“For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3, NASB95)
The basis of everything worthwhile that a Christian has and does, from salvation to service, is the grace given to him by God. Just as we are saved only by God’s grace, so we serve Him by that same grace. As such we are not to overestimate ourselves, to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, but to think of ourselves as we really are. We read that we are not to overvalue or even undervalue our abilities, our gifts, or our worth, but to make accurate estimations of ourselves. Galatians 6:3 says, “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
Modern society looks down on true humility. It is instead characterized by brash, and even exalted, self-centeredness, ego building, pampering the body, and striving to fulfill every personal lust and ambition, with little regard for how it may impact others. It is small wonder that depression and emotional chaos are so prevalent.
The humility that God requires does not overestimate or underestimate His gifts, but estimates and uses them rightly. Every Christian can attest, “God has gifted me. He has gifted me graciously and lovingly and will give me everything I need to use my gifts effectively to His glory. I thank Him and I bless His name.”
In this passage we also see that God has given us a measure of faith as he determines and over which we are to be faithful stewards. In the context of the verses that follow in Romans, we might even look at this measure of faith as our spiritual abilities and our intended service. In Matthew 25 we read of the parable of the talents, where the master gives to each of his servants according to their ability and then rewards them according to their faithfulness. Two of them did well, and one of them buried what he had been given out of fear. None of them were the same, but what was expected of them was, and that was their faithfulness to invest what they had been granted.
In 1 Corinthians 12 we find this distribution by God to His children expressed more directly. “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” … “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 11, NASB95)
Just as the master in the parable did an honest assessment of His servants and entrusted them with various amounts of money to invest, so our God knows each and every one of us intimately, and He knows what He intends from us—that we faithfully invest what He entrusts to us. This is a coordinated effort by the fullness of our Triune (Three in One) God. The Holy Spirit gifts us in various ways to do different ministries under the Lordship of our one Savior in order to accomplish the variety of effects that God desires. We don’t have different bosses treating us more or less fairly than another, but we have one God who works fully within His sovereign will to equip each of us for His end.
Looking at our strengths, talents, and gifts this way really reminds us that all of those things that we might be tempted to boast in didn’t come from us anyway. It also reminds us that there is not class system in the body of Christ. God has uniquely called each of us as one to build up each other in love. “from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:16, NASB95)
We are to think about ourselves with sound judgment, recognizing that God really does know what He is doing, and looking to Him for His direction if following Him as He intends. We are not the person next to us, but the unique individual that God has created, called, and equipped us to be.
In the parable in Matthew two of the servants heard this from their master, “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:23, NASB95)
Paul wrote to all of us, “Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:6–10, NASB95)