12:3b …think with sober discernment, as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith.
Yesterday in the “a” part of verse 3, we were instructed not to think “more highly of ourselves than we ought to think.” I want to add to that idea a little more before reflecting on the “b” part of the verse.
I am trying to read a Proverb a day, corresponding to the day of the month. So this morning as I was reading chapter 16, I happened to read a couple of proverbs that pertain to this idea of humility. So I thought I’d share them here. Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord. (vs 5). Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. (vs 18).
It’s certainly a clear theme in scripture that there is no place for pride and arrogance in the life of a godly person. We need to remember this, because we can easily lose sight of it. Scripture must always be the litmus test by which we ought to measure our own behavior as well as the behavior of others. For example, I know many Christians who completely idolize Rush Limbaugh — I used to. Yet many conservative Christians who love everything about Rush don’t consider how his arrogant tone and attitude of beign “God’s gift to mankind” are in direct opposition to the scriptural commandments to be humble. Now I understand that Rush is being an actor — pomp is his “schtick” — so I’m not judging him as a person . But we can judge the acting — and that’s opposed to Romans 12:3 and the rest of scripture by 180 degrees!
We also need to consider that even well-meaning Christians can fall into the trap of pride. I heard a well-known apologist speak once to a group of athiests. His information was good and his arguments plausable, but his condescending tone was deplorable. His basic attitude was “I’m right, you atheists are all wrong. What I say makes sense. What you athiests believe is ludicrous.” During the Q & A time at the end, one of the atheists accused him of making the atheists feel “put down.” His response was disappointing: “I said nothing offensive, you are wrong to feel that way and wrong to take offense.” I believe his arrogant tone undermined all the truth of his arguments and that most of the athiests went away further from the kingdom rather than closer to it. How sad.
How much better would it have been for him adopt a humble posture and to apologize and say, “I’m so sorry that what I said made you feel that way. That was certainly not my intent. I ask your forgiveness. Let me clarify and let you know that I meant no disrespect. I believe these certain things to be true, but I respect your right to reject them….” Think of the positive impact such words would have on those who naturally view Christians as holier-than-thou jerks.
Likewise, I was given a CD of a well-known evangelist teaching a live audience how to witness to atheists. The arrogant attitude it contained disgusted me. It pegged atheists as all being idiots, making jokes like, “We have a special day set aside for atheists, April 1st!” “Haha,” the audience laughed, but I just wanted to cry. If we’re going to reach people with the truth of Christ, we’re going to need to view ourselves as no better than them and that it’s only by God’s grace that we’ve been privileged to understand truth at all.
Romans 12:3b tells us to think “with sober discernment.” We had a good discussion about that on Sunday night in youth group. We talked about what people are like when they’re not sober. Their judgment is skewed. They don’t see reality. They are prone to make unwise decisions. They act foolish.
When we don’t think soberly about ourselves and instead view ourselves as “God’s gift to mankind” we are in great danger of being a hindrance to God’s kingdom rather than being the blessing that God intends.
The end of verse 3 alludes to this talk of humility having to do with a “measure of faith” that God gives us. I wasn’t getting the connection at first, but as I reflect on it it’s starting to make sense. As we trust God, we don’t have to elevate or promote ourselves. Rather than move forward in our own strength and power, we can humbly trust God to work in unseen ways. We don’t have to be superstars: his strength is perfected in weakness. We can trust God and take the humble way.
We don’t have to forge ahead in pride to try to purge the darkness (ironically, trying to use the darkness of pride to dispell darkness). Instead, let’s trust God with the darkness and shine the light in all humility!