FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Am I Judgmental? Alistair Begg

with Alistair Begg | May 14, 2024
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Ever caught yourself judging someone based on their appearance, social media, or behavior? Asking, 'Why did they post that?' or 'What's with their outfit?' Alistair Begg goes deeper into the effects of snap judgments on our relationships--and how to love even those who rub us the wrong way.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Ever judged someone too quickly based on looks or social media? Alistair Begg explores how these snap judgments affect us and Jesus’ call to love others.

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Am I Judgmental? Alistair Begg

With Alistair Begg
May 14, 2024
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Dave: I was just thinking, if there’s anything I’m really good at—[Laughter]

Ann: —okay, what is it?

Dave:  I’m the bar people want to measure up to; when I’m at an airport—

Ann: —oh, no.

Dave: —and I’m just sitting there doing nothing and people walk by. I’m thinking, “You know what?”

Ann: You mean like when people are getting off the plane—

Dave: That’s another time; but you know what I’m going to say. [Laughter] I’m a pretty good judger. I can judge people by how they walk and how they dress, and when they’re getting off the airplane, I literally cannot look. I’m getting so mad that they’re taking so long, and “I’m so much better and I could get off quicker than anyone else.”

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at

Ann: This is FamilyLife


Dave and Ann: —Today!


Ann: Not that I’m judging you, but when you drive a car—

Dave: —okay, that’s enough. We don’t need to get into that.

Ann: —you might get a little judging about that, too. Why are we talking about judging today? We all do it! We all judge.

Alistair: Well, sometimes the judgment is fair. [Laughter]

Dave: Hey, I like this guy. Alistair Begg is back on the show, and he starts with that. I like it.

Alistair: Talking about driving in the car, God speaks to us through our children as well. I’m driving in the car—it was a long time ago; my son is 45 now, but this has never left me. I’m driving in the car and doing basically a running commentary on everybody else’s driving.

Ann: [Laughter] You guys are twins!

Dave: You’re my man, buddy.

Alistair: Within five miles of me, it was like, “Come on, what are you doing? Look, what do you think…?” All that stuff.

Dave: Yes.

Alistair: I’d finished my little speech, and there was just a moment of silence. Then I heard a voice from the backseat saying, “And that’s another kind word from your pastor.” [Laughter]

Dave: What is it about us in a car?

Alistair: Well, it’s not good. It’s not good.

Dave: It’s pretty obvious. Our sin nature comes out.

Alistair: I do think that there’s some justification for it.

Dave: Some people have earned it. You’re right.

Ann: You love this, don’t you? You love this conversation with Alistair.

Dave: I knew I wasn’t the only one. I finally found my counterpoint.

Alistair: But see, this is where judging goes wrong: people think that to say, “Judge not,” you have to suspend your critical faculties; that there’s nothing you can make any comment on anything at all, whether it’s right or wrong. [Luke 6:37]

Dave: Right.

Alistair: That's how it’s viewed. That’s not what Jesus is saying.

What Jesus is talking about is the fact that—If I might say, “That guy is one of the slowest people I ever saw moving away from a traffic light.” That was actually an observation of something that really took place. But if I’m saying, “Look at him doing that bad thing and look at me, I don’t do bad things.”

Dave: Right.

Alistair: Now, that’s where the thing goes wrong. The problem is, I find it easy to see the problem in somebody else and comment on it while at the same time giving myself a free pass.

Dave: Yes.

Alistair: Jesus in the sermon [Luke 6] is taking on the Pharisees. They are—the word in English is they’ve got a spirit of censoriousness. That’s their whole game. That’s their  raison d'etre, if you like.

Ann: So, do you think when Jesus was giving His sermon on the plain, and He says, “Judge not and you will not be judged. Condemn not and you will not be condemned.”—do you think He’s talking to the Pharisees here?

Alistair: Well, He’s talking to them all.

Ann: Okay, He is talking to them all.

Alistair: He’s talking to us, as we read our Bibles. What He’s talking about is, if we are to be kids of His kingdom, if we are truly children of our heavenly Father, then we can’t take to ourselves a kind of hypocritical, self-exalting spirit of judgmentalism whereby we get a measure of—it allows us to step up one step by making sure we can put someone down two steps.

