There are places where the messages of Scripture stand in contrast to our typical ways of thinking. Often these are the paradoxes. Paul wrote “for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10b) He challenged the Corinthians, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things –and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Cor. 1:26-29)
Jesus said, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”(Mt. 20:16) “The greatest among you will be your servant.” (Mt. 23:11)This goes against almost every impulse that we have. We generally enjoy it when we or our family members are recognized as being the best at certain things. Isn’t the basis of our sin usually wanting to put ourselves first — our reputations, our desires, our comfort, our pleasure?
The simplest way to elevate ourselves is to diminish others. It is much easier to look at the speck in our brother’s or sister’s eye than to consider the log in our own. We are often more quick to note the materialism, faithlessness or lack of holy living of another Christian than to shine a light on our own failings. The moment we say that so-and-so is judgmental, we are judging. The second we call someone “holier-than-thou” we are presuming ourselves to be holier than they are in the area of humility. When we label a person “sanctimonious” we are considering our attitude morally superior to his or hers.
Recognition of our sin enables us humbly to evaluate our spiritual state. What are we doing for our own glory? What are we doing for the glory of God? Harry Truman said, although he might not have cared if his name were referenced for this, “It is amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit.” How content are we to work hard behind the scenes in service for the Kingdom of God? Would we strive just as hard if our name were never mentioned in connection to the effort?
It’s not all about us. If you can, listen to a current song by Big Daddy Weave called “My Story.” “If I should speak then let it be of the grace that is greater than all my sin. Of when justice was served and when mercy wins. Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in. Oh, to tell you my story is to tell of him.”
Let us join with John the Baptist in saying about Jesus “He must become greater; I must become less” or in some translations “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)