1 Corinthians 4 could be read as seeing Paul with a self esteem problem. It can also be read as Paul having an extreme over confidence. At the outset of this section Paul bold proclaim that no human court is judging him. It is the Lord alone who judges. Later in the section Paul says he has become the scum of the earth, refuse of the world. Quite interesting extremes.
Most people I talk with tend to identify more with the Paul in the later section. It is amazing to me the number of people who struggle to feel worthy of God. The words of scum and refuse might not be chosen, yet the sentiment is there. The harm this has done to individuals and the church is immense. What is worse, the church has often unknowingly helped build that image. It is true there are some problems with humanity, yet we are still the creation of the Divine creator. Because of our point of origin, we have a deep and everlasting value, we are worthy. Our worthiness does not come from ourselves, rather it comes because of the One who calls us.
Now the part about judgment. I have always read that section as Paul being arrogant. The reality is, I read it that way so I can find an excuse to be arrogant. The statement about who sits in the judgment seat is not about arrogance or being better. It is about a reality. There is only One who can judge. It is not you, it is not me. ultimately we must leave to God the issues of judgment. Our role is to be the branch, producing fruit and doing our best to live a life deeply connected to the vine.
Paul did not have an esteem problem. Paul had the ability to look at life with stunning clarity. This was not a way to paralyze Paul in seeing his shortcomings, rather a way to see Christ as more powerful. I wonder if there is something in that for us?