When (and How) to Judge

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But to me it is a very small thing to be judged by you or by man’s day: but neither do I judge my own self. Yet am I not hereby justified, but he that judges me is the Lord.

1 Corinthians 4:3-4

According to St. Thomas Aquinas,

One should have regard for men’s judgment in two ways: first, in regard to others who are edified or scandalized by what is heard. For this reason the saints did not regard it a small thing but very important to be judged by men, since the Lord said: that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father, who is in heaven (Matt 5:16).

Second, in regard to themselves, and then they do not care much, because they neither desire human glory: nor sought we the glory of men, neither of you nor of others (1 Thess 2:6), nor fear men’s reproaches: Fear not the reproach of men, and be not afraid of their blasphemies (Isa 51:7).

Everyone should judge himself with the judgment of self-examination, about which the Apostle speaks here, according to a psalm: I meditate and search my spirit (Ps 77:6), as well as with the judgment of condemnation and reproach in the face of obvious evils: I will reprove my ways in his sight (Job 13:15).

But with the judgment of absolution a person should not presume to judge himself innocent: though I am innocent, my own mouth would condemn me; though I am blameless, he would prove me perverse (Job 9:20).

He forbids them to anticipate God’s judgment, saying: therefore, in keeping with my example, who neither judge myself nor care about being judged by others, but reserve my judgment to God, judge not before the time, because every matter has its time (Eccl 8:6), until the Lord comes to judge: the Lord enters into judgment with the elders and princes of his people (Isa 3:14). Hence the Lord himself said: do not judge (Matt 7:1).

However, this must be understood of hidden things, because God has commissioned men to judge manifest things: hear them, and judge what is just (Deut 1:16).

~ Commentary on 1 Corinthians (online text, hard copy)

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