Esteem Others Better

In responding to sin and brokenness I must avoid unholy extremes: I must be repulsed by sin, hating any trace of it in myself or others (Jud 1:23), yet I must not look down on anyone with disdain or contempt. The one error ignores God’s heart (Ps 97:10a); the other ignores my own. (Pr 20:9)

uglybirdContempt, finding others beneath me, unworthy of my company, is judging them; it’s walking in pride, thinking of myself more highly than I ought (Ro 12:3); it’s an abomination to God. (Pr 16:5)

Any goodness within me is God’s grace (1Co 15:10), not something to boast in. (1Co 1:29) God help me esteem others better than myself (Php 2:3), considering that if I were in their shoes I’d probably be doing worse: “but for the grace of God, there go I.”

There’s no room for contempt in a spirit-filled walk. Whatever sin, brokeness or deception I perceive in others, Father remind me how You’re delivering me from my own ignorance and depravity. Give me Your heart for justice (Mi 6:8), and Your compassion and sorrow for sinners (Php 3:18); warn them through me with holy tears (Ac 20:31), neither excusing nor minimizing their sin … nor my own. (1Ti 1:15)

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8 thoughts on “Esteem Others Better”

  1. I had a chance to practice this truth: my wife needed me to go to the store late one night so instead of arguing with her, thinking that I should esteem her better, I put her needs first, esteeming them above my own. As I thought about it, esteeming someone better is to LOVE them. If I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me Nothing, and to give up my body to be burned, generally would cost me my life, but it profits me nothing, without the Love of G-d.

  2. I would definitely agree that love and esteem are similar, and that we should not neglect either, yet don’t we miss something significant if we attempt to equate them?

    For example:
    • Can I love someone (seek their good) but still think of myself as better (inherently more righteous, holy, etc.) than they are? Certainly, I do this quite easily and naturally.
    • Can I esteem someone better than myself but not love them? Certainly, I experience envy in just this way.

    In “esteeming her needs as above my own” I think you were loving your wife (seeking her good), but this may still leave room for some resentment (“I will put her first, but she really shouldn’t be complaining and treating me this way; I don’t do this to her!”) This is getting at the “cheerful giver part.” The “esteeming” bit seems to deal more with our expectations and evaluations of others relative to ourselves in a way that “love” does not.

    I think both these qualities have their high place in the structure of virtue, but I also think they have their distinct places and should not be confused.

  3. Esteeming others better than myself evidently means that I consider others intrinsically morally superior to myself, that I am morally inferior to everyone else. Perhaps this is Paul’s sentiment when he declares himself to be the least of all believers (“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Ep 3:8), and the chief of sinners. (“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” 1Ti 1:15)

  4. See note in Judge Not.

    Some translations have “more important” instead of “better” in Php 2:3. Importance relates to value, yet this springs from being made in the image of God: we all have equal importance and value.

  5. It is argued, reasonably well, that the context of Php 2 isn’t as much about moral goodness as it is about serving others, being concerned for them (vs 4), putting them first. In verse 5, God calls us to the servant mentality of Christ, and Christ could not consider others to be morally superior to Himself.

    My thought here is to agree in part: the context isn’t focused on morality; its thrust truly is in humility and service. Yet I would argue that God is, in fact, orienting us in humility and service as He calls us to esteem others our moral superiors, and it is easily shown that any other option in our self-estimation is presumption.

    Claiming that having the mind of Christ precludes this orientation is comparing apples to oranges: there are certain things God calls us to in which Christ cannot be our example: He never sinned, cannot have sinned; He cannot repent, seek forgiveness, or afflict Himself over His sins, but we must do so as a pattern of life.

    For each of us to esteem all others morally superior to ourselves profoundly affects us in many ways. It’s much more natural to serve others and defer to them from such a posture, and to avoid strife, pride and conceit.

    Further, who can even begin to presume that we’ve earned or maintained salvation from the posture of humility? Who can entertain the slightest hint that salvation is not secure, that we can lose it, while esteeming that we’re indeed the worst of moral creatures, that on our best day, we’re as filthy rags? (Is 64:6) Nay! The posture of true humility clings to the doctrines of grace as if to life itself. Spiritual life can make no sense apart from them. I think it’s only from this place that we can truly apprehend them.

  6. It is also important to note that esteem does not necessarily mean conclude. Giving others the benefit of the doubt is not the same as making a moral judgement and forming a conclusion.

    Also, the fact that we’re all prone to judging others suggests that it must and will be done, and that we’d rather do it our own way than let God have the final say. It’s a form of usurping the place and role of God, something our old man is incessantly after.

  7. To put this even more plainly, giving it some shoe leather so to speak, if anyone were to ask me who, in my opinion, is the most evil person that I have ever met, or heard about, and I did not promptly and honestly answer that it is likely my very self, then this is an evidence of Pride remaining in me.

  8. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” (Ga 6:3) Nothing is nothing, not something. Thinking of myself as anything above nothing, any positive value on a numerical scale between 0 and 100, no matter how small, is presumption and self-deception.

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