Conceit; February 5, 2020

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!

I have always loved this doxology, both the parts set to music and the whole thing. It touches me that Paul is so moved by what God has revealed to him. That shows clearly that it was a revelation from God, and not just something he dreamed up. As he says in verse 25, we are not to be conceited. (The Japanese expresses it, “Don’t think you’re so smart.”) Paul was both very intelligent and very well educated, and God had to deal with his pride to make him open to receiving such revelations. That was a continuing issue for him, because after he had a trip to heaven and back, God allowed a physical difficulty specifically to keep him humble. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) Conceit is a special kind of pride, and particularly dangerous, because it is entirely self-centered. Being proud of your children and the like is certainly benign, but conceit is focused on “I can do it,” and that cuts God out. The more God blesses us with abilities, the more careful we must be to focus on the reality that it is God who generated the abilities, and not we ourselves. This is very much an issue with prophecy, as Paul experienced. We don’t know what struggles in this area he had along the way, but we can be grateful that by God’s grace he dealt with them sufficiently to receive all that he recorded, writing half of the New Testament in the process.

Conceit is something my father spoke of struggling with, and it has been very much of an issue with me as well. One time my father was driving, with his mother and my mother both in the car, and he was talking about this issue. After a while his mother said, “But Maxfield, it isn’t conceit when it’s just recognizing the truth.” My mother later reported that to me with great laughter! There actually was some truth in what my grandmother said, because the antidote to conceit isn’t denying the gifts that God has given, it’s putting them into proper perspective. They are, above all, gifts for which we should be grateful, making faithful use of them, and they are also totally insignificant compared to the perfection of God. It’s been less than 20 years since God really got it through to me that He’s smart and I’m not. Up until that point I had thought that God was smarter than I was, but in that moment I realized that there’s no comparison at all. It’s not that God doesn’t want me to use the mind He’s given me, but rather that I’m to use it in gratitude and humility, always ready for whatever He might do that is “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,” (Ephesians 3:20) “which transcends all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7) That applies not just to intellect but to every ability I have. Sometimes I’m in awe of some of the pictures God enables me to take. The vision and the reflexes are from Him, and the glory is His as well.

Father, thank You for Your grace in all its manifestations. Help me be a faithful steward of that grace, blessing others and drawing them to You, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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