1 Corinthians 4:3-5
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yes, I judge not my own self.…
The thought of the apostle is evidently occupied with the disposition of the Corinthians to form judgments for and against different Christian teachers, and to make parties by their preference for one over another. There seems to have been a critical habit, which was applied to the work of each minister; and such a habit is always found seriously to injure the work of our ministers, and fatally to influence that openness and receptivity of spirit on which due reception of Christian teachings depend. It may be especially pointed out that the habit of discussing the work of the clergy in our families, depreciating some of them, and unduly praising others, has a most mischievous influence on the younger members of our households. In this passage St. Paul strongly urges his indifference to any judgments that may be formed about him. He was simply but heartily trying to do Christ's work under Christ's lead, and he could wait for his Master to judge what had been the quality and the value of his work. He speaks of three kinds of judgment to which the Christian teacher may be subject.
I. MAN'S JUDGMENT. We must all do our work with the feeling that, at least, our fellow men have their eyes upon us, and form their opinions concerning us. Illustrate how we form estimates of one another. When great men die, the judgments which their contemporaries formed of their work finds expression in numerous articles and books; and when the friends of simpler folk meet at their funerals, their talk shows how the tone and character of the dead man's life has been fully - sometimes fairly, and at other times unfairly - estimated. Now, such judgments of our fellow men may be helpful to us when they find expression in our lifetime.
(1) They are if they help to increase our sense of the seriousness of our duty;
(2) they are if they lead us to know ourselves better, to see and to correct our mistakes;
(3) they are if they make us more anxious to win men's approval by a higher faithfulness to our duty. But the thought of man's judgment may be mischievous if it
(1) makes us nervously sensitive to merely human opinion;
(2) if it makes us self conscious; and
(3) if it makes us in any sense or degree more anxious about the praise of men than the praise of God. We may value men's good opinion as an encouragement; we may consider men's severe judgments as helping us to see our faults; but we may not permit our settled life work to be hindered by men's opinion, nor our hearts to be depressed by men's criticisms. We serve the Lord, not men.
II. SELF JUDGMENT. St. Paul says, "I judge not mine own self." Show how important to all Christian workers is self knowledge, and the power to fairly weigh and estimate one's own doings. So many fail because, while heeding everybody's criticism, they fail to criticize themselves. But wise and helpful self judgments are
(1) very dependent on natural disposition;
(2) on particular bodily and mental moods; and
(3) on the measure and degree of a man's self love.
The duty is plainly taught by the apostle when he said, "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged" (1 Corinthians 11:31).
III. THE LORD'S JUDGMENT, "He that judgeth me is the Lord." That judgment is stricter than any man's, and than any which we can make concerning ourselves. These points may be illustrated as impressing the superiority of the Lord's judgment.
(1) It is most searching;
(2) it concerns even our motives;
(3) it is infallibly correct;
(4) it is going on every day now;
(5) it is in measure revealed to us now;
(6) it is in measure kept from us now, that our freedom may not be unduly limited;
(7) it will be fully revealed to us by and by; and
(8) on it our allotments of place and work in the "eternities" must entirely depend. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.