternal" since, and I quote, "eternal judgment is a part of our foundation". But so is "repentance", so is "faith". This is an arrogant falsehood and Pharisaical thinking that leads to an attitude of non-repentance.  Looking beyond the foundations there are greater things than "eternal judgment". Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, goodness, meekness... We cannot dwell in our foundation, we can only dwell in the house built on that foundation. Our foundation is not intended as a basement to inhabit since our foundation is solid stone and uninhabitable. When one wrongfully, and disgracefully, passes an "eternal judgment" on another person they have forgotten the weightier matters of the law and are exhibiting hardness of heart. True justice, true mercy and pure faithfulness are the most important things, judgment is not. Mercy will always triumph over any judgment we make. This judgment on my soul, even it were valid, is of no effect and is the vain ramblings of a Pharisee. It is vain words because they are triumphed by any necessary mercy. True eternal judgment is that point at which we are measured against the righteousness yardstick we carried and measured others with. Eternal judgment is seeing if we measure up to our own words and judgments. By our words we are justified and by our words we are condemned. True "eternal judgment" is not the passing of an eternal sentence on another person, as this Pharisee did. All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth and the royal law supersedes everything else. Everything.  This is unquestionable.
This parable speaks not only of judging a brother, but also the judging of all other persons, like this tax collector, who inhabit the world around us. This is a very hard truth for a blind and deaf Pharisee to accept, but it is truth.
Later Paul admonishes the Romans: For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 
I repeat now the words of Jesus when he  warns us to hold a very short yardstick: Do not judge, or you will be judged. For with the same judgment you pronounce, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.   Jesus 
The just will live by faith. Faith is nothing if love is not coupled with it. Together faith and love equal righteousness and it is this coupling together of faith and love that protects the heart of man, not knowledge and action as this Pharisee wrongly assumed. 


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