But with me, it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. – 1 Corinthians 4:3
Do you overthink things? Do you take too much time examining the things you’ve done or the things you’ve said? Do you criticize yourself a lot? Well, you shouldn’t. There are other things that you can better spend your brainpower on. Interrogating yourself is not one of them.
Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, remarks how their judgment of him means very little to him. But then he says something interesting: “I do not even judge myself.”
When talking about judging, it’s important to note that the word ‘judge,’ in the New Testament of the Bible, comes from several different Greek words (the New Testament was originally written in Greek). These words are similar, but they each have a distinct meaning. I’m not going to go over them all, but I want to mention a few:
First, you have ‘krinō.’ This is one of the primary words that is translated into ‘judge.’ It means ‘to determine.’ In other words, it means to form a conclusion, as when a judge judges a man as guilty or not guilty after a court hearing. This is the word that Jesus used when He said, “Judge not, lest you be judged.”
Then you have ‘diakrinō.’ ‘Diakrinō’ means to go back and forth over something to make a judgment. It’s the word one would use to describe a court hearing, when a judge would listen to this side of the story and then to that side of the story, trying to determine what’s true.
And then there’s ‘anakrinō.’ ‘Anakrinō’ means to examine, scrutinize, interrogate. It’s the word that would be used in the courtroom when the lawyer would examine the accused on the stand: “What happened? Why did you do this? You’re a troublemaker. What were you thinking? What did you say, and why?” When it is used outside of the context of a courtroom it means to examine and determine the good and bad things about a person. This would be similar to what we do when we write a review about the service someone provided for us or comment on the performance of an actor or athlete. For example, if you hired a plumber you might say: “This plumber did a good job on my toilet. He showed up when he said he would, looked nice, professional, and everything seems to be working good. I would recommend.” Or maybe regarding an athlete: “I don’t know what’s wrong with this athlete. Why did he play so bad? He’s off his game. He seems distracted. I think it’s time for him to hang it up. He is getting kind of old for this game, anyhow. I think retirement is in his future.”
It’s this last word, ‘anakrinō,’ that Paul uses in our title verse when he said, “I judge not my own self.”
In the context of this verse, Paul was rebuking the church of Corinth for being divisive over who their spiritual leader was. They would say, “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas,” as if it mattered which apostle they came to Christ under. And, in so doing this, they were judging these apostles. One would say, “Paul is better because of this and that,” and another would say, “No, Paul can’t speak very well, Apollos is better at preaching.” And so on. They were ‘writing reviews’ on which apostle they liked best, if you will, examining their good and bad qualities. But Paul would have none of it. He says, “It matters little what you think about me, or what the world thinks about me. As a matter of fact, I don’t take the time to criticize or commend myself. I am a servant of Christ and my responsibility is to do what He tells me to do.”
We live in a world where comparison is big, and results are paramount. In the world, getting better results than the other guy is often the measuring stick of success. We feel better about ourselves as long as we are doing better than the other guy, and, on the reverse side, we feel horrible about ourselves if we are not. Too often these attitudes seep into the mind of a Christ-follower. We pay too much attention to the ‘reviews’ that others ‘write’ about us, and not enough attention on simply being faithful to do our best as a steward of God. And then, to top things off, we begin to ‘write negative reviews’ about ourselves. Some of us are pros at this.
We need to reject this. In response to the Corinthians’ comparisons, Paul says this:
Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. – 1 Corinthians 4:1
In other words, “This is how you need to think about us: Number one, servants of Christ. Number two: stewards of what He has revealed to us.” A servant’s job is to serve his master to the best of his ability. A steward’s job is to be faithful to his master. We must fight the temptation to care too much about what fellow Christians think, what the world thinks, and even what we think about ourselves.
If God has called you to do something, go do it. Yes, prepare, and do your best, but don’t sit there and think about how bad you think you are at said task. Resist the temptation to do what you are doing for the approval of men. Ultimately, you aren’t doing it for men, but for God. Their approval doesn’t matter, nor does your approval of yourself. God wants you to be obedient first. If the results aren’t as good as they could be, that’s ok, just keep doing what God tells you to do. Keep improving. Keep moving forward. You really don’t have a choice in the matter. You either do it, or you disobey. (I suggest you do it).
As a minister, I can’t tell you how often I have succumbed to the temptation of writing my own negative reviews. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to crawl into a hole because of my own disapproval of my performance. I regret now that I was so hard on myself. I can’t remember it ever doing any good. It was sin, really. The truth was that I had the wrong attitude about it all. When I focused too much on myself, it became about me. It’s not about me. I am a servant. I am a steward. My job is the please the one who enlisted me.
So stop interrogating yourself. You are not your master, and your Master disapproves of this practice. Be like Paul and say, “I judge not my own self.” Instead, pull up your pants and go to work. The Master is waiting.
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