In 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, the apostle Paul wrote the following to the church in Corinth (and to all believers in Christ):
Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God. (New American Standard)
All who are in Christ have been given marching orders to purposefully advance the Kingdom of God. The Lord alone knows the motives and desires of each heart on this journey. We will answer to Him according to His timing. He is the only Judge with an opinion that matters.
TRAVELER’S LOG: GOD: THE FINAL FACT CHECKER
A well-known former political figure once said:
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don’t know
We don’t know.
Although the speaker’s intent had nothing to do with the apostle Paul’s exhortation, it accurately mirrors our limited understanding of the hidden motives of the human heart.
In the passage above, Paul chose a Greek word that describes the role of servants of Christ as “under-rowers” of a galley ship with the idea that Jesus is the pilot. While free in Christ, we must maintain the perspective that we are in service to our King . He directs “the ship” and deserves the glory for the fruits of our service. Paul goes on to describes our responsibility of properly transmitting the truth of God. We are to be faithful and trustworthy, avoiding distortion and manipulation for personal gain. These qualifications help us to discern “fruit”, but they don’t give us authority to judge a person’s motives. We can’t see into the heart and we don’t know what will happen in the future.
It is all too easy to criticize other servants of the Lord – especially with so much access to televised ministry representing various Christian viewpoints. Even so, we must ultimately rely on the fact that the Lord alone knows the motive of each heart. He knows which ministries are leading people to Him regardless of the methods. His light will expose what is hidden to us now – good and bad. At the appointed time, each person will receive praise from God, the only praise that matters. This powerful truth reminds us to focus on serving our King instead of judging the service of others. If we focus on our God-given call to serve, we can look forward to hearing Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
1. How are we to view ourselves once we are in Christ? (See John 1:12, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, Ephesians 1:3-8, Colossians 1:13-14, Colossians 2:9-10)
2. Describe how our new identities as Christians can be lived out in our roles as servants and stewards?
3. Identify and share your spiritual gifts. How can we consistently use our gifts as servants and stewards of God’s truth?
4. How can I balance proper discernment of biblical truth with an understanding of God’s role as final judge?
5. When am I most tempted to judge other Christians? What are my motives for evaluating the ministries of others?
6. What motivates me to serve my: family? church? employer? community?
7. Would I serve in the same way if I never received recognition from people?
8. When God brings to light the hidden motives of my heart, what will He praise that others have not seen?