Wednesday, January 25, 2017

EmmDev 2017-01-25 [Treasure in Clay Pots (2Cor)] The limits of comparison.

The limits of comparison.

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. 13 We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you. 14 We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. 15 Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand, 16 so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in another man's territory. 17 But, "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.      (2Corinthians10:12-18)
This passage is a prelude to an "epic" Paul chapter where he will "boast" of things that make him look weak in order to show up those who were boasting in their abilities and exploits. This was one of the key problems Paul faced with the Corinthians: false apostles who claimed to be super-apostles, running Paul down and bragging of their exploits.

And so Paul sets some limits for comparison. He is laying down the ground-rules for comparison and bragging even before he starts chapter 11.

So what is he saying?

1. These days in education and parenting circles competition is considered a negative thing. They say "There shouldn't be winners and losers - each child should compete against themselves." Whether we agree with this or not, Paul takes it a step further by pointing out that when we compare ourselves with ourselves we are not wise. The problem is that we become self-referencing - we set our own standards and can become obsessed with our own achievements or goals and there is no reality check.

2. We also should not boast in areas we have no experience. He argues that he could not boast to the Corinthians if he hadn't been to Corinth. This sounds obvious, but in practice I see this often... More than once I have sat with folk who have lost a loved one when a condolence giver will come in and say "I know exactly how you feel..." Really??? Even if you experience a similar loss, you never know exactly how someone feels... It's so much more constructive to say "I am so sorry. I'm here for you if you need me and I will be praying for you."

3. We should never take credit for work done by others. Unfortunately this is very prevalent. It's so easy to bask in reflected glory. Even in the church I see preachers using other people's ideas and materials as though they came up with it themselves. I see leaders receiving kudos but forgetting the team that made it happen.

4. Although he doesn't talk about it here Paul implies that comparing with others is out of the picture too. In ch.11 he will caricature this kind of pastoral competition by making himself look weaker than the "super-apostles."

So what are the grounds of comparison?

  • Not ourselves - lest we become self-absorbed and self-referencing.
  • Not about things we have no experience in.
  • Not on the basis of what we have received from others
  • Not on the basis of being "better" than others.
only on what God has asked us to do
in the power that He has given us
based solely on the work Jesus did on the cross for us.

(More on this tomorrow...)

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