Okay, ‘fess up. Who has looked at how many plastic bags the person in front of you at the supermarket checkout is getting and immediately judged them? Something along the lines of, ‘How can they be using so many plastic bags?’ or ‘Don’t they realise that plastic bags are bad for the environment?’
Some of us even feel superior. We kind of put down our reused canvas bags with a certain smugness, as if to say ‘At least I’m not using plastic bags.’
I admit it. I’ve done it. The judgmental attitude, the feeling of superiority.
Or maybe it’s not plastic bags. Maybe it’s feeling superior because you’re walking or catching public transport, while other people are driving their cars. Or maybe it’s criticising the neighbours for using so much water. Maybe it’s looking at your friend’s shopping with disdain, wondering how much of it was just wasteful consumerism.
In today’s world, we don’t like to judge others. The idea is drilled into us that people make their own choices and we have no right to tell them how to live their lives.
But when it comes to the environment, the situation is often completely reversed. It’s almost as though we feel we have a duty to point out and to criticise any environmentally-destructive action. No longer are they free to live their lives the way they want. If they don’t toe the Green line, well they’re just not doing things right.
Jesus tells us not to judge others. And usually when I think about this, I think about all the judgmental people in the church - those who judge others for smoking or for being homosexual or for wearing revealing clothes or for not believing the right things or for not tithing properly. It’s so easy to think that others are doing the judging and forget that we may be doing some judging ourselves.
I would love everybody to make choices that respect the planet that we live in. I would love to see people take climate change seriously. I would love for people to curb their spending and wasteful habits.
But it’s not my place to judge people when they fail to do this.
Jesus didn’t tell us not to judge others on some matters but to judge them on other matters. He didn’t say don’t judge them on how much they tithe, but judge them on how many plastic bags they use. He didn’t say don’t judge them on their sexuality but judge them on their carbon footprint. He didn’t say don’t judge them on what they believe about God, but judge them on what they think about global warming.
He told us not to judge. Full-stop. And he also said that we should be looking at ourselves before judging other people. And I for one know I am not leading the perfect environmentally-responsible life. I still have so much I could do and should be doing.
And in the end, judging others does nobody any good anyway. All it does is makes people feel guilty. And guilt very rarely leads to good actions. But when I look at my own actions and my own lifestyle, I can actually make the changes that do some good. Yes, I’m just one person. But if we all stopped pointing the finger at other people and started looking at ourselves, imagine what we could do.