I gave in and participated on my wing’s intramural tennis team. I found it safest to place myself in the C league. Before then I had played at least weekly with friends. I knew I could decently compete at the C level.
The day arrived for my match. I had already been on the courts three times hitting with others and prepping for the evening game. I was ready for my opponent, so I thought.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the craftiness of the other wing. They had stacked their roster with the best possible players. Talking with my opponent by phone, I learned that he was no C level player; in fact, he was a potential varsity tennis walk-on. My confidence disappeared.
You’ve never seen such spectacle! I could hardly catch his serves. And he brought spectators! I wanted to forfeit the game, but forfeiture was penalized worse than a loss. So I played until I was defeated and then ran away, tail between my legs.
Galatians 6:3-4 says, “For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone.”
Now I wasn’t making myself out to be anything wonderful; instead, I knew C level was where I belonged. This is how my story and these verses mismatch. Still, I think you see the application.
Paul writes these words as a quick explication of his admonition on restoring the fallen (vs. 1-2). It addresses those who would think themselves to be “spiritual”, or led by the Spirit. He explains how they ought to demonstrate gentleness and prudence in counseling others since they themselves are not immune to sin.
In “What the Bible Says about Judging Others” I write, “One of the best ways we judge is by taking careful inventory of ourselves before we chance to rule on others.”
“But let each one examine his own work”—or, like me, know your level…don’t overestimate yourself. Don’t get proud or become a spiritual bigwig and act superior to others, especially the hurting. Like in tennis, that kind of love means nothing.
What is Paul stressing? Our ability to be led by the Spirit is genuine and valuable when it comports with the character of Christ. It will benefit others. But more than that, it becomes an assurance of God’s active grace working in us when we are diligent to prove our own salvation (Ph. 2:12) being satisfied only to please the Lord.
Furthermore, we should remain humble before Christ who knows every detail about us. We can be proud of a well-integrated spiritual life that bears no need to prove itself at the expense of others.