Note: This is Post # 16 in the series titled “The Transformed Life” based on Romans 12. Please click here for previous posts: POST # 1, POST # 2, POST # 3, POST # 4, POST # 5, POST # 6, POST # 7, POST # 8, POST # 9, POST # 10, POST # 11, POST # 12, POST # 13, POST # 14, POST # 15.
As we continue in the series of the transformed life, this post deals with Romans 12:16, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”
The subject is living in harmony with one another and making sure we remove the one stumbling block that prevents this from happening—pride! The idea is to have a united mindset and not allow prideful thinking to dominate our minds. Rather, humility in thinking is the key to living in harmony.
Let’s unpack this verse in 4 parts—each a command.
Command # 1. “Live in harmony with one another.” Some translations have it as “Be of the same mind toward one another.” The idea is one of unity in thought. It does not mean we all have to have the same opinions about everything. We are not robots. The idea is of pulling together toward a common goal—the goal of glorifying the Father as we become more like Christ through the transforming work of Christ. In fact, this attitude is so important that this command is repeated often in the New Testament [Phil 1:27; Phil 2:1-2; 1 Pet 3:8].
In fact, the early church was marked by such an attitude as stated in Acts 4:32, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” Even in the Old Testament, this desire for believers to live in unity was expressed by the psalmist in Psalm 133:1, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”
Ponder the following illustration:
The Sequoia trees of California tower as much as 300 feet above the ground. Strangely, these giants have unusually shallow root systems that reach out in all directions to capture the greatest amount of surface moisture. Their intertwining roots also provide support for each other against the storms. That’s why they usually grow in clusters. Seldom will you see a redwood standing alone because high winds would quickly uproot it!
This is the picture God desires in our churches, and in our homes. Believers to live in harmony. However, that is not often the case as experience testifies, isn’t it? Instead of harmony, there is discord. Instead of peace, there is turmoil. And one main reason is pride. That is why Paul goes on to say…
Command # 2. “Do not be proud.” Paul goes on to say, “Don’t be arrogant in your thinking. If there needs to be harmony, there needs to be a removal of proud thinking.” And he’s right. Our behavior stems from our thinking. Proud thinking brings forth proud behavior.
Pride wants to have its own way. And when that does not happen, there are quarrels [Jas 4:1-3]. Be it in the church or in the home, where there is a stubborn attitude of “my way or the highway,” there can be no harmony. Where there is the Diotrephes type of an “I love to be first” attitude [3 John 1:9], there will be discord. Hence the command, “don’t be proud.” Paul goes on…
Command # 3. Pride manifests itself in one way of associating only with certain people based on their status and their importance to us. In other words, proud people will not associate with everybody, but only with people who can further their own lives. That is why Paul goes on to say, “but be willing to associate with people of low position.” The footnote has “willing to do menial work.” It is more likely that associating with people is the right rendering since harmony with other people is the context though it is also true that we as Christians should never shun menial work. Paul himself exalted working with hands—manual labor—something that was looked down in his day.
Jesus spent time with outcasts and did not seek to be amid the elite. Should be the same with us. We cannot look at who will help us to rise in position or power and hang out only with them. In other words, we cannot use people to get where we want to go. Instead, in love, we must treat all people with equality including a willingness to spend time the outcasts [Lk 14:13].
Dr. James Black in his own vivid way described a scene in an early Christian congregation. A notable convert has been made, and the great man comes to his first Church service. He enters the room where the service is being held. The Christian leader points to a place. “Will you sit there please?” “But,” says the man, “I cannot sit there, for that would be to sit beside my slave.” “Will you sit there please?” repeats the leader. “But,” says the man, “surely not beside my slave.” “Will you sit there please?” repeats the leader once again. And the man at last crosses the room, sits beside his slave, and gives him the kiss of peace.
That is what Christianity did; and that is what it alone could do in the Roman Empire. The Christian Church was the only place where master and slave sat side by side. It is still the place where all earthly distinctions are gone, for with God there is no respect of persons (Barclay, Commentary on Romans).
So, let’s be willing to associate with people of low position continually.
