Robert Wurtz II
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).
Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Cor. 4:6-7)
The most dangerous disposition to a church, ministry, or a Christian is that of pride. We say or read those words and almost immediately the enemy goes to work diffusing the impact of them. Why? Because pride is what he is and what he loves. He loves the smell of it. He is at home in it. He feels a kindred spirit with all who walk in it. He knows God hates it. The time would fail to list all the examples in the New Testament that pride and humility are addressed either directly or indirectly. Both of our passages draw our attention to one of the oldest tools in the devil’s kit, “the pride of life.” (1 John 2:16)
A cursory reading of our passages reveals that believers are at risk of “thinking more highly of themselves than they ought to think” and that they risk being “puffed up one against the other.” It sounds almost like a competition to see who is the smartest, richest, coolest, most spiritual, most credentialed, most popular, most accomplished, or most favored of God. Competition implies comparison. This is worldly thinking at its most diabolical. (James 3:13-15)
When a person thinks more highly of themselves than they ought to think, their next step is typically to attack people who are in their way. They have an attitude that says, “I can do _____ better than ______ so I deserve to be doing ______.” What’s worse is when a person believes they are especially “chosen” of God or “anointed” in some special way that allows them to do ______ better than ______. This type of outlook and attitude has done more damage to the cause of God than we can possibly know. This is why it’s dealt with and denounced so frequently in the New Testament.
The Mindset of the World
In holiness type circles, we often pride ourselves (for lack of a better phrase) on how un-worldly we are. Yet, I tremble to think of how many Christians, even in full-Gospel holiness type circles, are dismissive of others because they view them as unqualified. It is the mindset of the world. Did the church solicit resumes for the job that fell to Barnabas and Paul? (Acts 13:2) Did anyone ask if they were qualified? What about the disciples who were formerly fishermen, Zealots, or Publicans? What happened to God selecting people to do tasks and anointing them to accomplish it? Surely God will call and anoint the people He has raised up and equipped to do the job. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m referring to a process by which people measure others to fill a “position” based on qualifications. It is a worldly business mindset.
When we are thinking “qualifications” we are almost inevitably tracking in a worldly paradigm. The question becomes, “Is the person qualified for what God wants or for what man wants?” These are two different and often opposing things. God is building His Body with His members, and man is usually building his/her own kingdom and with his/her own “team.” The one is built with love and the other in strife and confusion. When man builds his/her kingdom (under the pretense that they are doing God’s work) it leads to disaster after disaster. For example, if a person is coveting a position in a church or in a denomination, they may view the person presently functioning in that role either incapable, unqualified, or derelict in their duties. What happens? They openly criticize them or take a more subtle approach of undermining them by withdrawing support in hopes that the person in their coveted position will fail.
For where envying and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there” (James 3:16 NKJV).
“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (James 3:16 ESV)
Pride leads to self-seeking and envy. These are two attitudes and behaviors that throw the door wide open to Satan. Envy (jealousy) is displeasure at the blessing of others. Self-seeking is almost always covered up with spiritual terms such as “I feel led” or “the Lord showed me” and practical excuses such as “it makes sense to ___.” God sees these firey attitudes and the destructive behaviors that emanate from them. They are not new. The word translated as “confusion”(NKJV) or “disorder” (ESV) in James 3:16 is frequently translated as commotions or tumults. Have you ever wondered what God must think when He sees two or more Christians fighting over a ministry position?
An envious and covetous person is usually blind to the fact that their attitude towards the other person is more rooted in their coveting and envy of their position than reality. What happens? A self-seeking and envious mindset will almost always seek to exploit the other person’s weaknesses rather than assist the person with their deficiencies. Why? Because they want them to fail and they want everyone to see they are failing so that when election time rolls around they can garner more votes for themselves. We see it all the time in politics. Nobody wants to help the person who is holding the position that they themselves are coveting. This is a deadly and destructive attitude to have among God’s people. The only solution is to utterly repent, reject and renounce it.
Running For Election?
When leaders behave like they are constantly running for election, nothing gets done in the Kingdom. When Romans 12:3, 1 Corinthians 4:6-7, and James 3:16 are ignored, trouble is mounting. A party spirit can develop that destroys the works of all of our hands. What is at the root of this problem? Is it merely pride? Could it be hatred? Maybe it’s pride that leads to hatred? The solution? Repentance. God detests an arrogant sense of superiority. He detests self-seeking. We must refuse to nourish a party spirit among God’s people.
Right now, with this lockdown going on, there is opportunity to learn, listen, and repent of these behaviors if and where they exist. If we are guilty of these attitudes we need to seriously repent before God. Paul tells the Romans, in effect, to stop thinking you are better than others and to have a sane view of ourselves. You and I are not better than everyone else. God has given to each and every believer a measure of faith. As the old worn-out cliche goes, “there are no big “I’s” and little “you’s” in the Kingdom of God. Each person has been given a measure of faith and has a function within the body of Christ. None of us possesses anything that we did not receive.
The highest-ranking individual is Jesus Christ, and He made Himself of no reputation. Can we do the same? Can we make ourselves of no reputation? Could we strip ourselves of the insignia of majesty (Lightfoot) as did our Lord? Or do we seek for reputation, glory, and honor? Would to God that we will all walk out of this lockdown clothed with humility. My prayer is that this time of reflection will not be lost and that we will hear and respond to what the Lord is saying to each of us individually.