Matthew 5:4 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
To think of yourself more highly than you should is to be arrogant, let’s call that high self esteem. To think of yourself more lowly than you should is called low self esteem. To have a correct assessment of self is to be blessed.
Humanity from the start seemed to prefer to hide and use inadequate methods to cover our shame. What are we ashamed of? I, for one, was ashamed that I was not perfect. I felt like I was expected to be, and since I trusted those in “authority” over me, the expectation had to be reasonable, I deduced. However I wasn’t, and it wasn’t.
When I was young I attended Rosemary Boys’ Catholic School in Trinidad. I feel so old telling this story, but… This school and many others on the island still believed in corporal punishment. One of the other traditions of the school, for those preparing to take the national placement test, was to take a mock test every Friday. There was just one catch with that. Those who earned a failing grade got beaten. If you slipped down a grade, you too got beaten, passed or not. You were beaten in front of the entire class up against the black board (this is back when black boards where really black and it wasn’t politically incorrect to call them black boards). Because of this, your test score became extremely important to you. Some of us got beaten every now and again because we were too lazy to study and slipped a grade. Then there were those who just weren’t good enough. No matter how they tried, they were not going to pass the test that was given. To add cruelty to the mix, if you failed, you had to sit at the back of the class. People with the worst grades sat in the back and those with better grades sat up front. Some never left the back row. They were not good enough. This system was used across the school, so as teachers or savvy visitors would visit, they could instantly tell who the bright ones were and also the “not good enough” bunch. The teachers would sometimes talk about the students, and this is one of the things I could imagine them saying: “The only way they could pass this exam is if someone took this test for them!” In my mind this is followed by scandalous laughter.
Hopefully the students in the back row realized that it was a placement test and not a value test. These days I catch glimpses of this scenario all over again. People set up their standards and say to those weaker or just under their influence, “you are only righteous or of value to God if you pass my test.” This is tragic and ironic because the reality is that all of us are on the back row and the only way we’ll ever pass God’s test of righteousness is, in fact, if Jesus imputes his score to us in exchange for ours. We are a mess. Only when we admit and accept that can we own exactly how valuable of a mess we are to God.