“I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think” Romans 12.3
Isn’t it easy to fall foul of what Paul is saying in that verse? Now I know … most of us probably don’t think of ourselves as prideful. But that’s probably just because we are not humble enough to assess ourselves properly! For the reality is that – when someone makes us wait too long in line; or when someone suggests that we might do such-and-such more effectively; or when we look around at some of the ‘knuckleheads’ that we have to deal with at work, or in the drive thru window – it is easy to think more highly of ourselves than we ought! It is easy, I say, for us to become impatient or indignant with others; to be frustrated because we are not being given a fair shake; to criticize people behind their back (because it makes us feel better about ourselves); and so on. We all have problems acting as though we are the ones that people ought, really, to be catering to! If it weren’t true, we’d very rarely become angry. And we’d never be personally offended or impatient.
So we need to hear what Paul says in Romans 12.3. And we need to let it take us down a few pegs. We need to lower our own self-opinions. At least, I know I need to lower mine. And I’ll give you a few reasons why:
First is a church reason. In fact, this is the main point Paul is making in verse 3. He says that we ought not think too highly of ourselves because God has given all the other church members “a measure of faith”, too. In other words, I am not the only one who has the Spirit of God. And you are not the only one who works hard for Jesus, or who ‘gets it’. “God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (v.3), and to each a spiritual gift (vv.4-8). And therefore, we are all on equal footing (low and needy footing, in fact) at the cross of Jesus.
Second, let me give you a personal reason why we shouldn’t have inflated egos – namely because each one of us is more sinful than we know. I mean, just think about how sinful you know you are! And you probably don’t even know the half of it … and neither do I, about myself. For even my righteous deeds are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64.6). So how can I boast? ‘Well, at least my dirty clothes basket in not quite so full as hers is!’ Surely that is not how we want to talk! Surely we must realize, if we know anything of our own sin, that we have nothing to boast about; and no reason to look down on one another.
And let me give you, finally, a gospel reason why we ought not think too highly of ourselves – because none of us has given our lives for the sins of the world. None of us has been tempted in all things … yet without sin (Hebrews 4.15). None of us has walked out of a sealed grave alive from the dead. And none of us is interceding for the saints at the right hand of the Father. Do you see what I am getting at? The point of the Christian life is to think highly of Jesus; to esteem Him; to understand that the world revolves around Him. So if someone made Jesus sit in the waiting room for three hours, then maybe we would be right to be indignant. If someone suggested that Jesus had room for improvement, then we might be taken aback. If someone won’t give Jesus a straight answer, then perhaps we would have reason to be hurt and disappointed. But if He is the one that people ought to be catering to – and, indeed, if we ourselves will bend down and do the catering ourselves – then we will have little time or energy left for worrying about how people are treating us; or how we are perceived by our peers; or whether we’re getting a fair shake.
So, for Jesus’ sake, “I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think.”