Making Judgments

Blessed is he who considers the poor; the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble” (v. 1).

- Psalm 41

Blessed is he who considers the poor.” Some interpreters claim this verse focuses on caring for the poor and helpless. But Calvin maintains that a better translation reads: “Blessed is he that judgeth wisely of the poor,” which reveals that this verse is not a simple commendation for those who care for the poor, but a declaration that blessed are those who form a wise judgment concerning others who are enduring afflictions. David had in mind those who made wrong judgments concerning him when he faced desperate situations. David’s situation can be compared to that of Job who faced much suffering and whose friends were quick to condemn Job as an outcast because of his sin. While it is true that God’s judgments can be discovered in our afflictions, every suffering we endure is not a direct result of some particular sin we have committed. Job’s friends took it upon themselves to judge Job, concluding that he must not have been as righteous as he appeared.

David’s enemies, and maybe even friends, had also judged that God had left him as a reprobate. Too often, this type of judgment leads many to befriend the prosperous, thinking they are in favor with God, and to shun the poor. “The error of judging wrongfully and wickedly is one which has prevailed in all ages of the world. The Scriptures in many places plainly and distinctly declare, that God, for various reasons, tries the faithful by adversities, at one time to train them to patience, at another to subdue the sinful affections of the flesh, at another to cleanse, and, as it were, purify them from the remaining desires of the flesh, which still dwell within them,” Calvin wrote. Because of the many reasons for our afflictions, we ought not to be quick to judge those who are enduring some trial. “David says that they are blessed who do not … judge harshly of their neighbors; but, discerning aright the afflictions by which they are visited, mitigate, by the wisdom of the Spirit, the severe and unjust judgments to which we are naturally prone.”

Calvin advises, “We must therefore judge prudently of our brethren who are in affliction; that is to say, we must hope well of their salvation, lest, if we condemn them unmercifully before the time, this unjust severity in the end fall upon our own heads.”

Coram Deo

How quick are you to judge others? Do you make conclusions and judgments about other people’s circumstances that you should not? Do you find yourself shunning poor people because you consider them outcasts? Confess to God such judgmental attitudes and strive to give the benefit of the doubt.

Passages for Further Study

Matthew 7:1–6
Romans 14
1 Corinthians 4:1–5

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