Are you arrogant? Do you think highly of yourself and find it hard to–or even believe you shouldn’t–accept those who don’t live up to your standards? You may be right–you might be an accomplished individual who has worked hard to get where you are, or whose family has–but is it right for you as a child of God to look down on others?
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant…” (1 Timothy 6:17 NIV)
God’s Word teaches us to “…not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. (Romans 12:3) NIV
What does this mean?
I suspect that one of the most difficult parts of following Christ is to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him, and I fear many who genuinely believe they are Christians might not, in fact, actually be doing so. In our flesh, our humanness, we want to assert our identity in who we are; the entire advertising industry is, in fact, predicated on this aspiration! We seek distinction (how many times have you heard that word in a car commercial?)–but in a way that reveals us better than others. We look for it in, yes, the car we drive, the clothes we can afford, the schools we attend, the neighborhood we live in, the profession or job we have, the vacations we go on, even in our intellect–and so on and so forth.
Christ, on the other hand, calls us to find our identity in who He is, in “…nothing…except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2 NIV), and this goes against everything the world does. Do you see it? My flesh wants to carve out its identity apart from Christ; He calls us to find our truest meaning in Him.
The world not only seeks to find its identity in status; it rejects and condemns those who don’t fit in at their level–and this rejection can occur because of any one of a number of reasons. We may not even realize it, but we intuitively form opinions of people based on various criteria. We judge others and are ourselves judged by them according to how we speak, what we wear, where we live, where we went to school, what we do for a living, and other defining criteria. To complicate things further, we also judge and get judged based on who our parents, spouses, and even children are and have accomplished!
Do you see it in yourself–do find yourself subliminally ranking the people you know into “important” and “not that important?” Do you consistently make sure to “like” some Facebook posts, while skimming past others that seem irrelevant? Are you honest enough to admit that it’s difficult not to do so? Now, think about the times you felt slighted–the times you yourself didn’t live up to the standard of whomever you were trying to relate to? How did it feel? Not very good, did it?
Yet these are the ways of the world–of those who do not know Christ. But those of us who cling to Him are instructed, “…because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear.” (Romans 11:20 KJV) We who belong to Christ are not to be arrogant against anyone!
The only hope we have, after all, is Christ, and He is available to all who call on Him, regardless of wealth, education, ethnicity or any other criteria. We have nothing to boast of except Jesus Himself–who He is and what He did. We, of all people, see most clearly that apart from Christ we are all mired in the hopelessness of our sins, that “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6 NIV) Regardless of whatever we have accomplished in life, we need to see ourselves and others with God’s eyes!
But what of our accomplishments? Do they count for nothing? And to extrapolate this a bit further–should we then not even bother trying to achieve anything of substance? At this point we must distinguish between accomplishment for self and accomplishment for Christ. I will probably never forget a little plaque my mother kept beside her bed that embodied the truth of Scripture–“Only one life, ’twill soon be past; Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
So the question becomes: whom are you doing whatever it is you’re doing for–for whose glory? The same action can be done for self or for Christ. Are you buying that car to favorably distinguish yourself from your neighbors, or to get to work to support your family? Are you seeking to bring glory to Christ through your accomplishments, or to yourself?
The apostle Paul, of all people, had human status–if anyone could feel accomplished, he could. Yet this was his attitude:
“…I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:8-14 NIV)
So, are you arrogant? Do you somehow feel worthy because of who you are or what you have done, or are you completely focused on finding your value in Jesus and everything He is?
Help me “not think of…[myself] more highly than…[I] ought, but rather think of…[myself] with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to…[me].” Amen.