“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 most 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.