We all find it way too easy to point the finger at another person and say, “Well, well, look what he or she is doing.” But when we try to condemn another person, we thereby take away a privilege that belongs to God alone.
As human beings, we can only draw conclusions from what we see or hear.
We read in John 8:3-5: “Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?’”
Jesus Christ did not answer this question right away, as verse 6 shows us: “This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.”
We don’t know what He wrote, but there was little doubt as to her guilt; she had been caught sinning. However, they did not bring the guilty man before Christ either, which was required by the law. The whole incident was an attempt to accuse Christ because of His expected decision. But Jesus did not answer them.
Verse 7 tells us: “So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.’” We then read in verse 8: “And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.”
After a few minutes, Jesus looked up and saw no one else but the woman. Verses 10-11 continue: “When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’”
Christ makes clear at this point that He did not come to condemn people, but to save them. We should follow His example. As human beings, we can only draw conclusions from what we see or hear. But Christ told us not to judge based on physical factors. John 7:24 quotes His words: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.’”
God tells us that before we can judge someone, we first have to be righteous ourselves. This is the message Christ gave to those who accused the adulteress.
Righteous judgment requires us to look deep into a person’s heart in order to recognize his or her innermost motives. Obtaining such insight is beyond the power of man—no matter how righteous we think we are.
Jesus said that it is easy for us to see exactly those faults in others of which we ourselves are most likely guilty. We read in Matthew 7:3-5: “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
When we are tempted to criticize a fellow human being, we are well advised to examine our own actions and see whether we might not be on the same path. Paul warns us in Romans 2:1-3: “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?”
Let’s try pointing a finger at someone and then have a look at our hand: there will be three fingers pointing at us.
James 4:11-12 admonishes us: “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?”
We know that God had decided not to heal Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” People at the time of Paul may have judged him as weak in faith or as a sinful man. But today we know that it was for the glory of God (compare 2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Anyone who condemned Paul was wrong.
Let us apply the same principle today. When we are tempted to condemn other people, let us remember that we have no idea what God has in mind for that person.
Many times, we don’t even know all the circumstances that are involved, causing a person to act in a certain way. And we have no idea of the tremendous battle someone might be fighting.
Christ must have seen something in the adulterous woman who was standing before Him, that the accusers could not or did not want to recognize. Although she was guilty, Jesus could see that she detested the deed she had committed. He could see that she was repentant, and He forgave her.
In Isaiah 11:3-4, we read about Christ after His return: “…And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears; But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, And decide with equity for the meek of the earth…”
Then we will rule and reign under Christ, and then we will be able to judge with perfect righteousness.
(Initial translation: Daniel Blasinger)