Sometimes when I’m feeling confident (read arrogant), I feel like I’m better than many people, smarter than many people. But then, thankfully, God gets ahold of my mind again (through His Word, through life experiences, and through His Spirit) and reminds me of my flaws, weaknesses, and things I don’t know. Why do we forget about our own flaws so easily, but seem to notice and remember others’ so well? Jesus’ words ring so true: “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5. (As an aside, it is unexpected statements like this from Jesus or others in the Bible that I see proved true in life over and over again, and I don’t see in other religions’ writings, that convince me that the Bible is the real deal.)
But back to the topic at hand: when I’m seeing things more accurately, I realize that I may know a fews things, and I may do a few things well, but there is a lot I don’t know, and a lot I still don’t do well. And I realize that others (both Christians and non-Christians) also know some things and do some things well, they just tend to be different things than me. What really matters is not how we compare to each other, but how we compare to God. It reminds me of the basketball hoop we used to have in our driveway. One of my boys, who was about 4 at the time, was shooting baskets, when I wasn’t around, with one of those light balls they sell in those cages at the supermarkets. It was light enough that he was able to throw it up to the height of the basket (this was a regulation 10 foot high basket), and he actually got it in the basket eventually, but it wasn’t heavy enough to go through the net, so it was stuck there. When I came home, my son wasn’t around, but I saw the ball stuck in the net and his little desk chair under the basket, and I could tell what happened. Being the clever, above average child that he was, he had obviously devised and executed on a plan to get the ball down from the net. The problem was that he was probably less than 3 feet tall, and his chair only added about another foot of height, which meant that he was still about 6 feet from reaching the ball. I jumped up and knocked the ball loose (didn’t even use his chair 🙂 ) and brought it into him. In addition to being an adorable scene, it is a reminder that if we honestly view ourselves in light of what God is like, we see how far we fall short.
A verse that is so familiar to most of us that we no longer look at it closely is “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”, Rom 3:23. The glory of God?? Of course we don’t come anywhere remotely close to the glory of God. Psalm 8:1-4 says “O Lord, our Lord, how magnificent is your reputation throughout the earth! You reveal your majesty in the heavens above! From the mouths of children and nursing babies you have ordained praise on account of your adversaries, so that you might put an end to the vindictive enemy. When I look up at the heavens, which your fingers made, and see the moon and the stars, which you set in place, Of what importance is the human race, that you should notice them? Of what importance is mankind, that you should pay attention to them….” This is why Romans 3:9-10 says “What then? Are we better off? Certainly not, for we have already charged that Jews and Greeks alike are all under sin, just as it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one…’ “. BTW, this was an alarming statement to Jews, for Paul to put them in the same sinfulness category as Gentiles, but compared to God, the differences between them were meaningless. Proverbs 20:9 puts it very simply: “Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart clean; I am pure from my sin’?” If we are completely honest, can we really say that we haven’t sinned, even in our thoughts and attitudes toward others?
Job, as a result of his tough circumstances and poor counsel, had a time of thinking too highly of himself in relation to God. God set him straight, in no uncertain terms, starting with “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”. And He went on for 2 chapters like that. Job then saw things as they really were and declared “Indeed, I am completely unworthy – how could I reply to you?” If I (we) can see things that way, I will be much better off.
Surprisingly (many truths in God’s Word are surprising), this poor view of myself isn’t debilitating, instead it is freeing, because it puts me in a good place. The more I am aware of my flaws, the more thankful I am to God for His forgiveness. Like the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with her tears and Jesus said “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which were many, are forgiven, thus she loved much; but the one who is forgiven little loves little.” Instead of trying to be good and do good on my own, I am completely dependent on a daily basis on God’s grace and strength, and the wisdom and truth in His Word. And the more I become aware of my shortcomings, the more I depend on Him. Paul saw the good in the “thorn in his flesh” (II Cor 12:7-10). There has been a lot of speculation about what this thorn was: illness? disability? temptation? tough circumstance? Paul doesn’t tell us, but in the end it doesn’t matter, because what God said to Paul is true no matter what the nature of his thorn was, and is true for us too regardless of what our thorn is: “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” This is why, even though Paul saw himself as the worst of sinners (I Timothy 1:15-16), he was able to do amazing things for God.
In this blog, instead of trying to imply that I am better than you, we can just be peers, and have open, honest, non-attacking dialog, while we search for more truth. God is still at work in me, He has a lot left to do. But He will continue to work in me to be a better person, because He is true to His word: “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Rom 8:28-29.
This is definitely a better way to live. Prov 3:7-8 says “Do not be wise in your own estimation; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. This will bring healing to your body, and refreshment to your inner self.” James 4:6 quotes Prov 3:34 – “Although he [the Lord] is scornful to arrogant scoffers, yet he shows favor to the humble.” I want God showing favor to me, don’t you?