Letter to Christians in Rome: Chapter 12 (pt 10 of 30)

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This relationship I have been talking about is an intelligent relationship. It is a relationship based on a fair consideration of who we are related to. Paul wrote:

Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities by the light of the faith that God has given to you all. (Romans 12:3)


With so much emphasis today on a “positive self-image,” I think this verse should stand-out for us. Is it possible to think of yourself too highly? Of course. Look at Donald Trump! How we think of ourselves is important because the Church is of course, made up of people, people we are intimately related to. How we relate to one another is going to depend on our attitude toward ourselves and toward each other. However, the danger is to think of ourselves more highly than we should. I remember when I first moved to Ann Arbor, I was thinking, “You folks need me.”

It took a few years (and the patient work of the Holy Spirit) but I finally realized that they did not need me. I was just one, of many believers who were able to preach and teach. They did not need me, but I desperately needed them.

When I was a Pastor, I had the opportunity to meet some nationally know personalities—names you would recognize—who were the most arrogant and demanding people I had ever met. Don’t get me wrong, I have also met some the most respectful, dignified, humble and contrite preachers as well. People I am truly honored to have met. I am not referring to them, here. I am talking about the ministers who were guests, yet expected “3 and 4 Star” hotels; reservations in the most deluxe restaurants, and to be chauffeured driven to their meetings. Those are the folks I think Paul was talking about when he said, “Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance.”

On the other hand, there is also the other danger of not thinking of ourselves as highly as we should. There is a balance to be found here. Don’t so belittle yourself that you see yourself as being worthless. Our opinion of ourselves should not to be too high or too low. Yes, just like the story of the Three Bears where one bed was too hard, and another was too soft. Our opinion of ourselves should based on sober judgment and a realistic view of what God has done in our lives. It should not involve self-exaltation—or self-deprecation.

C. S. Lewis wrote The Screwtape Letters, which contains a series of imaginary letters from a senior devil to a junior devil, in which the senior devil, Screwtape, teaches the junior devil, Wormwood, the art of temptation. In this series of letters, we find an interesting dialogue on how to develop false humility. Remember, this is written from a demon’s perspective so the enemy is God. Screwtape tells Wormwood,

I see only one thing to do at the moment. Your patient has become humble. Have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them. But this is specially true of humility. You must, therefore, conceal from the patient, the true end of humility.

Let him think of it, not as self-forgetfulness, but as a certain kind of opinion (namely, a low opinion) of his own talents and character. Some talents, I gather, he really has. Fix in his mind the idea that humility consists in trying to believe those talents to be less valuable than he believes them to be.

No doubt, they are less valuable than he believes. But that is not the point. The great thing is to make him value an opinion for some quality other than truth. Thus, introducing an element of dishonesty and make-believe into the heart of what otherwise threatens to become a virtue. By this method, thousands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe that they are ugly, and clever men trying to believe they are fools.

The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it, than he would be if he if it had been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favor that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbor’s talents.

What our Father wants is for us to rejoice in his work in and through us, without being puffed up in pride. We must always remember that we are not the only ones through whom he works. It is through every believer in the body of Christ that his work gets accomplished.

If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome

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