Ann: Hmmm.

Alistair: I think that’s really what He’s talking about. I fail to see what I’m like because I’m so busy making judgments on what other people are like, without ever really knowing what’s really going on inside of a person.

As I think about pulling away from that traffic light—because someone will phone up and say, “Begg’s crazy about that stuff”—what I don’t know when I say that is, I don’t know whether maybe that person had surgery or whatever.

Dave: Right.

Ann: So, when we judge, why do you think that we judge? I’m not talking about you guys and the car or the plane. We all are judging people, each other. It seems like—especially if you get on any social media, we’re not only judging people; we’re condemning them as well. Do you think we are worse now than we have ever been?

Alistair: Maybe, but again, we have to hold this in tension, don’t we?

Ann: Right.

Alistair: Jesus is not saying you’re not allowed to judge between truth and error; you’re not allowed between good and bad. The whole system of jurisprudence rests on being able to make moral judgments. It doesn’t mean saying, “Everything’s okay,” because everything isn’t okay.

What He is addressing, though, is the propensity for us to make ourselves feel better about ourselves if we can actually say that the other person is worse—

Ann: —worse; that’s good.

Alistair: Yes, it’s a bit like the story He told about the Pharisee and the publican. [Luke 18:9-14] That epitomizes it, doesn’t it? Because the Pharisee says, “I thank you that I’m not like other men.”


Dave and Ann: Hmmm.

Alistair: “I do this, and I don’t do that.” Well, if you are part of a church that operates like that, what are you going to do with a poor sinner? Because the fact is, I am the poor sinner. I’m the one that didn’t even lift his eyes to heaven and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

What Jesus is saying [is] you don’t want a church full of those people, who believe that their standing before God is based on the strength of what they’ve done or what they haven’t done as a means of their acceptance.

Grace is their acceptance and, then, what they don’t do or do is not in order that they might be accepted, but is an expression that they have been accepted; and part of that is that we love our neighbor. We love those that we’re not necessarily that keen on. The average church is not full of people that you want to take a vacation with, let’s be honest. [Laughter]

Ann: And I’m going to say, too, this is so true in marriage. For years, I thought the problems with our marriage were Dave.

Alistair: Sure.

Dave: You never told me that, not one time. [Laughter]

Ann: I think it’s as Jesus said, “Look at the plank in your own eye.” [Luke 6:41-42] I remember that as I started doing that and started asking, “God, show me what I am like,” it was not pretty. We do do that. We look at others without looking at our own lives.

Dave: Alistair, why do you think we—and we all do it—we all miss the plank?

Alistair: Yes.

Ann: Even in Christ, we still do it.

Dave: We see the speck in our spouse, in our kids, in our neighbor, the person in the other car; you name it, we see it. We think it’s huge, and we miss the plank. Jesus said it.

Alistair: Because we’re sinners.

Dave: Yes.

Alistair: Saved sinners, but sinners. Luther says we are curved in on ourselves. We want to present ourselves in the best light. It’s hard to let your guard down and let people really know.

That’s the way marriage works though, isn’t it? In marriage—what vulnerability is there in this? “I’m not going to let anyone else see me without my clothes on.” “I don’t want anyone else to really see me when I’m thoroughly disheartened.”

Dave: Right.

Alistair: But we do that in marriage; we have to. That’s why we need one another.

Dave: Yes.

Ann: And even our kids in the back seat—

Alistair: --yes—

Ann: —pointing out—

Alistair: —yes, yes, yes.

Dave: Talk about the balance, though, between Jesus saying, “Judge not,” in Luke 6—

Alistair: —yes.

Dave: —and Paul saying in 1 Corinthians that we shouldn’t judge those outside the church, but we should judge those inside the church. There is a sense of judgment that's healthy.

Alistair Yes, right.

Dave: Explain that tension.

Alistair: Well, there is. If God is going to come and stir things up, what if He starts in the church rather than outside, which is what He does? That’s what Jesus is saying here. This is, if you like, self-examination for the Christian, not ammunition for the Christian to use in confronting what’s going on outside the camp.

