The second afternoon a man in his thirties came bustling up to the desk. His expensive suit was sharp, and probably custom tailored since it fit his rounded figure without a pull or pucker anywhere. He was well-groomed and carried a leather portfolio that also bespoke of money. Not your typical music teacher, I thought. Most of us are clean and tidy, but few of us dress like lawyers.
He stood before me, but couldn’t be bothered to actually look at me. Instead, he looked around at the passersby and intoned, “And do you have a name tag for me?” in a deep, full-of-himself voice.
“I don’t know,” I answered. “Who are you?”
Then he looked at me—with an incredulous, wide-eyed stare. At last lowly little music-teacher-me had gotten his attention. When he told me his name, I managed to keep a straight face. He was one of the university professors who also performs on the concert stage. He had won some international competitions. In fact, I recognized his name, I had just never seen him in person.
That afternoon when the rush had calmed at the table, I told a couple of my friends about my faux pas. They both laughed. “Good,” they said. “He needed that.”
Do we need something similar? The Proverb writer says it like this: Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him, 26:12.
Why is it we think so well of ourselves? Paul reminded the Corinthians, For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? 1 Cor 4:7. So you have a gift for speaking, for singing, for teaching, for welcoming visitors—any special ability. You wouldn’t have that gift if God hadn’t given it to you, so what are you bragging about?
Why is it we feel so compelled to remind people of our successes? Why must we pat ourselves on the back whenever the opportunity arises, recounting all our various experiences as examples of wisdom for all to learn from? We couldn’t have done any of it by ourselves.
Sometimes those things are used as excuses. Maybe I didn’t do well this time, but in the past you should have seen all I did for the Lord. Or, I know I shouldn’t be bragging, but no one else seems to notice what I’ve done.
God notices. Who else should we care about? Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends, 2 Cor 10:17,18.
I think this happens most with age. As older men and women teaching the younger, we must be careful how we come across. It isn’t an episode of “This Is Your Life,” where we can boast about all the wonderful things we have done in the past, careful to leave out the bad examples, of course. It’s about edifying and encouraging others. That attitude must always be with us.
Don’t worry if people don’t know who you are and what you have done. God holds the name tags, and he won’t have to ask who you are.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Rom 12:3