If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.
It is an old story told in many small towns that there are three classes of people living there: first class, those who were born in town X; second class, those who move there and become some body in town X through meaningful achievements; and third class, those who are nobody in town X.
How do we become somebody in the Kingdom of God? By being born anew in Christ into the Kingdom, which makes the Kingdom our hometown, and by sacrificial service in His name for the purposes of the Kingdom. We can live confidently in Christ, walking daily with Him. The believer is not to walk about in uncertainty, with his head constantly cast down, in some so-called “spiritual moroseness,” but should know that he knows in his heart that God is on his side and that he is accepted by God in Christ. The phrase “take pride in himself” is an effort at a dynamic equivalent translation, and it tells us that God enables His people to feel good about their lives and their choices. The original Greek word means “a ground for rejoicing” or “glorying,” and the passage contrasts those who serve sincerely and those who try to take credit, or steal the glory from the achievements of others.
Naturally there is always a danger of self-pride, as our passage says, we need to be careful about thinking we are something when we are nothing, so let’s be clear on some points. The basis of all glorying is in Christ, and certainly not done in our own achievements outside of Him. Why, our best efforts outside of Christ are only filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6)! Let’s not be deceived, Christianity is “Christ-in-me-ity” and “Christ-in-you-ity.” We must humbly receive His work within us, both His work of salvation and of transformation. Jesus told the parable of the king’s wedding banquet that had a great and wide invitation list, and some accepted and some did not, but also the king found among the guests a man who was not wearing proper wedding clothes, and had him thrown out (Matthew 22:1-14).
Only by the covering of Christ’s righteousness are we considered acceptable to God, and since that is received by faith, the one who believes strongly and confidently in Christ has accepted the ethics and the values of the Kingdom of God. Faith in Christ itself requires an absence of self-confidence, so the second trait is the most significant in the Kingdom of God takes no confidence in himself, in his own flesh. His best and finest efforts he passes off as having been done through Christ living in him. He dresses himself in the wedding clothes prepared for him by God, namely the righteousness of Christ, and not in self-effort or self-confidence.
Christ also said that the greatest in His Kingdom had to be the servant of all, and not the one served by others. So immediately our motives are tested, and the desires that would normally make us want to be “great” somewhere on earth are removed. The great in God’s Kingdom must admit their failures, take no confidence in themselves, believe in Christ, make much of His righteousness, marvel at His grace that reaches even them, and seek to serve all others. We must clearly admit that no such earthly kingdom exists that has this ethic as its model or as its experience. On earth we push and shove and seek to be served, not to serve others. We want to see who is the fastest, the brightest, the most popular, the richest, the strongest, the handsomest, and so on. And that is precisely why there is conflict on this earth.
Heaven is absent of conflict, so the one who would live there must rid himself of all pride. He must be sober-minded, testing his actions and his thoughts by the standards of God. He has ceased to “feel better” about himself because on some random, insignificant factor, based on an evaluation made from a skewed perspective and a judgment made by himself for selfish reasons, he has pridefully exalted himself over another in his own mind. He ceases to day dream about how great he is and focuses on Christ and considers others. He must carry his own load in the sense of seeing that he must give an answer to his Creator and that answer will only be for himself and his choices. How often we fail to measure up, or at least how often I fail to measure up to God’s standard.
But the Lord does allow us to have some glorying in this life, of which this passage gives us evidence, glorying in becoming a faithful servant of God and of others – made so by the grace and power of God. The good hunmble servant should know he is a good humble servant. “The good servant receives the bread of his labor with confidence; the lazy and slothful cannot look his master in the face,” so wrote Clement of Rome, “Let our boast and our confidence be in Him. Let us submit ourselves to His will.” All other boasting is about us some way or another, but the boasting that God accepts is in Christ and Christ alone. But God gives us the grace to be able to say as Paul did, that we labored for Him sincerely, “Yet not I but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Cor. 15:10) . The worker should know if he is sincerely striving for God in Christ, and if he is he should hear the words of encouragement from God, “Well done!”
“Not I but Christ in me,” is to be our theme in life, and if so there is also the opportunities to praise Him for what He achieves through us.
Lord, we are weak but You are strong. Test us and prove us. Let our boasting be in You and in who You are enabling us to become. Amen.