Proud people often rub me the wrong way. They’re those folks whose favorite pronoun is I. Their life is about them, and your life should be about them too. Do you know people like that? They can even be very nice people, but their entire focus is really on themselves. And that irks me.
Today’s verse is Proverbs 27:2.
Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth—
a stranger, not your own lips.
This is a good rule to remember because the more we talk about ourselves, the less people listen. Granted, if you can balance talking about yourself with listening to others talk about themselves, you have a better chance of maintaining your relationships.
This isn’t to say that our friends don’t care about what’s going on in our lives. But there has to be balance in everything. If you take up a friend’s afternoon talking about yourself one day, then you need to be willing to sacrifice an afternoon to listen to your friend when they want to talk. That’s part of being friends. If you want to be a friend, you have to be friendly.
Makes sense, right?
Okay. So what the heck is going on in Philippians 1:20-26?
For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me.
Really? I count 16 I‘s in there.
This is Paul writing to the Church at Philippi, and, yes, it’s a message from him to them. And, yes, it’s a letter explaining what God has taught him. But still — that seems like a lot of I. … Until you understand what Paul is talking about.
Proverbs 27:2 is saying to let others praise you. Let others draw attention to the work you’ve done, rather than yourself.
What Paul is doing in Philippians 1:20-26 is talking about the work God has done through him. It’s not Paul bragging about what Paul has accomplished. It’s Paul recognizing that God is bigger than he is and that God can continue to use him like He has in the past.
There’s a big difference between calling attention to your own accomplishments and recognizing that God has used you.
I think there’s a concept in the Christian community that any sort of pride is wrong. As a result, Christians don’t know how to accept compliments, and we don’t know how to talk about the awesome things that God is doing. We’re terrified of sounding boastful. But it’s not proud to share how God is using you. It’s not boastful to talk about what God is doing in your life, as long as you keep the focus on God and not on your achievements.
Juxtapose the I’s in those verses with Christ. How many times does Paul relate his work and life and motivation to Christ just in this passage?
That God could use any one of us to accomplish anything for Him is miraculous. We are all so broken and so flawed that if He is able to do something awesome through the gifts and the skills that He has given us, we need to talk about it. Because if God can use us, He can use anyone. But no one will know about it if we are too scared to say anything. And if we’re too scared to say anything about it, why are we even here?
Christians need more pride.
We’re supposed to take pride in Christ. That’s what Paul is saying. Don’t boast about your own achievements, but tell everyone what God has done in your life because no one else could fix you. And that’s what people in the worlds need to hear right now. Not that an election will solve their problems. Not that Washington will fix the world. Not that the Republicans or the Democrats or the Independents or the Tea Party will remedy the mistakes this country has made. But that Christ is the only one who can make a difference. But they’re not going to know about it until we step up and say something.
So don’t focus on what you’ve done. Focus instead on what God has done in your life. Give Him the credit. And He’ll take care of the rest.