Actions vs. Intentions

September 14

“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24)

Someone has said that we all tend to judge other people by their actions – and ourselves, by our intentions. There is a lot of truth in this…

It is so much easier to see what someone does rather than what someone intends to do.

judging-othersThis is the main reason why Scripture commands us not to judge people. Though we may clearly see their actions, or read their words, or hear what they may say – we cannot really tell WHY those things are done, written, or said. We can guess. We can make a determination based upon the bare facts. But our chances of being right are often much less than we realize. In many cases, we make a greater error (in judging someone) than the error that they have allegedly committed.

This is the essence behind Jesus’ warning (quoted above) to those who would seek to judge the actions of others. Contrary to opinion, Jesus does not condemn all judgment – He just wants us to understand there is a right way to judge.

The right way is centered in actions that reflect the Heart of God – and that affirm God’s Truth.

For example, it is not wrong to “judge” or condemn an act of stealing. Stealing is wrong. But knowing why someone has stolen, just may affect our judgment.

jean_valjeanFor example, in one of my favorite musicals, the lead character is condemned to a lengthy and brutal prison term for stealing bread to feed his starving sister and her family. The act is wrong. But the intention behind the act is understandable, maybe even moral (to take care of your family is a right thing to do). The law says that thieves are criminals – and: “if you do the crime you must do the time.” By the letter of the law, intentions are irrelevant. The law must be upheld – regardless of the circumstances.

The words of Jesus apply here… appearances alone do not always lead us to a right judgment.

A right judgment sees not only the actions, but also takes the time to consider the circumstances, and the intent, behind an action.

Jesus’ words, in John 7:24, follow Jesus’ act of healing on the Sabbath. By the law, that is a big no-no. Any work done on the Sabbath merits immediate judgment and condemnation. But Jesus points out that there are some things that not only can be done on the Sabbath but should be done. It would be morally wrong to ignore someone’s great need (and do nothing to help them), just because of the day of the week. God’s Heart goes out to help the needy – even on the day of rest.

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I have noticed that God is much more interested in extending grace than He is in doling out judgment. Rules certainly have their purpose. We need them. But they do not exist for us to serve them – they exist that they might serve us (helping establish the boundaries of right and wrong). But rules are almost always applied to observable actions. They are not meant to give us any insight into a person’s intentions. Rules give us only the letter of the law – not the spirit.

According to Jesus, the spirit of the law matters most – because a person’s intent comes from the heart.

And it is what comes from the heart that really matters to God…

God looks at the heart

Prayer Focus: God, allow me to see with Your Eyes… to search for a person’s intent before I come to conclusions.

About theheartseeker

I have spent years studying the Scriptures and seeking for God's answer to the question: What IS true Christianity? Let me share some answers with you...
This entry was posted in God's Heart, Judgmental Attitude, Morality and Morals, True Christianity, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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