“But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and
never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat, so I could celebrate
with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with
prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him (Luke 15:29-30)!”
The older brother’s sense of injustice and his anger have led him now into a very
dark place, a place from which he now does something that is both understandable and
appalling: He objectifies his own brother. Pay careful attention to the language here. “But
when this son of yours who has squandered your property…” The older son does not call
him “my brother,” which would still indicate personal connection and relationship, but
instead calls him “your son.” He is now separated and distant, so that he cannot even
rejoice at his brother’s return.
The problem of objectification is everywhere. It’s what happens when our mental
apparatus comes to think of any human being as though they were an ‘it’ rather than one
created in the image of God. Lust accomplishes this. So does greed. But judgment may be
the wicked form of objectifying there is. Rush to judgment (or move slowly to judgment)
and you come to see a person only for their failures. Your mind will latch on to all that
angers you, overlooking whatever positive qualities they may have. You place a frame
around them that exposes only the muck and the sludge.
This is why Jesus frequently warned his disciples, “Do not judge.” He repeated this
command on many occasions and in many different ways. He warned about judgment in
parables and in direct discourse. “Judge not, lest you also be judged.” It’s difficult to get
more direct than that! Remember, there is tremendous liberty in letting go of the burden of
judgment. Judgment is God’s work, not ours. As many people have reminded us, judgment
is a burden far too great for any person to carry.