Measure themselves by themselves

Can you imagine trying to measure the length of a board by using the board itself? Or taking your height by looking at yourself in the mirror? No, of course not. That would be absurd and ridiculous because that isn’t possible. You cannot take the length of a board or your own height by using your own standard.

Or here is another one… What is my weight? Am I too heavy? Too skinny? If I measure that, in either direction, based on my own self and how I felt about myself yesterday, I can end up either in unmerited self-loathing or self-approval. Why? Because I have been measuring myself against myself.

Instead, as we measure, we need an external, standard measurement against which we can measure. In the case of length or height, maybe that would be a tape measure. In the case of weight, a scale and a chart to show me healthy ranges. Those would be proper ways to measure, not based on my own feelings or comparing myself against myself.

And yet that is what Paul says is happening with those who are commending themselves to the Corinthian church. There are some people who are attempting to have the Corinthian church follow them instead of Paul, telling the Corinthians that they are the proper apostolic person for them to follow, not Paul.

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. We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you.

2 Corinthians 10:12-13

Despite the fact that Paul was the one who took the risk in sharing the Gospel, in preaching, making disciples, and starting the church in Corinth, others have now attempted to move in to take on the mantle of leadership. It is likely because the people in the church have preferred what they have done to teach them and allow their worldly lifestyles to continue unabated, there are now divisions amongst them, divisions that have harmed, and are continuing to harm, the church just as Paul has been pointing out.

So Paul is now trying to tell the Corinthians that it is because of these self-comparisons that these other apostolic-type leaders are claiming such leadership over the Corinthians. They have moved in, seeing themselves as the right person to lead the Corinthians. Not because they have been the one to start the church, but because they have looked at themselves in the mirror and decided that they were right. They measured themselves by themselves, not by what had actually been done, but by their own standards.

This caught my attention today because I see this happen throughout the spiritual world today. Yes, I see exactly this same situation that Paul is referring to, but it shows up in other ways as well. We frequently also compare ourselves with ourselves based on our own righteousness. We build ourselves up in our own eyes. We don’t realize that there is a standard outside of ourselves. We see our own selves as the standard and that is the standard by which we measure ourselves.

The place that I actually see this the most is with regard to holiness. Our righteousness before God. We consider ourselves to be righteous because we haven’t done a particular sin in a little while. We act religious, so we call ourselves righteous. And it is simply deception. It is a house of cards that is simply waiting for a slight breeze to make it fall.

Before God, which is the true measurement, the true standard, we are simply dirty in our sin. God is holy, and we are not. There are several examples that I can think of in the Bible where people realize this, but the one that always comes to mind first for me is that of Isaiah. As he stands in God’s presence, he experiences the holiness and the glory of God. He himself has been chosen. He is the one who will speak for God. Yet as he stands before God, he declares that he is a man of unclean lips, and he is from a people of unclean lips. Isaiah realizes his unholiness as he stands before God’s holiness.

But if Isaiah never realized the holiness of God, he might continue to think that he was a good guy, a righteous guy. He might compare himself with himself. He had been chosen as a prophet. He had been the one through whom God is speaking to the Israelite people. He is in great shape, isn’t he? But yes, that is simply comparing himself with himself. Instead, as he stands before God, he realizes how little he is, how unclean he is, as he stands before the holiness of God.

So as we walk forward in our lives, and especially in our spiritual lives, let us not compare ourselves with ourselves. Instead, let us be people who rightly measure and compare ourselves with a just and true measure so that God can use us in the way that he would like because we have seen who we truly are and what God has done, and is doing in us.

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