A few years ago Money magazine reported that, “When researchers at Duke, Harvard, and Northwestern asked investors how their mutual funds performed last year compared with Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, a third claimed their funds outperformed the market by at least 5 percent. One in six said their funds fared better by more than 10 percent. However, a check of the portfolios belonging to those claiming to have beaten the market showed that 88 percent had overestimated their earnings. The study discovered that some ‘market beaters’ lagged between 5 to 15 percent behind the S&P. Said Don Moore of Northwestern, ‘Everybody wants to believe they’re better than average.’”
Don’t we all?
Do not most people want to be considered above average in their parenting skills, financial prowess, and driving abilities? Sure they do. And in the spiritual realm, don’t most want to be considered “more righteous,” “superior in giving,” and “more faithful” than the “average” believer. Certainly.
But let’s be honest. While some of us may take to heart Plato’s ancient dictum, “the unexamined life is not worth living,” most of us are still poor self-evaluators. Integrity and honesty is easier to achieve in the market place than in self-examination.
Eric Liddell was right. “The bravest moment of a person’s life is the moment when he looks at himself objectively without wincing, without complaining.”
So we do well to consider Paul’s admonition in Romans 12: “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (v. 3). What is interesting about this particular verse is that it introduces a discussion of the body of Christ and how we God has created us to mutually serve and minister to one another to meet each other’s needs. Here then, are some truths to remember and questions to ask that will keep us thinking accurately about our position in the church and body of Christ and about our true growth in spiritual character:
- God has made us to function differently in the body (v. 4). That doesn’t make us better or worse than anyone else. It simply means we have different roles to fulfill. Do I think my difference makes me better or more significant than others?
- If comparisons are to be made, they are to be made not with others, but against the “measure of faith” that has been given to us by God (vv. 4, 6). In other words, the question is not how I compare to my neighbor, but, “am I progressing, in relation to myself, in what God has enabled me to be and do?”
- Is my love pure, sincere, and unhypocritical (v. 9)?
- Do I abhor evil? Do I love what is good (v. 9b; Phil. 4:8)?
- Do I willfully and joyfully do what is best for others over what is convenient for me, as though I were serving my own brother or family member (v. 10)?
- Am I devoted to praying (v. 12)?
In fact, as we read through the entire chapter, there arise a couple dozen questions to ask that will help us carefully examine the true nature of our spiritual condition (1 Thess. 5:21a). If we dare.