Our pastor wasn’t pleased that his newspaper had been arriving late each morning—for two weeks. So he impatiently stood at his front door, ready to verbally pounce on the newspaper deliveryman and unleash his anger over the tardy papers. Before he did, however, he thought better of it. Instead, he asked, “How’s it going, Tom?” When he did, he found out that Tom’s house had burned to the ground two weeks before. He and his family were homeless. Tom had recently picked up extra work on a local farm to earn more money. Now he had to wake up even earlier than usual. It had been the worst two weeks of his life.

Needless to say, my pastor was humbled. He told us he had thought he had Tom all figured out as a lazy, thoughtless person. He was wrong.

This reminds me of another time people jumped to conclusions. In Luke 13:1-4, Jesus told his listeners that those murdered by Pilate in the temple and the eighteen who died when a tower in Siloam crushed them didn’t suffer because they were worse sinners than anyone else.

Back then (and sometimes today) people believed that suffering always resulted from people’s sins. In other words, they brought it on themselves. So whenever something bad happened to others, people thought they had it all figured out: Someone must have sinned. That’s why Jesus’ disciples asked Him, “Why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” (John 9:2). But Jesus replied, “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins” (John 9:3).

It’s dangerous to label others and think we have them figured out. Instead, may we pray and ask God to help us extend His grace to those we’re struggling with—realizing we can’t know it all.

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: John 1:19-34