When we come alongside someone to help them, it is vital that we do so humbly. But what does that mean exactly?
Here are four keys from Galatians 6.
1. Coming alongside humbly means you come gently, not harshly.
Paul says in verse 1, “Restore one another in a spirit of gentleness.”
Gentleness is basically humility in action. It means you don’t come in there like you are better than the person. It means you don’t come in there with a self-righteous spirit. It means you don’t come in there just knocking the person over with angry words. Instead as you come, there’s an approachability to you. As you come, you are talking to the person like they are a person, as you come you are relating to them the way you would want them to relate to you if you were in their shoes.
It means as you talk to the person your love for them is more obvious than your desire to prove them wrong. It means there is a willingness to listen and make sure you have really heard exactly what is going on their lives. It means you don’t say more than you know and speak authoritatively about stuff you really have no right to speak authoritatively about.
2. Coming alongside humbly means you remember you are a sinner too.
Paul says in verse 1, “Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
Keep watch on yourself means you can’t just look at the other person, you have to look at yourself. And the reason you have to look at yourself is because you can be tempted by sin too. You can get so focused on the other person and how they were tempted that you can forget you can get tempted too.
There is a danger as we talk about developing life transforming relationships to sort of think of ourselves as above the people that we are wanting to help and you know Paul just blows that idea out of the water. He says o.k. you are going to get in there and you are going to start wanting to work with other people, that’s right you need to do that, but watch out as you do that you aren’t overwhelmed by the same sin or another sin.
This is such an important thing for Paul to say because often when you are helping people, you find that they are struggling with different sins than you are or at least it looks like it at first and so you are kind of tempted to think well you know I better help this guy, this poor, weak sinner, and because whatever is tempting him, you have struggled with yet, you sort of think of yourself as being a little better and Paul’s like man, if you are thinking like that you are setting yourself up for a big fall. Instead of getting all conceited, watch yourself, that you are not tempted and overtaken by a sin suddenly either.
If you are going to develop life-transforming relationships, you can’t think of yourself as immune from temptation, as Mr. or Mrs. Spiritual Superhero, because if you do that, what is going to happen, is you are going to be harsh, self-importance based on self-ignorance is a major hindrance to life transforming relationships, the self-ignorant/important man is rough with people; instead you need to recognize you are not all that different than the person you are trying to work with and that’s going to create a spirit of gentleness.
3. Coming alongside humbly means is not having too high an opinion of yourself.
“For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
It seems like Paul here is continuing on with this idea of watching ourselves and explaining it and he says look, you have to do this, for if you think you are something when you are nothing, all you are doing is fooling yourself.
What can happen when you see someone else’s sin is that it makes you feel better about yourself. The low opinion you have of that person leads to a high opinion of yourself. We used to have shows in the United States where people would get on those talk shows and talk about how messed up their lives were and people loved those shows, why because watching up how messed up other people’s lives are can make you proud about your own.
And Paul’s saying as you get involved in helping people, don’t let that start happening in your mind. Because if it does, you are ruining all the help you are giving. If you look back at the verse this is sort of a tragic picture, you have got this guy who is going to help someone else, but he doesn’t have a proper view of himself, he thinks he is something and really what is he is, he is self-deceived, and he’s not going to be of much help to anyone as a result.
Because you know what the truth is, apart from Christ, we are all nothing. Spiritually. We’ve got to apply the gospel to our lives. Man, if we have moved ahead, it is only because of help we have received from Christ. So looking at someone else and feeling all great about yourself is self-deception because while you may not struggle with the same sin they do, you are a sinner just like them.
4. Coming alongside humbly you don’t compare yourself with the person you are helping, instead you focus on honoring God with your actions.
Paul continues and he makes just such an important point, he says “But let each one test his own work and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.”
This explains what Paul means by thinks he is something. We see someone in sin, we compare ourselves to them and we think, yeah we are kind of doing good here. But Paul says instead of comparing yourself with others and boasting about how you are doing, you should take a good, long, hard look at yourself. Test your own work. If you are going to boast, don’t boast in the fact that your neighbor is stuck in a certain sin and you are not. And that’s really what we are doing every time we gossip isn’t it? Look at how bad this person is, and how good I am. Paul says don’t do that. Instead when you see them overtaken by a sin, it should give you pause to really examine yourself and your relationship with the Lord.
Now that’s the main point of what Paul is saying, I am not totally sure what he means when he says, let each one test his work and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone. There are some who think Paul is being sort of funny here, where he is like man you are bragging about how much better you are than the other person, when if you would just slow down and look at yourself, you would see you have no reason to boast. Test your own work and what is going to happen, you are going to see it is so flawed, there’s no way you are going to boast. Others, like say John Calvin, they say no Paul’s not being funny, he’s serious. Test your own work and then if you are doing well, you have reason to boast, not the bad sort of boast where you go around bragging about yourself obviously, but instead the good sort of boast where you are giving thanks to God for the work he’s done in you.
I think that’s probably what Paul is getting at because there are times when Paul himself did this.
And then the reason, the reason you need to examine yourself so carefully is in the next verse where Paul says, “For each one will have to bear his own load” which is I think Paul saying, that each one of us is going to have to stand before God and thinking about the fact that one day God is going to evaluate our lives should make us a little less arrogant in comparing ourselves to others.