He’s talking here about a spirit of censoriousness within the framework of evangelical Christianity, for example. Where “we know what the doctrine is,” ”we know what the church membership standards are,” ”we know all these things.” “We know, we know, we know…” Okay, fine, well, it’s good to know these things, but the way in which we hold to them and convey that spirit—tone is such a huge part of it, isn’t it?

Dave and Ann: Yes.

Alistair: You can say the right things and say them in a way that is harmful or hurtful. But otherwise, how can we keep one another accountable?

Dave: Yes. It’s so hard in this culture, and I think it’s probably always been true; but if I have a standard, as a follower of Christ, that’s biblical—like you said yesterday: “One man, one woman, covenant of marriage”—

Alistair: —right.

Dave: —that feels judgmental to others who think differently, or are living differently, no matter how—even if I’m very—gracious in my words, it feels, doesn’t it often, like judgment?

Alistair: Yes. In the book—remember there was a book?

Dave: Yes! There was a book somewhere. By the way, we never mentioned the title. It’s called The Christian Manifesto: Jesus' Life-Changing Words from the Sermon on the Plain.

Alistair: Yes, I wrote that I need to be especially wary in what I say about others to others, because I have a very clever way, and we do in evangelical circles, of criticizing others, or making ourselves look good by comparison, while dressing up that kind of attitude in the posture of spiritual concern or even a prayer request.

Dave: I was going to say, it often happens in a prayer meeting.

Alistair: There’s a lot of stuff that goes around on that thing. You better be really careful about whose prayer chain you get on.

Ann: Yes, that’s true.

Alistair: Right? “Slow to speak, quick to hear, slow to get angry.” [James 1:19] I do that little poem in there, as well. Do you remember that?

Ann: Yes; read the poem.

Alistair: I think i can just say it:

“If all that we say in a single day,

With never a word left out.

Were printed each night

in clear black and white

It would make strange reading, no doubt.

And then, just suppose,

‘ere our eyes would close,

We must read the whole record through;

Then wouldn’t we sigh,

and wouldn’t we try,

a great deal less talking to do?

And I more than half-think

That many a kink

Would be smoother in life’s tangled thread.

If half that I say in a single day

Were to be left forever unsaid.” [Author Unknown]

And it’s such a challenge, doing what we do, where we talk. This is what we’re doing; we’re talking. This whole thing is about talking.

Dave: Right.

Alistair: The person who never steps wrong in his words is a perfect man. How many of them have you met? We’ve only met Jesus.

Dave: Yes.

Alistair: Perfect. So don’t many of you get into the teaching game, He says, unless you want to recognize that he who teaches will be judged with greater strictness. [James 3:1]

Dave: Yes.

Alistair: And rightly so. It is hard, especially because words are able to woo people. Words are able to encourage people, but they are also so able to wound people.

Ann: Yes.

Alistair: I think that’s what Jesus is saying throughout the whole thing. He’s saying, “Listen. You are my followers. God is a merciful God. Mercy ought to be part of your DNA.”

Dave: Yes.

Alistair: The love that God has for you is a generous love that is not responsive in any way. It is initiated by nothing other than His immense love.

We tend to love people because they’re lovable, or because we like them; and so, it’s a reciprocal thing. I have to remind myself: God loves me not because of what I am! In fact, you know, the idea that “God loves me just the way I am?” God has only ever loved one person just the way He is, that was His Son. God loves me despite of what I am because He sees me in Christ.

And when I remind myself of that, then I’m—it just puts it; like on a golf cart, they have governors so you can’t kill yourself? It puts the governor in there that goes, “Whoa. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Hold it before you go…” And sadly, of course, I usually go before I hold it, and then I have to come back around and ask for forgiveness.

Dave: The truth is, if we are able to understand what you just said, it should make us extremely humble.

Ann: Oh, yes.

Dave: So, then, when we walk in a room or get in a car, and we have a spirit of judgment, that’s not humble.

Alistair: No, it’s not.

Dave: Who am I and what am I thinking that I would judge anyone else that’s an image bearer of God just like me?

Ann: And I’m thinking, too, Dave, in our home, we do that with one another. We do that with husband, with spouse.

I can remember also doing that with our kids when our kids would talk about other classmates in school. I was so judgmental and verbalized that in a way that our kids would say, “Geez, mom.” I thought, “That is not the gospel. I am just as broken as anyone else, and I don’t know the situation that they’ve been in.”

