Well, I’m temporarily back in the blogging saddle. I’m still on vacation, so as I mentioned before, it may still be a hit and miss, but I have slightly better access to a computer right now.
At any rate, Paul is still dealing with the Corinthians and their attitudes of disdain towards him. Not all of them felt this way, but enough did that Paul felt the need to defend himself.
And as we look at these verses, we see how we should evaluate others and ourselves.
When the Corinthians looked at Paul, they merely looked at the outside. And Paul was apparently a man who was not terribly impressive, in presence or in speech. Some were saying of him,
His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing. (10)
But Paul told them, “You are only looking on the surface of things.” (7)
Paul was every much of a Christian and minister than anyone the Corinthians could compare him too, but because they were focused on his appearance and speech, there were a number of them that simply couldn’t recognize that. They instead looked down on him, despising him for his apparent weaknesses. So Paul warned them,
Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present. (11)
In other words, “We are not all talk. We live what we say. And we will act on our words when we see you again if you don’t repent of your attitude.”
So as we look at others, we need to be careful to look beyond the surface. People can be a lot more than they seem, and with the power of God working in them, can do much more than we might expect. But if we are busy judging them and despising them for their supposed weaknesses, not only will we misjudge them, but we’ll end up despising people God has created in his own image and for his own purposes. And God does not take that kind of attitude from us lightly.
But as we look at this, we can also see how we should evaluate ourselves. Paul wrote of some of his critics,
When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. (12)
In short, it’s pure foolishness to measure yourself by other people and compare yourself with them. Why? Because the standard that we are measured by is God’s standard, not human standards. And when we measure ourselves by human standards, we grossly miss the mark God intends us to reach.
It’s also foolish to boast about something when you have no real right to do so. It’s bad enough to be overly proud about what you have done. But when you start boasting about what others have done and taking credit for it, that’s even worse. But Paul never did that (13-16).
Paul then tells us what we should boast about,
Let him who boasts boast in the Lord. (17)
What does that mean? The Lord said through Jeremiah in the Old Testament,
But let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD…(Jeremiah 9:24)
In other words, our focus shouldn’t be on ourselves and what we’ve done. Rather, our focus should be on God, and knowing him better. The person who truly knows God truly has something to boast about because their focus is on the right place, and they’re no longer trying to please others, but God. And in that is wisdom, for Paul tells us in verse 18,
It is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. (18)
How about you? How do you evaluate others? Do you evaluate them by mere appearances?
And how do you evaluate yourself? By comparing yourself with others? By measuring yourself through human standards. Or by the Lord’s?