…Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate….
— Romans 12:16

I’ll never forget the time Denise and I were sitting in a restaurant with a well-known businessman, and this man embarrassed us so badly that we decided we would never go to dinner with him again. My wife and I had been regularly visiting this particular restaurant because we had met a waitress there whom the Lord had really put on our hearts. We didn’t frequent that restaurant because we liked the food; we went there because we wanted to see this young lady come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

This businessman had contacted us and asked to visit with us. So we decided to take him to dinner at this restaurant where we had been sharing the message of Jesus with this waitress and with many of the other people who worked there.

All prospects for a nice dinner with our guest were soon shattered, however, because the man began to speak to the waiters and waitresses as if they were dogs! He kept brusquely ordering them to do this and that for him; meanwhile, the waitress — our friend whom we were trying to win to Jesus — looked over at us in shock! No one in that restaurant had ever received such horrible treatment from Denise or me.

*[If you started reading this from your email, begin reading here.]

bookmark2As the evening wore on, the situation grew even worse. Our guest began to verbally abuse the waiters and waitresses. He told me, “I hope you don’t mind how I talk to the servers, but they are here to serve me, and I intend to be served well.”

With that, the man again started to rudely bark out more orders to the restaurant staff. Then he starting poking fun at their culture and laughing at them for being Russians. He flashed his Rolex watch and bragged to the servers about his luxury automobile and his massive residence back home. He did everything but say, “I’m better, smarter, and richer than any of you — and I don’t want you to ever forget it.”

Then this businessman asked the servers if they went to church anywhere. How I wished he had kept the Lord out of the conversation, because he was being such a poor example of Jesus Christ!

As dinner was served by fretful restaurant workers, Denise and I tried to turn the conversation to spiritual things. We endeavored to tell our guest about what God was doing in our lives and in our ministry, but it was obvious that he only wanted to talk about things that he thought would impress us. In reality, however, this man was consumed with himself, and we were completely unimpressed with him. He was rude and crude and a very poor example of a Christian businessman.

I excused myself to go to the restroom, but my real purpose in leaving the table was to get an opportunity to go directly to the kitchen and personally apologize for the offensive treatment the entire staff was enduring that night. I pushed open the double doors and walked into the kitchen as if I were a part of the staff; then I asked all the waiters and waitresses to come hear what I had to tell them.

Once they were gathered around me, I apologized profusely for what was happening at our table. They looked at me despondently and said, “Wow, that man is horrible. We are so thankful that you came back here to talk to us. We know that you and your wife are not like that man.”

It simply breaks my heart when I see Christians like this businessman who think too highly of themselves. People like this “speak down” to others they perceive to be lower than they are. This prideful attitude should never be a part of a committed Christian’s behavior. The apostle Paul told us, “…Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate….”

The word “mind” is from the Greek word phroneo. It means to think, to consider, or to ponder. It carries the idea of intense reflection. Furthermore, the Greek uses a negative, which makes this verse a strong prohibition. This means it could be better translated, “…Stop fixating on high things.…” Paul is commanding us not to preoccupy ourselves with or be consumed by “high things.” The words “high things” are from the Greek words ta hupsela. In this verse, they refer to the opinions and behavior patterns that accompany a person who has an attitude of superiority.

The apostle Paul tells us that instead of having this shameful attitude of superiority, we need to learn how to “…condescend to men of low estate….” The word “condescend” is the Greek word sunapago. This is a strange word to be used in this verse, for it is a compound of the words sun — which means together with; the word apo — which means away; and the word ago — which means to be led. A number of scholars say this word conveys the message that those who think too highly of themselves need to move away from (apo) such exalted thinking of themselves and be led (ago) to join or to associate with (sun) men of low estate. I believe that this is exactly what Paul had in mind when he chose to use the word sunapago.

But what does the Bible mean when it speaks of men of “low estate”? The Greek word for “low estate” is actually the word tapeinos, which is the Greek word that means to be humble, modest, simple, and unpretentious. In other words, the word tapeinos describes common, ordinary, everyday, normal people. It does not mean poor.

There are many proud and arrogant poor people, just as there are many humble wealthy people. The word tapeinos (“low estate” or “humble”) doesn’t refer to a person’s financial status; rather, it refers to his attitude toward life, toward himself, and toward others. Regardless of his station in life, he has never allowed himself to think of himself as better than others.

Although there are several possible interpretations of this verse, this is the one I like the most:

“…Stop fixating on things that make you think too highly of yourself and that contribute to an attitude of superiority. You need to leave that snooty thinking behind and come back down to earth so you can learn how to associate with common, ordinary, everyday, normal people….”

I don’t know if you have ever struggled with an attitude of superiority, but if you have, isn’t it time for you to leave behind that way of thinking once and for all? You are not any better than other people. You came into the world the same way everyone else did, and you will leave exactly as everyone else leaves. You were purchased and washed with the same blood of Jesus that is available to every other soul on planet earth.

Even if you have more education, more money, and a higher status in society than most people, that doesn’t make you better. In fact, these privileges make you more responsible, for God expects you to come down to a level where you can use your gifts, talents, and money to be a greater blessing to people!

Especially during this holiday season of the year when so many people are struggling to make ends meet, why don’t you think of ways that you can minister to people in your life whom you normally wouldn’t reach out to? Think of what a difference you can make in someone else’s life by simply reaching out to bless him or her in some special way. Don’t let yourself get away with thinking you’re too busy or too high and mighty to do this, because you’re not. Don’t forget — someone once did this for you; now it is your time to do it for someone else.

sparking gems from the greek

My Prayer for Today

Lord, thank You for speaking to me today. Forgive me for the times I’ve acted like I was better than other people. I am sorry for that behavior, and I don’t ever want to do it again. I ask You to convict me when I start to act this way and to show me how to quickly change my behavior. I really want to be an example that will make people want to know Jesus, so help me to change any part of my behavior that does not give a proper impression of Your holy character.

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

sparking gems from the greek

My Confession for Today

I confess that I do not have a superior attitude about myself. I have the mind of Christ, and I demonstrate an attitude of love and acceptance to everyone I meet. When people walk away from me, they feel like they have been accepted, embraced, and treated with respect. Every day the Holy Spirit is teaching me more about how to give others a sense of value about themselves. I thank God that an attitude of superiority has no place in me and that each day I am getting better at reaching out to others to benefit and bless their lives.

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

sparking gems from the greek

Questions to Answer

1. Have you ever encountered a person like the one I described at the beginning of today’s Sparkling Gem? How did that person’s attitude of superiority affect you and others?

2. Have you ever been guilty of having such an attitude? Do you have this attitude in any area of your life right now? If the answer is yes, in what area of your life do you think of yourself as being better than other people?

3. Now that you know this attitude is not acceptable with the Lord, what are you going to do to change your attitude and actions? What steps can you take to start changing the way you relate to people whom you have previously treated as being “less” than you?