Apr 20, 2009

A Call to Self-Examination

Galatians 6:3–4

“For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone” (vv. 3–4)

Bearing others’ burdens to fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2) is impossible if we yield to the selfishness of our flesh (5:16–18) — our lingering sin. Faulty self-evaluation, today’s passage tells us, is an obstacle to walking by the Spirit.

For example, we often conclude that we are superior to others (6:3). About a man in debt we might say, “I used my money wisely, but he willingly overspent, so let him help himself; I care not that he is sorry and wants financial counsel.” Self-pride believes that we are not like those sinners. It keeps us from aiding troubled people lest we “dirty” our hands. Yet the Son, though equal to God, “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:6–7). Jerome says the proud one who hates “the lowly…is his own deceiver, not knowing that the spirit of the law adds up finally to loving one another” (ACCNT vol. 8, p. 90).

We also judge ourselves falsely if we consider our gifts inferior to those of others, thinking we are unable to assist burdened believers. But the cure for self-doubt is the same for self-pride — sober self-assessment (Gal. 6:4), the evaluation of ourselves against Scripture that we might not view ourselves more highly (or lowly) than we ought (Rom. 12:3–8), not self-absorbed navel gazing. Right judgment reminds us that we ever fall short and are not “holier than thou.” We also learn our strengths and the burdens we are best equipped to carry, enabling us
to serve more effectively. For example, the gifted teacher who is mechanically disinclined will help college students defend the faith, not attempt to change the oil in a car for those in need; instead of demanding a spot in music ministry, the tone-deaf but talented cook will bring meals to shut-in congregants.

Note that we may properly boast when we judge ourselves rightly (Gal. 6:4), not in our own skills but that the Lord graciously empowers us to fulfill His call. According to Luther, the Christian who serves “faithfully, not troubling himself with those works which pertain not to his vocation…may glory and rejoice in himself; for he may say: I have done the works of my vocation appointed to me by God with such faithfulness and diligence as I was able. Therefore, I know that this work, being done in faith and obedience to God, pleases God.”

Coram Deo

Take some time this day to perform some self-assessment. Do you think that you are more deserving of God’s favor than other people? Repent if you have so thought. Also, if you have believed the Lord cannot use you, then repent for thinking Him not powerful or creative enough to employ your gifts. Have a close friend help you discern your gifts so that you might know how you can bear the burdens of others.

For Further Study