Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Just Wait

How easy is it to judge others?

Popular Translation

1 Everyone should think of us as Christ’s assistants and the managers of God’s mysteries. 2 After all, the one thing we want in a manager is trustworthiness.

3 I really don’t care if you or any human court judges me. In fact, I don’t judge myself 4 because I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong. But if I have, the One who ultimately judging me is the Lord. 5 So, don’t judge anyone until the time is right, when the Lord returns. He will shine a light on everything done in the dark. He will clearly show what people think. Then, God will praise everyone who is faithful.

Literal Translation

1 Let a man think of us as assistants to CHRIST and managers of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, (the quality) sought among the managers (is) that are found (of a) faithful (nature). 3 For me, it is in the least (matter of concern) that I am judged by you or (by any) human (court), indeed I do not judge myself, 4 for I am not aware (of anything) against myself, but in these (matters) not declared acquitted, but the (One) judging me is the LORD. 5 So, do not judge any (thing or person) before the right time until the LORD comes, who shines a light on (the things) hidden in darkness and make clear the intents of the heart, and when each (person of faith) will receive praise from God.

4:1 “Let a man...” The Greek word for “man” can be general in meaning (i.e., “all people”) or indeterminate (“someone”).

Ah, the critic.

At many points in the day, we all judge others. We praise some, curse others. It’s a matter of human nature. If someone exceeds our standards, we are surprised. If he fails those standards, we are disappointed and think ill of him. Negative judgments are second nature to most of us, but when we make the judgment personal, we can step over the line. When we judge the person and not their acts or intentions, our thoughts or words or reaction can become sinful. The judge can become the critic, even the cynic.

In 1 Corinthians 4:1, St. Paul established his credentials. He assisted Christ in the work of salvation through his preaching. He received the “mysteries of God” (i.e., revelation of God’s plan through an encounter with the Risen Lord); now he was a “manager” of those mysteries by preaching the Good News. He claimed apostleship not only through his commission by Christ, but by his life’s work. He lived to spread the Good News, and, by proclaiming that News to everyone, Paul sought to continue the ministry of Christ, the gathering of the faithful for the end times. And in his preaching and ministry, Paul considered himself faithful to God and his calling (4:1-2).

Of course, such a lofty stature was bound to bring the comments of others. We can safely assume St. Paul was the subject of rumor, slander and ridicule by those he chastised in the Corinthian Church. How did Paul answer the charges of others? Basically, he said, “I’m innocent, so I don’t care what you say. (4:3-4a)” Paul realized he wasn’t off the hook; he could be guilty of something, but he “threw himself upon the mercy” of the Eternal Judge (4:3b). But, then, Paul did something amazing. As he did not hold himself guilty, he urged his readers to withhold judgment until the Final Judgment. With every secret laid bare and every intention of the heart clearly discernible, then his readers could make the right judgment, for they would have all facts and they could see others through the eyes of the Judge (4:5). In other words, he did not say, “Do not judge.” Instead, he said, “Delay your judgment.”

Wait to judge. Sometimes that advice is enough to keep our eyes on what is truly important, the judgment of God. As he has already declared our innocence, despite our sin, we can forgive others with time and patience. We all judge others. The question is not the criticism but the timing. With the proper timing, we will not cross the line between the helpful critique and the ad hominem attack.

When was the last time you withheld judgment? How did your patience give you perspective?