True Humility: Sound Judgment of Ourselves

I believe there’s a lot of false humility going around.  I hear people, and have spoken with people, who seem only content with beating themselves up with words.  They like only to think of themselves as sinners.  Sometimes they think it’s wrong of Christians to talk about sin, or to help others see the sin in their lives, because they themselves are sinners.  Sometimes they apply those passages that speak of the woes and condemnation of the wicked and unbelieving to Christians (those who have repented and believed the gospel, and are walking accordingly).  I believe such is misguided, great error, and demonstrates false humility.  What is even more interesting, many of these people seem eager to communicate just how sinful they are; and when they do it, it’s like they want you to secretly think about how humble they are.  How is that any better than going around telling people how worthy and proper you are?  I see no difference.  They’re just two errors on opposite ends of the spectrum.

I think the apostle Paul gives sound instruction in regards to this matter.  In Romans 12:3 he says, “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.” (NASB)  Paul cautions against lofty thoughts, and he does so by instructing believers to think with “sound judgment” in regards to themselves.  He’s not telling believers to go around thinking of themselves as sinners, despicable, etc.  Yes, we do still sin, and we do need to recognize that sin in our lives and repent of it.  But the point is, we need to look at ourselves in light of the gospel, in light of our union with Christ (look at Paul’s wonderful balance of this in 1 Timothy 1:12-17).  It is noteworthy that Paul gives this instruction after his long discourse on the gospel and its blessings (e.g. justification, sanctification, adoption).  We are now children of God, fellow heirs with Christ (8:14-17). We have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, and are justified and reconciled with God (5:1-11).  These are glorious realities, blessings, and promises.  Understanding these things helps us to put ourselves in proper perspective.

In other words, we should no longer think of ourselves as we once were, when we were outside of Christ (though we should never forget it); but to think of ourselves as we now are, having been united to Christ.  This is looking at ourselves in the light of God’s grace (see Tit. 3:1-7).  And yes, we can and ought to talk about sin, because it’s a necessary thing (the Bible talks about it); and we need to help people see their sin and the consequence of sin, most notably unbelievers, otherwise the gospel will be meaningless to them (Rom. 3:19-26).  Brethren, just as Paul said that we ought not to think of ourselves too highly, we also ought not to think of ourselves too lowly, lest we despise the miraculous, glorious, and gracious work of God in us through His gospel.

“I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.” –John Newton


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