Command # 4. Paul adds one more command in this verse, “Do not be conceited.” Don’t have a puffed-up opinion of yourself. Don’t be wise in your own eyes. That’s what he is saying. The New Living Translation renders it this way: “Don’t think you know it all.” Proud people are just that. They have a high view of themselves.
According to Reuters News Agency, on April 28th, at the 1992 Galveston County Fair and Rodeo, a steer named Husker, weighing in at 1,190 pounds, was named grand champion. The steer was sold at auction for $13,500 and slaughtered a few days after the competition. When veterinarians examined the carcass, said a contest official, they found something suspicious. They discovered evidence of what is called “airing.”
To give steers a better appearance, competitors have been known to inject air into their animals’ hides with a syringe or a needle attached to a bicycle pump. Pump long enough, and they’ve got themselves what looks like a grand champion steer, though of course it’s against the rules. The Galveston County Fair and Rodeo Association withdrew the championship title and sale money from Husker.
A pumped-up steer is like a person that brags on himself. Such boasting is empty and lacks substance. No wonder, Scripture warns about not being conceited or being wise in our own eyes quite frequently. Proverbs 3:7 says, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” Proverbs 26:12 says, “Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.”
It’s hard to even talk to people who are conceited; who are wise in their own eyes. In fact, if you point out their faults, you better be ready to face their wrath. Tell them they are proud, and they will hit back very hard, “How dare you call me proud?” Those pursuing humility, on the other hand, ponder when others call out their sin. “Are they right?” They would pause and ask, “What specific things you see in me that makes you say that I’m proud or exhibit impatience or anger, etc.?”
An article titled “The Art of Being a Big Shot” was written by a very prominent Christian businessman named Howard Butt. Among many other insightful things, he said were these words:
It is my pride that makes me independent of God. It’s appealing to me to feel that I am the master of my fate, that I run my own life, call my own shots, go it alone. But that feeling is my fundamental dishonesty. I can’t go it alone. I have to get help from other people, and I can’t ultimately rely on myself. I’m dependent on God for my next breath. It is dishonest of me to pretend that I’m anything but a man—small, weak, and limited. So, living independent of God is self-delusion.
It is not just a matter of pride being an unfortunate little trait and humility being an attractive little virtue; it’s my inner psychological integrity that’s at stake. When I am conceited, I am lying to myself about what I am. I am pretending to be God, and not man.
My pride is the idolatrous worship of myself. And that is the national religion of Hell!
That’s why Jeremiah warns his assistant Baruch with these strong words: Jeremiah 45:5, “Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them.” No wonder Philippians 2:3 says, “3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
So, how then can we put pride to death and live in harmony? 3 Suggestions.
(1). We need to acknowledge the pride in our hearts [Psa 51:4].
(2). We need to read Scriptures that deal with pride and humility and earnestly pray to the Lord to apply those truths to our hearts [Eph 6:17-18a].
(3). We need to continually reflect on Jesus’s life and follow in his footsteps. The best way to learn humility is to learn it from the example of Jesus. Jesus himself when giving a self-description of himself said these words, “learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” [Matt 11:29]. This is the only time recorded in the gospels where Jesus gives a self-description of himself—that he is gentle and humble in heart!
It has been well said of the Lord Jesus that his life and death are a “standing rebuke to every form of pride to which we are liable.” The following table illustrates this point.
|Pride says:||Bible says this of Jesus:|
|Look at my family background||Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? [Matt 13:55]|
|Look at how much money I have||Son of Man has no place to lay his head. [Lk 9:58]|
|Look at my appearance||He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him. [Isa 53:2]|
|Look at the important people I hang out with||a friend of tax collectors and sinners. [Lk 7:34]|
|Look at how many people are under me||I am among you as one who serves. [Luke 22:27]|
|Look how many people admire me||He was despised and rejected by mankind. [Isa 53:3]|
|Look how strong I am||By myself I can do nothing. [John 5:30]|
|Look how I always get MY way||I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. [John 5:30]|
|Look how smart I am||I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. [John 8:28].|
Let us learn from this Jesus—our Savior, our Lord, our gentle and humble king and our example of what true humility really looks like as we seek to live in harmony with one another!