“Do not be wise in your own estimation.” Rom. 12:16
I think I never really noticed it much because I was giving all my attention to verses 1-2: “I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God: this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” I remember Linda Smithson, one of the church camp sponsors when I was a teenager, pulling out a transformer and unfolding it from a bug of some sort to a super cool super hero type figure as she quoted that verse. It was goofy and we all laughed, and I went right back to eating Atomic Fireballs and plotting my next prank on sweet Linda. But the verse stuck with me after that.
Maybe a good follow-up illustration, though, would have been to blow up a balloon and then to watch it deflate while quoting verse 3: “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.” Apparently, Paul recognized that there’s a problem that often comes when we seek to carry out verses 1 and 2 – we might start to think we have a monopoly on awesome. That’s why he didn’t just leave it at renew your mind and you’ll know God’s will; he explained how to go about doing that.
Two times in the how-to portion of the passage, the issue of pride is addressed (vv 3,16). And Paul makes it clear that the evidence of a renewed mind and transformed life plays out, not just in upright living (9), but in the way we treat other people (4-8, 10-21).
That verse, “Do not be wise in your own estimation” has been rolling around inside my heart and mind for days now. Could it be that, when we do not appreciate each other’s gifts, show honor and affection, serve each other, practice hospitality, rejoice with those who rejoice, and all the other things Paul names in the passage, it is most often because we deem ourselves wise enough to judge motives? And, in our own estimation, people usually come up short.
Do you have a judgmental attitude and a critical spirit? Romans 12:16 is the antidote.