For sports fans, few things are more frustrating than when professional athletes overestimate their abilities—making financial demands that can negatively impact their team’s ability to improve by adding other needed pieces to their team’s makeup. This is not only true of older players whose best days are likely behind them. It is also true of young players who think their skills are more developed than they really are. In the NFL, the new CBA’s rookie salary rules are a particular attempt to address this because, in the past, a first round draft choice would demand a pay scale that exceeded players who had already proven their value on the field. This could easily bring friction and even fragmentation to team chemistry. In Major League Baseball, the idea of a player’s worth (or lack thereof) is often determined by an impartial third party—the process called salary arbitration. The fact that such a thing is even necessary reveals that the potential for athletes (and/or teams) to hold unrealistic views of worth and value is very real indeed.
The problem of unrealistic self-views is not limited to professional athletes, however. Followers of Christ can also struggle with over-inflated (or even under-inflated) perspectives of themselves and their gifts, abilities, or contribution to the body of Christ. Some of this is rooted in a misperception of what true humility is. Humility is not self-degradation, poor-mouthing, or some form of false piety. Humility, at its core, is having a realistic self-view. I believe that this is the reason that, arguably, the greatest statement in the Bible on humility (aside from the example of Christ in Philippians 2:5-8) is found in Paul’s letter to the Romans, where he said, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).
“Not to think more highly” is a bold challenge. It does not call us to put ourselves down, but to think realistically. To celebrate what God has given us for His name’s sake and to not claim what He has chosen not to give. It is the call to think rightly about ourselves—and ultimately to define ourselves by who we are in Christ. To try and define ourselves on the basis of talents or gifts will always lead us away from the safe ground we find when we see ourselves as, first and foremost, in Him.
Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain