Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” But there is little danger of an unexamined life in society today! Modern life is full of tests for examination and evaluation, though they may not be the kind Socrates was talking about.
“Careful self-examination” is easy to say, easy to tell others, but it is hard, and can be unpleasant. In my library I have many books that talk about self-examination. Barnes and Noble has a whole section devoted to self-examination. Amazon is full of self-help books. Self-help is a thriving industry all by itself.
For all the literature, there is no “for-sure-bet” to be able to objectively examine myself with 100% pure objectivity. Furthermore, I have never met anyone who is 100% completely objective. I have met a few who thought they were objective. We all have our own prejudices, our own familial influences, our own religious leanings and our societal influences that motivate us. It is simply hard, if not impossible to be able to be objective when looking at ourselves.
In fact Paul acknowledged that, “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves by themselves, are not wise” (2 Cor. 10:12). When we measure our self by our self we are never wrong. We never see our own flaws and inadequacies. Worse, we never see our own sin. Measuring ourselves by ourselves is a subjective standard.
Therefore, we need an objective standard by which we can measure ourselves. Paul further says, “For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends” (2 Cor. 10:18). It is not important that I have a favorable evaluation of myself. What really final matters is how does God see me. Therefore, I examine myself not in comparison to myself or others, but by what and whom the Lord approves. Christ is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2). He sets the pace for us.
When Roger Bannister broke the four minute mile he found the two fastest half-milers with whom he could train. One would run the first half-mile and then the other would run the second half-mile. Roger Bannister, however, kept running. He kept the pace set by the two fastest half-milers.
Even so, our pace setter is Christ (Heb. 12:2). He set the best example to the “nth” degree. We do not measure ourselves by the world. We do not measure ourselves by our brethren or friends. We do not compare our sin versus the sin of another. When we do we have not elevated ourselves but come out the same as everyone else. In other words, when we compare ourselves to a pig we really have not given ourselves much of an evaluation. We still look pretty good comparatively. However, when Christ set an example of how to please the Father, how to respond to threatening and abuse, how to treat those who abuse us, we have a pace setter that elevates our lives and hearts (John 8:29; 1 Pet. 2:21-23; Matt. 5:43-45). Therefore, any self-examination is measured by Jesus the Christ.
Now, with Him as our standard we can take a serious look at ourselves. Again, this is hard, it is so easy to examine others. It is so easy to continue to do the same old things in the same old ways. Self-examination begins with me. The first step is to remove the beam from my own eye (Matt. 7:1-5). Before I condemn or judge others I need to first look at myself. Am I guilty of that for which I am about to pass judgment on another? Have I first taken care to consider myself (Gal. 6:1)? How can I effectively help a brother who is overtaken in a fault, if that same fault has overtaken me and ruined my life? I need to meekly and honestly look at myself compared to Christ before I seek to restore another. Self-examination is a test many never take.
Paul will exhort, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourself whether yourselves. Do you not know yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you – unless you indeed are disqualified” (2 Cor. 13:5).
— to be continued.