Take the High Road
Here’s the truth …
“… I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us” (Romans 12:3 NLT).
“You’re selfish!” the man said to his son.
“Please. Everyone says I’m the most generous person. YOU are stubborn and condescending, so there!” the son responded.
It’s very easy to look at the speck in another’s eye without seeing the big log protruding out of our own eye. It takes too much effort to fix ourselves when it’s more expedient to point out the flaws of another from our high horses. If we are accused of being selfish, it’s much easier to hurl insults back at the accuser. Instead, we should look within to see if there is any truth to the selfishness accusation. Too often, though, people aren’t emboldened to fix what others see is wrong with them. Instead, they are emboldened to hit back with what they see is wrong with the other person.
When I was accused of not being entrepreneurial enough to run a ministry, I took that to heart and looked within to see if there was any truth to it. I prayed about it, and God showed me some ways that I could have certainly improved; but He also showed me that the person was being very unfair in making that accusation about me for a ministry that people told me was run very well for five diligent years.
There are times to take thoughts captive, not allowing them to penetrate, and times to take to heart the criticism of others, working to address the character flaws in ourselves that they see. I mean, we should always assume that there is some validity to an accusation because the person probably would not speak with such confidence if there wasn’t a shred of truth to it. Now, if a person calls us worthless, that’s entirely a different story! I’m not talking about that at all, no matter how confidently the person says it! I am merely talking about a mannerism or character flaw, not entire selves! Maybe we talk too much, interrupt people, focus too much on details, correct others a lot, give too much unwanted advice, overstay our welcome, text more than call, procrastinate, spend too much money, hoard our belongings, etc. Those are all things that can be tamed if we try!
The only way to get to the heart of an accusation about our character is by looking within. If we earnestly want to know if there is truth in the accusation, God will show us.
Introspection. Critical thinking. Reflection. If we don’t model those, our society will be filled with a bunch of entitled folks who think that they can live whatever way they wish without repercussions or accountability. God’s Word is the perfect place, of course, for a class in how to look within to see the error of our ways.
There were two thieves on the cross with Jesus: one who most certainly didn’t deny why he was hanging there and the other who was quicker to point out that Jesus couldn’t possibly be who He said He was if He was trapped like that. The former thief acknowledged his sin when he asked the latter thief a question that displayed his critical thinking: “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong” (Luke 23:40-41 NLT).
The latter, though, was quick to be entitled not to be there on that cross, despite his sins that rightfully deserved a consequence. And he wanted Jesus to bail him out without doing any introspection at all: “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” (Luke 23:39 NLT). It’s easy to see that while the first thief became introspective on the cross, the second deflected by looking only at the perceived weaknesses of others.
We can all be like that sometimes—wanting God to overlook our faults without putting forth any energy to fix them when He brings them to our attention. But God is the God of steps. If He brings knowledge to us of where He needs our character to change, we would do right to take the endeavor seriously if we want to graduate to the next step He has for our life.
Take, using another example from Scripture, the tax collector and the Pharisee. Tax collectors were typically Jews who served the Roman government by collecting taxes. They were despised by other Jews because the collectors were known for taking more than necessary and pocketing the rest. The Pharisee in Jesus’s parable mentioned in his prayer to God how grateful he was that he wasn’t a cheat and a sinner like the tax collector he saw also praying in the Temple. He proudly reminded God how he fasted and tithed as well. Conversely, the tax collector “stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed” (Luke 18:13 NLT), and he called himself a sinner while asking for mercy. Although there is certainly a kernel of truth in what the Pharisee was saying because the man was, indeed, a dishonest tax collector, the humility of the tax collector for owning up to his sin made him more righteous to Jesus than the Pharisee for being haughty. The Pharisee could learn from that kind of introspection.
It’s no wonder why Paul gave the Romans this warning: “Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us” (Romans 12:3 NLT). In other words, God has a plan for each of us. How do we measure up in being able to accomplish that plan in our current state?
Let’s be the bigger person and apologize for our selfishness, if that’s what others see in us, and vow to work harder not to be so selfish in the future. If we just say, “I don’t want to fight,” or if we hurl insults back, we take no ownership at all of what the other person feels is a justified view of us. Let’s take the high road, not the easier path of haughtiness.
… and that’s the truth as I know it!