Two Standards (2 Corinthians 10:12)

For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” (2 Corinthians 10:12, KJV)

I used an illustration in a sermon once to demonstrate people’s flawed evaluation of themselves. I took a gray piece of parchment and put it in the center of a black sheet of board used for presentations. The congregation was convinced that the gray sheet of paper was white when they saw it on the jet-black background. Then I removed it and placed it on a bright-white board. They immediately saw that the sheet of paper was truly gray and not white. I explained that this is the problem that we have when we compare our holiness with the wrong standard. There is only one true standard for holiness and righteousness. The true standard is found in God.

Paul alluded to this basic problem of people in this verse. Paul’s opponents evaluated themselves by comparing themselves against one another. Their standards were not divine but fleshly. This is an issue of relativism. They likely evaluated their ministries in such a way. This is dangerous and prideful. I would like to say that this type of thing does not happen in churches today but I cannot. When pastors get together, one of the first questions often asked is, “How big is your church?” or “How many have you baptized this year?” These can be seemingly innocent questions but often can lead to an evaluation of one’s ministry based upon the appearance of others ministries. I know many pastors who felt like failures because their congregations were not growing. I fear that others have determined that they were doing better because their congregations were larger.

This problem of comparing based on human standards also happens in peoples lives with regards to behaviors. It is like the Pharisee that was in the Temple who stated, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican” (Luke 18:11, KJV). The problem was that the Pharisee was comparing himself to other people and did not evaluate himself in the light of God’s holiness.

One of the great problems in comparing ourselves to others is that we can overlook the magnitude of sin that is in our own lives. Jesus presented the same problem stating the following.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:41–42, KJV)

Let us not get caught up in evaluating ourselves against other people. Let us rather consider God’s infinitely superior standard. When we look at His standard as revealed in His word, we will have a proper perspective by which spiritual growth and successful ministry will happen.

Published by Steve Hankins, Th.D.

Steve has had extensive military, business and ministry experience. He has served for over 16 years in full time vocational ministry and many years of part time ministry in churches. He has led churches through start-up and recasting of vision. Now He resides on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he is working to help smaller churches and believers to renew their hearts and regain the joy of the Lord.

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