FROM THE PASTOR
A small boy once informed his mother that he was six feet tall. When she questioned this statement, he assured her that he had just measured himself. The wise mother asked to help him check his calculations. The boy took her to the door post and showed her where he had marked his height like he had seen others do. Then he carefully measured up from the floor to the mark. This was when his mother discovered his mistake. His numbers were right, but his ruler was not; it was only six inches long.
It seems to me that this young boy’s experience parallels that of many Christians. They make diligent efforts to measure themselves, but end up with false results because they use the wrong standard. There are some who think they are giants who are using too small a ruler. There are also those who feel like midgets who are using too large a ruler. To get a correct reading we must use the right standard.
False standards abound. A very common one is comparison to others. This is so much a part of human nature that most people do it without thinking. They look around, size up the crowd, and decide if they are at the head or the back of the pack. No matter where they find themselves, this is a faulty standard. One can never get a true reading on self by comparison to others because each person is unique. Not everyone started at the same place. Not everyone has the same gifts and potential. The person at the back of the pack may be working harder and growing faster than anyone else. The person at the front may be riding on the efforts of others. One great theologian who caught this point described himself as a midget standing on the shoulders of giants.
Another favorite faulty standard for Christians is to compare oneself to the world. We look around us and seem to be doing better than our unsaved peers and feel pretty good at our progress. The flaw here is that the saint and sinner are living two different kinds of lives. If regeneration means anything it should show in how we lead our lives. A Christian comparing himself to the unsaved is like a toddler racing against creeping babies; it should be no contest.
A third faulty standard is the elastic ruler. This ruler deliberately changes size depending on who is being measured. We call the people who use it hypocrites. It is shortened to make self look very big and then lengthened to make others look very small. This is a deliberate effort at incorrect measurement. This action flies straight in the face of the biblical principle of being hard on self and easy on others.
I only know of two valid standards that can be used. The first is comparison to the image of Jesus Christ. He is the one who did it right. He set the standard for the rest of us. His is the only image which is totally pleasing to God the Father. The Christian is to become conformed to the image of Christ in everything he does.
The second valid standard is progressive comparison with self. It is good from time to time to look back and compare ourselves to where we were in the past. If we see growth and development we can rejoice. If we find we have been stuck at the same spot for an extended period of time we can be challenged to greater effort. Growth is a natural part of life and should show with time.
At the farm in Ohio, Grandpa had a tall board with lines, dates, and names on it. The lines mark the growth of each grandchild. They start in a cluster down low and spread out as they move up the board. The grandchildren can still go back to that board and see how tall they were in any given summer. The lines for each child vary in their distances apart, but they all advance up the board. The children have all kept growing. The same should be true of God’s children.