July 20, 2016

More Highly Than You Ought

A recent post on social media showed a 15 second video clip of a backhoe in the final stages of cleaning up a demolished building. A viewer commented to the photographer, “Except you missed the interesting part, and wasted our time with THIS!” Seriously…15 seconds out of one’s day is a waste of time? Measuring time with self-importance is a trap that even believers fall into. Paul reminds us, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Ro 12:3 NIV).

1 comment:

Steve Corey said...


-----It is truly unfortunate that “sophroneo” has been translated into the vague English “sober”. Merriam-Webster defines “sober” as “1a: sparing in the use of food and drink…b: not addicted to intoxicating drink c: not drunk 2: marked by sedate or gravely or earnestly thoughtful character or demeanor 3: UNHURRIED, CALM 4: marked by temperance, moderation, or seriousness (a sober candlelight vigil) 5: subdued in tone or color 6: showing no excessive or extreme qualities of fancy, emotion, or prejudice.” Strong’s Greek dictionary defines “sophroneo” as being “…of sound mind, that is, sane (figuratively) moderate: -be in right mind, be sober (minded), soberly.” The word is used five times in the New Testament, and the context of every use implies there is something particular about this “sobriety”.
-----First, let’s shortly consider “edah”. It is one of three different Hebrew words in the Old Testament translated as “congregation”, that is, the congregation of the Israelites. This word is a contraction of a primitive Hebrew root word meaning, in short, to duplicate, repeat, testify, admonish, record, stand upright, give warning, and witness. What did God say to these people repeatedly? “Watch and see how I work amongst you.” There is something particularly interesting about watching. It is a looking at something, in most cases at something other than yourself. This is how witnessing happens so testimony can be born. It is interesting that “edah” connotes such ideas as “duplicating“, “repeating”, and “recording” since these concepts clearly involve constraint by what is observed.
-----Now we can see the more useful side of “sober”. “Constraint” is “the state of being checked, restricted, or compelled to avoid or perform some action.” I was born on a fish hatchery. I thank God for that, because trout are the peaches of fresh water. They bruise and injure more than just easily. They are bruises and injuries waiting to be. Fresh water always must flow through their living space, which means the screens retaining them must be cleaned regularly, or they will dam up and burst, releasing all your fresh-water peaches to the great downstream. They must be fed continually, but not too much, because they will literally eat themselves to death. And like all other farmed species, their space must be kept germ free. By growing up on Dad’s trout farm I learned how important it is to observe reality and be constrained by it.
-----Twice “sophroneo” is used in the Gospels of the demon possessed, Gadarenes man coming back to his right mind. The context contrasts a demon-crazed mind to the right mind. What does a right mind do? It functions according to what it observes of reality. Paul also sets a comparison into the context of II Cor 5:13 between “…beside ourselves…” (unconstrained) and “…in our right mind…” (constrained.) He tells Titus to exhort the young men to be sophroneo. What would young men be otherwise? They tend to be quite stubborn headed, measuring their ways by their own biases more than by what reality is around them. And Peter tells us that since the end is at hand, we need to be sophroneo and watch. Here, being right minded is directly tied to watching as if “right mind” is a compilation of what is seen. And at Romans 12:3, Paul tells us not to overrate ourselves, as unrealistic thinking does, but to sophroneo ourselves, to measure ourselves according to the reality of what we are.

Love you all,
Steve Corey