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.
There are many blessings to reading the Bible in multiple languages, or at least in multiple translations. This passage as a whole is loaded with pithy aphorisms that really hit home and apply to our daily lives, and I started to write on any of a number of them. However, it was this verse in Japanese that most grabbed my attention. It starts out with, “Be of one heart with one another.” Yes, that’s “harmony,” but it seems deeper than that. Then it says, “Adapt yourself to those of low social standing.” That too seems stronger than “willing to associate.” However, it was the last line that hit me between the eyes. Rather than just “conceited,” it says, “Do not think of yourself as the one with knowledge or wisdom.” In this Information Age it’s often said that knowledge is power. However, sometimes we forget that what we do with what we know is of vital importance. James 1:22 is very pointed in this regard: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Simply having information isn’t enough; it must be applied. That’s why this devotional system, as developed by Wayne Cordeiro, is Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer (SOAP). Without application, just reading the Bible can become an “ivory tower” exercise. As I wrote just a couple of days ago, any time we read the Bible we need to do so with the attitude that “This applies to me.” Anything less can quickly lead to self-deception.
Conceit, and especially intellectual conceit, has always been a problem for me. I was blessed with an IQ somewhere north of 150, and it has taken me a long time to realize that does not make me inherently more valuable than any other person on this planet. In the first place, compared to God, differences among humans are like acorns comparing height (to quote a Japanese proverb). In the second place, I neither chose nor earned my genetics; everything is a gift, something held in trust. As Paul so wisely stated, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:2) I have been entrusted with various abilities, but the question is not so much the abilities as what I do with them. I entered college out of the 11th grade, having skipped my senior year, and I was tied for the highest test scores of any entering freshman, but the girl with whom I tied had an absolutely stellar academic record, while I failed two courses my Freshman year! (Interestingly, we both ended up as Drama majors, and I never knew about our test scores until many years later when we met for a class reunion.) Thinking, “I’m the smartest guy in the room,” can be very self-defeating, just as Paul cautions here. I do enjoy “vacuuming up information,” but what I do with it is the question.
Father, You know the problems I’ve had with conceit even better than I do. Thank You for Your patience with me. Help me be the steward You want me to be of everything You have placed at my disposal – and may I not just dispose of any of it! Help me be a useful tool in Your hands to draw others to You, destroying the works of the devil and setting people free, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!