Judge Others Fairly

Yael Eckstein  |  July 5, 2023

Black and white cartoon image of Nathan rebuking David.
Nathan the prophet rebukes King David.

Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. — Leviticus 19:15

This month, we will look at the theme of justice as one of the bedrock principles of our Judeo-Christian values. Enjoy!

The other day, I saw a young man cut in front of an elderly woman in the checkout line at the grocery store and begin hurriedly unpacking his groceries as she struggled to hold herself up against her cart. My heart burned with judgment for this man. How could he be so blind to her suffering? How could he be more concerned with his own convenience than with justice and compassion? 

God often tells us our own story in a disguised form, then uses how we judge others as the barometer for how He will judge us. In fact, even as I stood in judgment of the young man in the checkout line for what I thought was his thoughtlessness, I noticed the elderly woman begin to smile at him gratefully. He was not cutting in front of her line, but rather rushing to help her unpack her groceries.

Judge Others Fairly

In the Bible, we see that Nathan the prophet took a similar approach when he rebuked King David for the sin of taking Bathsheba. Nathan told the king a story about a rich man who stole the sole sheep of a poor man. When Nathan asked David to pass judgment on the thief, David, deeply moved by the plight of the poor man, said that any man who would do such a thing deserved to die.

Only then did Nathan reveal that the story was a parable to illustrate the gravity of David’s own actions. By sentencing the rich man to death, David had pronounced his own punishment. David repented, and although God did not sentence him to death, David and his family suffered many calamities. 

In our own lives, God often puts us in the same position in which Nathan put David. If we find ourselves in a situation where we are likely to judge another person, it is often because we have acted in a similar way.

This is what happens when we sit in judgment of others and fail to follow the biblical injunction “judge your neighbor fairly.” As flawed human beings with limited knowledge, how do we know what is truly fair? Inevitably, our own judgment will be off the mark.

This is why the Jewish sages use this verse to teach us that we should always give others the benefit of the doubt and judge others fairly. When we judge others harshly, we are ultimately judging ourselves and inviting God to do the same.

Your Turn:

Always judge others fairly. When we treat people with greater kindness, we can call on God to do the same for us.