In the Christian life we often think of praise as a one-way affair. We praise God based upon His evident worthiness and glory.
We often fail to note that God is also ready to praise us, although our praiseworthiness is very less certain.
St Paul refers to this when he says;
“I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 NIV
This passage highlights two things; firstly, that there is the amazing prospect that the God of the Universe might praise me for the things I do, and how I do them; secondly, that our ability to estimate our own, or others’, praiseworthiness, is severely limited.
One of my lecturers at Bible College told us that he always tried to operate on the principle of ‘one fact more’.
By this he meant that in his dealings with people he always tried to anticipate that there might be yet some fact of which he was currently unaware, that might radically alter his opinion of the person.
I imagine this maxim was drawn from the results of his pastoral experience; from times when sudden disclosures had radically reversed his opinions of a person. These moments had obviously been so powerful that he had made hopeful caution this ‘modus operandi’.
There is a proverb which states that can’t really judge a man until you have walked around in his skin.
Both of these seem to be highlighting the same truth. That our capacity to make valid value judgments is severely limited.
St Paul cares little for human judgements of himself and his ministry (whether positive or negative) for he knows outsiders cannot judge him accurately.
But neither does he place any great value on his own self-judgement and this is right for a couple of different reasons;
- We can only ever partially grasp the mind of God – “For now we see through a glass, darkly” (1 Co 14:12 AKJV).
- We can also be biased for reasons of psychology or personality to think better or worse of ourselves than we really should.
- Our capacity to make right judgements is a function of our theological understanding, or capacity of thought, which varies from individual to individual – “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.” (Romans 14:5 NIV)
- Our own judgement of ourselves is of no consequence, it is God’s accurate judgement that will be the defining statement about our life and work. – “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Co 5:10 AKJV)
What do we take from all this? I guess the following;
Don’t judge others, unless your circumstances or role force you to do so; and if you are forced to make a judgement about others, hold it firmly in mind that your judgement may well be completely wrong, for reasons of your being incompletely informed, or unknowingly biased, or inaccurate in your theological basis; and, in any way, your judgement ultimately counts for nothing.