Don’t think of yourself too highly (or lowly)

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.  For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, – Romans 12:3-4

Paul, having established the broader theme of not being conformed to the pattern of this world but being transformed, now moves to specific exhortations of what that should look like.

He writes by the grace given to him.  For if he were not shown grace, he himself would not have a renewed mind and any wisdom of God to impart.

This is what he says, by grace: I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think.  This has been a common problem for man.  Eve thought it would be fitting for her to be like God.  The builders of the Tower of Babel thought they could climb to heaven.  Nebuchadnezzar saw fit to be worshipped.  And still people today think of themselves more highly than they ought.

We place a lot of emphasis on self-esteem.  We want everyone to have a high self-esteem.  What that leads to is inevitably thinking of oneself too highly.  We’re not called to blind self-esteem and self-affirmation.  Instead, as Paul writes, think with sober judgment.  In other words, it’s not thinking too highly nor too lowly of oneself.  It’s just thinking of ourselves as God has made us.  What we think of ourselves should be in line with what God thinks of us.

Before Christ, we were wretched sinners, ungodly people, foolish rebels.  That’s not a great self-esteem booster, but it’s a sober judgment.  After Christ, God no longer thinks of us as wretched and ungodly.  He sees us with the righteousness of Christ on us.  He calls us His children, co-heirs with His firstborn, Jesus.  He has given us gifts to use–not all the same gifts, but different ones.  And He has given us different capacities to use them.  That’s how we ought to think of ourselves.

We are to think of ourselves each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.  This is not the saving faith that all Christians have equally, but a more practical faith, which enables spiritual gifts, and we’ll see this in the following verses.

The varying measures of faith are assigned because as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function.  The church is not to function individualistically.  Many people make a claim to a personal Christianity, apart from others.  That’s not true Christianity; that’s hocus-pocus.  Christianity is lived out together with the rest of the body of Christ.  Just as the brain needs the heart and the heart needs the veins and the veins need the bones, so we as Christians need each other.

We are many body parts of the same body, and we do not all have the same function.  And when the body isn’t functioning properly, it’s often because people are thinking of themselves more highly than they ought.

Sheep, how highly do you think of yourself?  What’s the impact to the church when the brothers and sisters think too highly or too lowly of themselves?  What can we do to be more sober-minded?

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