30 Aug Pride, Self-Deprecation or Humility? 6 Questions to Ask Yourself
In 2005, I attended the funeral service for Ken Taylor. You may recall, he developed the paraphrased The Living Bible and wrote numerous books like The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes and Big Thoughts for Little People.
If there was one consistent description about Ken, it was that he was so very humble.
One of the men giving a eulogy told the story of Ken leaving a church service. Ken was walking down the hallway and he overheard two women whispering behind him, “Is that Ken Taylor?! It is him! Why, he is the most humble man there is!” As Ken recounted the story to his friend he said, “When I think of how humble I am, it makes me proud.”
We are center stage in a culture that celebrates self. Dale Carnegie rightly observed, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” And while it is good to remember people’s names, to say their names and to give credit where credit is due, how do we keep moored to a biblical humility, indeed a sobriety about ourselves?
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. 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. (Romans 12:1–3, NASB)
Paul wrote to first Century believers the importance of living to please God. To worship God is to serve Him; to serve Him requires transformed thinking, to think and be different because we are in Christ. Pragmatically, Paul instructs us to know how to discern God’s will which is good and pleasing. In other words, as we are transformed in our minds, the world’s way loses it’s grip on us and we enjoy doing the will of God.
Motivated by God’s great grace, in verse 3, Paul warns us to have a proper assessment of ourselves. It is striking that he writes, I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think. It is striking because evidently that was a problem. Or perhaps I should say, that is a problem.
It’s no secret that the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality has affected us deeply. Our children are raised on a metaphorical “sugar high” of over-encouragement. Lest we hurt some child’s feelings, everyone is the best, brightest and most beautiful and here’s an award to prove it. No more “Most Valuable Player” or “Most Improved Player” or “Highest Scorer of the Season.” Nope, we’re all great.
While child psychologists may differ, let’s realign with Scripture.
We are not to think more highly but instead, with sound judgement. The KJV rendered it soberly and the HCB opts for sensibly. We are to have a proper, biblical, sensible assessment of who we are… in Christ.
An inflated view of self is as wrong as a self-depreciating, self-hating assessment of self. By implication we could say, don’t think more highly of yourself and don’t think more lowly of yourself. Rather, have a sensible comprehension of who you are in Christ.
While human pride is clearly wrong, we do have natural abilities and God given gifting to be used as part of Christ’s body. It is not about self-promotion or ego satisfaction, it is about being who God has made us to be for His glory and others good.
Many passages underscore the dangers of pride and the benefit of humility:
The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate. (Proverbs 8:13, NASB)
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling. (Proverbs 16:18, NASB)
A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor. (Proverbs 29:23, NASB)
Yet those images are few and far between a culture focused on the mirror.
While the heart is hard to measure, do you wonder if you have a sensible assessment of who you are – without being proud or self-deprecating? As we are to keep on renewing our minds, perhaps these will urge us on.
6 Questions to Consider:
- Do I know when my pride creeps up in my conversation? When am I most vulnerable to talk too much about myself?
- If I have “the gift of gab,” how much of my gabbing is all about me? Am I keeping others from talking simply because I am filling up the conversation?
- Do I have a sensible assessment of who I am in Christ? What are my gifts, skills, abilities and contributions to the body of Christ? How can I re-think and transform my language to be less about me and more about Him and others?
- If I tend to diminish or degrade myself, how can I see myself the way Christ has made me? Do I understand I have something to offer others?
- What are several good questions I can learn to ask of others – rather than having to “make conversation” or fill the air in the room?
- Can I reduce my use of I, me, my and mine in conversations with God and man?
The reassuring message is that He loves you and knows all about you. He made you, calls you His own and cares for you deeply. And He will use you – and me – in all our failings. The hope I have for you and me, is that we keep on thinking, not as the world thinks, but as Christ wants us to think. As we are renewed in our minds, keeping a sensible view of self, we will find far greater joy in serving Him than anything this world has to offer.