Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. You say, "We know that God's judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth." Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one's deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honour and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.
In God alone be at rest, my soul;
for my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock, my stronghold,
my fortress: I stand firm. (R./)
Take refuge in God all you people.
Trust him at all times.
Pour out your hearts before him
for God is our refuge. (R./)
Jesus said, "Woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herb of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honour in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it."
One of the lawyers answered him, "Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too." And he said, "Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them."
The Scriptures promote freedom and the primacy of love, but warn against libertinism and individualism. Jesus' teaching on this is carefully nuanced. He criticises how the Pharisees put a priority on payment of tithes, while neglecting justice and the love of God. The latter are more important, says Jesus, but he adds, "without omitting the other." He did not campaign against the Mosaic law. In fact, he observed it carefully and always gave a good reason for departing from it, such as when defending his disciples for eating grains of corn on the Sabbath.
Proper discernment helps us distinguish the essential from the non-essential, and avoid rashly judging others. The more that we multiply rules, the more we try to control other people's lives and are tempted to judge them. We run the danger of Pharisaism by insisting on external observance. Our insistence on punctilio can be a barrier to holiness. Jesus did not reject all rules and regulations, in this case, the duty of each Jew to support the temple. But he taught that the love of God and social justice came before all other obligations. We need to similarly avoid judging people by narrow, external criteria. Some would esteem the appearance of a home more than the happy life within the home. If we quick to judge others, we have probably lost touch with the more central values of love.
St Paul offers a harsh estimate about the sinfulness of the pagan Roman empire. But he adds an important guiding principle, "With God there is no favouritism." He notes the cultural diversity between Jews and Romans and their different scale of values. A person from one culture must try to be fair to people from a different background. Even if some absolute moral truths exist, these are modified within different cultures. Jesus adds key word of advice: Before judging others we must first try to lighten their burden. Perhaps then we would recognise their good qualities, and see them in a new light.
Jesus blames the Pharisees for taking the V.I.P. seats in the synagogues. Publin honour and status was highly prized in the culture of those days. Most of the generous giving for public parks, baths and temples was with a view to gaining honour from the public. The donor's name was clearly inscribed for all to see. Things haven't really changed much in that regard. Jesus taught a different attitude to honour and prestige. He certainly did not seek it for himself, nor did he want his disciples to seek fame, even though they were prone to doing so, each one competing to be a celebrity.
James and John wanted the most prominent seats in the future kingdom of God. But according to Jesus we should direct all honour to God and not seek fame for ourselves. Any good works we do should be for the honour of God and not to for our own glory. At the beginning of the sermon on the mount he invites us to, "let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven." Status seekers, beware!