I think I like that word “governor,” it gives us the gospel. The Word of God helps us to put a spotlight on our own selves, knowing that we are in need of the gospel and of Jesus.

Dave: Well, Alistair, if you go back to the Sermon on the Plain, in verse 27—and we’re sort of talking about this but—you read these words. Jesus says: “But I say, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who abuse you.” What does that look like?

Alistair: It looks like a revolution, doesn’t it?

Ann: Yes.

Alistair: It looks like nothing you're going to see in the routine magazines, because our whole culture says, “Look after yourself. Defend yourself. Don’t take anybody's nonsense.” And Jesus is saying, “No. That’s actually not the way you are going to do this.”

Dave: And again, it doesn’t mean we are saying, “Hey, live any kind of life you want.”

Alistair: Right.

Dave: But showing love and care and kindness to all people and, as Jesus said, “those who curse you.”

Alistair: Right.

Dave: We live in a culture [where] it's always been true: if you get insulted, we applaud people that do a better insult back. We go to movies—


Alistair: —right.

Dave: One of my favorite movies is Mean Girls. Did you ever see Mean Girls? [Laughter]

Alistair: No.

Dave: Ann laughs because it’s a high school girls movie, and I’m probably embarrassed to say it, but it's pretty funny. The bad girls in the school, who are picking on the others, get what they deserve, and you’re standing up in the theater clapping at that (or a Denzel Washington movie). When someone deserves it, and they get paid back, we love it. Yet, Jesus says, “No. Bless those who hurt you.”

Alistair: Right; yes.

Dave: It just sounds crazy.

Ann: I remember there was a woman in my life who had hurt me so much. She was gossiping; slandering me; about me. It was going on and on. I had approached her. There could be no reasoning. So, I had an email that I had written, and I thought, “I am sending this.” It was truth! To me, it was truth: “Here it is. Here’s the truth.” I was all ready to send it, and I had let it all out; and I was just about to push send, and I had that little—the Holy Spirit—

Alistair: —the governor.

Ann: —the governor! Yes. And I asked, “I’m ready, Lord. Here I go.” And then, ”Can I? Can I send this?” And what came to my mind was, “Love your enemies.”

Alistair: Yes.

Ann: Oh! Oh, it was so hard, because I felt so justified. It was just anger. It was justice that I was going to give. And when I go to that Scripture—I opened up the Scripture then, and I read it. Oh, I wanted to send it so badly, but as I look back—and that’s been years ago, probably ten years. I think, if I had sent that, it would have burned so many bridges. It would have wrecked so much and destroyed a relationship that’s really thriving now.

Alistair: Yes. I’ve got two things to say on that. One is, I’ve made it a rule in my life, and certainly in pastoral ministry: if I have something positive to say, I might write it to you; probably will write it to you. If I have something negative to say, I’ll just say it to you. Because I want to give you the opportunity to respond to me, and I don’t want to give you a written record that, when life has gone by, you turn around and say, “Why did he do that?”

Ann: Yes!

Alistair: It might not have been that good. I’ll tell you another thing: you’ll never hear your grandchildren say, “Let’s go up in the attic and read Grandma’s emails.” If we aren’t writing notes to our kids and to our grandchildren; if we aren’t doing that now, they have nothing. They’ve got nothing, because you’ll be gone. They’re not going to read your emails. They’re not that good anyway.

And, again, the other thing is, I get exactly what you are saying. Is it true what I’m writing? Yes. “Okay, well that’s it. Fine.” Not necessarily. Is it kind? Is it necessary? Okay, no. Let’s just leave this alone. Let’s sleep on this for a while.

Ann: Yes.

Alistair: You think about how much happens to dissolve relationships, just as you are saying, through hastiness and not allowing time to ask the question. That’s a good word. Yes: ”Lord, shall I send it?”

Ann: “Or should I say it?”

Alistair: Yes. But to say it, you might be wrong even to say it—

Dave and Ann: —because, again, it all depends on how we say things. My dad used to say to me, “Your problem is not what you say, your problem is how you say it.”

Dave: If you think about applying the Sermon on the Mount, the Sermon on the Plain, to your home—

Ann: —home, that’s what I was thinking, Dave.

