November 30, 2010
Don't Dare to Compare
by Katherine Britton, Crosswalk.com News & Culture Editor
We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. - 2 Corinthians 10:12
2 Corinthians 10:12When an apostle gets snarky, pay attention.
Christians in Paul's day did not endure universal acceptance and popularity - quite the opposite. With that in mind, you'd think the church at Corinth would band together for solidarity, encouragement, and hope. Nope. If there's one thing Christians are good at, it's stirring the pot and making sure we're doing "enough" for ministry's sake, even if it means undermining others. The church at Corinth appears to be little different, as some members began to question Paul's commitment to them and assert themselves as worthy men of God. They misjudged who they were dealing with.
Paul doesn't stoop to their level and compare apples to apples, nor does he graciously acknowledge their work in his absence. This apostle, one of Christ's personally chosen ambassadors, instead employs sarcasm: "We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves." Why?
Because the accusations don't make any sense.
The childish comparisons of the Corinthian rabble-rousers accomplished absolutely nothing. They didn't deserve an answer, they deserved derision. Paul undercut the positions they strove for in the church and in their community with his answer. He finds his worth "in the field God has assigned" (vs. 13) and knowing that he is working it faithfully. Not that he doesn't have ambition - to the contrary, he hopes his area of influence will grow where it is needed. But he hopes this for the sake of the Gospel, not to reach "into another man's territory." He knows he doesn't have to boast about his position, but that the Lord will commend a good and faithful servant.
So much for self-esteem.
This is my go-to passage when I find myself measuring my worth relative to positions I hold at work, at home, or among friends. Paul could care less about this righteousness-by-reputation. Instead, he knows that he nothing without Christ - that's why he says he's been "crucified with Christ" (Col. 3:3) and lives a life based on that identity. He sees right through the troublemakers. Their attempts to please others and ingratiate themselves to the church is ultimately a way to gratify themselves.
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary says this:
"How common is it for persons to judge of their own religious character, by the opinions and maxims of the world around them! But how different is the rule of God's word! And of all flattery, self-flattery is the worst … Instead of praising ourselves, or seeking the praise of men, let us desire that honour which cometh from God only."
Intersecting Faith & Life: Outside of Christ, our conceptions of self-worth deserve no more than ridicule. We are not worthy of Christ's love, and we never will be. The sooner we can accept this, the sooner we can wholeheartedly love our generous Savior.