“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Romans 12:3).
Let’s imagine for a minute that every single thought of yours (just from one day) was written down. At the end of the day, all your thoughts were read OUTLOUD to the listening world. (Yeah, that’s a scary thought!) If you categorized them, what are some of the main thoughts that would be going through your head?
Thoughts about me and my reputation. . . What does he think of me? How can I get her to be friends with me? My comfort and ease. . . What can I do to be happy now? I wonder what we’re having for dinner and dessert? My abilities and insecurities. . . I can’t do anything right; how come Mary has all the talent? At least I’m better than John though! My pleasure. . . hanging out with my friends is awesome; they accept me for who I am and I feel safe with them, even if they do a few things that aren’t *quite* right. My “spiritual-checklist”. . . I need to read my Bible today, otherwise my day might not go as well. And I probably should try to memorize something in case my mom asks me about it. I don’t want to feel guilty. My future. . . Why can’t I figure my life out? It’s so uncertain. Maybe I’ll finally be happy if I can just get a good enough job.
I don’t know about you, but these are definitely thoughts that I’ve had. . . and when I read over them, I notice a big pattern. It’s found in one little letter: I. Yep! A major focus of my thoughts is ME!
Now, going back to the verse. . . when I read Romans 12:3, the word that comes to mind is “humility.” And that’s not my most favorite word. 🙂 Probably because we humans tend to have the opposite attitude most of the time: pride.
Growing up, pride was always talked about as a “bad thing.” You didn’t want to be prideful. And that’s true! No one really likes a prideful person. But I’ve found that pride is like a chameleon; it hides and disguises itself as a lot of other noble-looking things.
But in short, I think pride is a self-focus. Oh! Does that remind you of all those thoughts that were written down for the world to read? How much of your time is filled with thoughts about me? Wow, this was super convicting when someone first asked me this! I thought I was doing pretty good by not always thinking I was BETTER than others. Problem is, I hadn’t stopped thinking about myself. I just replaced “puffed-up” prideful thoughts with “put-down” prideful thoughts. I was still comparing myself with others. And the results weren’t pretty. My self-obsession led to a lot of comparison.
Here’s God’s thought on comparison: “When they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding” (2 Corinthians 10:12b).
“Comparison is one of the enemy’s greatest joy-stealer and unity-destroyer. Comparison is opposed to the gospel that declares that Christ has given us all we need and made us who we are for His glory.” Gretchen Saffles
So far, we’ve seen that self-focus and comparison don’t have any positive benefits, to say the least. 🙂 And if you read farther into Romans 12, you’ll see just how the Body of Christ should work together to advance His Kingdom. But when we are obsessed with ourselves and trapped in comparison, God’s kingdom isn’t furthered, it’s hindered. The body of Christ won’t function as it should. If you’re just a hand trying to make it on your own, how is God’s work supposed to move forward without an eye or a leg?
So what’s the cure for a self-focus and prideful heart? Well, we do need to have some kind of focus! If it’s not us, who will it be? Or rather, who SHOULD it be?
“For every look at self, take 10 looks at Christ.” Robert Murray M’Cheyne
The cure for a self-focus is a God-focus! And as we’ve already talked about in another post, Jesus is SO worth it! And the more you look at Him, the more and more you realize it!!
So how do you look at Christ? When you’re feeling discouraged, He is your Hope. In an out-of-control situation, He is Sovereign and redeeming the bad things in your life. When you’re thinking how much better (or worse) you are than Mary or John, remember that Jesus is your Creator who gave you any ability you have. Even our greatest strengths are no match for the Living God, and our greatest weaknesses are no hindrance to His power, either. If you’re excited about the fun things your friends do (but you know they aren’t quite right), then realize that Jesus is the only one that you give you real fulfilment and purpose.
So what about you? In what ways are you tempted to look at yourself instead of at Christ? When do you tend to compare yourself with others? What effect does this normally have? How can you look at Christ TODAY when you are tempted to be self-focused?