Dave: Is your home—is the fragrance, the aroma—

Alistair: —yes.

Dave: —a kindness?

Ann: And grace?

Dave: And, again, I’m not saying there’s not truth-telling.

Alistair: Right.

Dave: You need to do that in a marriage and in a family, but is there an aroma? [Scripture] says the aroma of Christ will draw people. [2 Corinthians 2:14-15] Do your kids want to come? Do your grandkids want to run into your family room?

Alistair: Right, right!

Dave: They feel seen there rather than judged there.

Alistair: Yes. The Dutch have a great word: gezellig. Do you know that word, gezellig?

Ann: No.

Alistair: It’s almost untranslatable, but it means—you talk about your family room; for someone to come in and say, “This is gezellig.” It is appealing; there are no harsh lights. It’s partly ambience, it’s partly tone, it’s partly feel. It’s smell, it’s all of that stuff. A restaurant might be gezellig, or a home might be gezellig, or whatever it might be. That’s it. I want the church to be that.

Dave: Yes.

Ann: Yes.

Alistair: Because it’s hard when you are part of the establishment. I don’t even know what it feels like sitting out there!

Dave: Right.

Alistair: Even when I sit out there, I can’t sit out there like I’m just another person sitting out there.

Dave: Right; yes.

Alistair: Now my spirit of judgment starts coming in as well, right?

Dave: Yes.

Allistair: About the length of the sermon or “why are you taking so long doing the notices? Come on, let’s get this thing going,” you know?

Dave: Yes.

Ann: So true.

Alistair: I’m my own worst enemy. That’s the truth.

Dave: All I would say is that you [Ann], in our home, create the best gezellig.

Alistair: There you go.

Ann: Awww.

Alistair: That’s lovely.

Dave: Oh, you do. I’m not kidding.

Alistair: That’s good.

Dave: I watch friends come over, and when they get to the front door to leave, I can tell they don’t want to leave. It’s not because of me.

Allistair: Yes, yes.

Dave: They're done with Dave, but you bring such joy and empathy and others-centeredness that they feel loved. It’s awesome. Thanks for doing that!

Ann: That’s nice. Thanks, honey, because I haven’t been great at doing that to you as often. Better now, but there were years, man. Whew! It was not good.

Alistair: Excuse me, everybody, I’m just going to slip out. [Laughter]

Dave: We don’t know where this is going to go!

Alistair: This is getting a little too gezellig for me. [Laughter]

Shelby: You know, I love it when Dave gushes about Ann. I just do! It’s such a beautiful example of what it looks like to be a life-giving spirit in your marriage. After so many years, it’s just so delightful when Dave does that.

I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Alistair Begg on FamilyLife Today. Alistair has written a book called The Christian Manifesto: Jesus' Life-Changing Words from the Sermon on the Plain. This book really helps embrace a counter-intuitive and counter-cultural lifestyle guided by kindness, compassion, and the Holy Spirit. You saw a good example of that just now with Dave and Ann Wilson.

You can get your copy of Alistair’s book, The Christian Manifesto, by going online to, or you can give us a call to request your copy at 800-358-6329; again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

This month is a unique month at FamilyLife, because every donation that you make all month long is going to be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $500,000. That’s right. So, if you give a monthly gift of $100, it’s actually becoming $200 a month. [This is] just happening in the month of May, and it’s a unique way to be able to partner with us and help us reach marriages and families all over the world.

When you become a monthly partner with us here at FamilyLife, you’ll get a couple of perks, too. We’re going to send you a copy of Chris and Elizabeth McKinney’s book, Neighborhoods Reimagined. They were with us last week and talked about how to be a life-giving presence in your neighborhood. So, we’ll send you a copy of that book, and you’ll become a part of our new online community where you get to participate in the conversations that are happening here at FamilyLife, including a live Facebook® event with the Wilsons and me on June 5th at 7 pm. Again, that’s for all monthly partners.

So, if you want to learn how to do that, head over to and click on the “Donate Now” button at the top of the page. Or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

Now, tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are back with Alistair Begg as he explores the challenges of family life in today’s culture and offers parenting advice on how to pass on your faith to your kids. That’s tomorrow. We hope you’ll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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