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Who really knows whether we were good or bad? Only the Lord can judge

Columnist Chris Brekke says praising the deceased at a funeral can be a dicey affair when one isn't sure how the family feels about the departed.

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A man has died and the mourners are gathered for the funeral. The pastor is being kindly concerning the deceased, and declares that “he was an exemplary father, a hard worker, and a good Christian.” The widow leans over to one of the children and whispers: “Go back in the box and see if it is your father in there.”

Ruh-ro; sounds like trouble. The widow was not in agreement with the pastor’s assessment of her late hubby. Perhaps he was not nearly as fine a fellow as the preacher thought. Perhaps others in attendance also wondered about the veracity of the pastor’s words. We can sometimes fool the public about the kind of person we are, but it’s tough to fool those who actually live with us day to day.

You may have heard on TV some neighbor say that so and so sure seemed friendly, after it has come to pass that so and so turned out to be an axe-murderer. Hmm. The true character of a person is often not widely known. Most of us can put on a good face as necessary. And how about you? Do you figure that others really know the real you? And would you want them to?

Regarding any evaluations of others: Do you really have access to someone else’s mind and heart? Are you confident that you know their inner workings and deep desires? You shouldn’t be. Only God Above really knows. Much about our psyche and soul is hidden. And so too are many of a person's life deeds and details. Don’t try sitting in judgment on someone else. You could easily be wrong. The person in the coffin is not ours to assign a grade to.

“You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.” (Romans 14:10).


I remember at one of the many funerals I had over the years, a woman in the kitchen later, as we were doing dishes from the luncheon, openly questioning the eulogy that was given. She said she thought the guy was a "horse's rear end." That remark stuck with me.

I myself did not know the deceased really well. But, even at a funeral, neither praise someone too highly nor criticize him or her too roundly. Speak some nice respectful thoughts and recall some positive things. Let the Lord handle the judging. He is the One who knows. And for all of us everyday bumblers and sinners, Christ alone is to be praised, not some poor stiff whose wife might know better. Our job is to encourage and assist, not judge. Our call is to glorify the Lord, not some fellow that many people may know was not all that great.

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A prayer as you go: Gracious God — Teach me to be an encourager, not an evaluator. I am so very thankful that you accept me by your grace, and not by how stellar I am or pretend to be. Lend a good portion of that grace to me, that I might love people, not judge people. Help me to be kind and good, like our Savior, Jesus. In His name, Amen.

Chris Brekke is a retired pastor who served Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Rochester for 13 years and Trinity Lutheran in West Concord for 10. He and his wife live in Roseville, Minn., where he keeps busy with volunteering, church and family.

"From the Pulpit" features reflections from area religious leaders. To contribute, email us at with "From the Pulpit" in the subject line.

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