It seems odd that Paul wrote to the Roman church telling them to “outdo” one another. When I’ve ever wanted to outdo someone, it’s usually because I want attention or I want to be better at something. Basically, it was about me and me and me.
But the outdoing Paul wants us to do is not that kind. Romans 12:10 in the ESV says, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
Other versions say “honor others above yourselves” or “take delight in showing honor.”
The kind of outdoing Paul tells us to do goes against the kind of outdoing we’re used to doing. Instead of outdoing each other in seeking honor, Paul urges us to outdo one another in showing honor.
Jesus gives us an example of what seeking honor looks like. He warns his disciples about what they see some of the religious leaders doing in Matthew 23.
5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
Before we start feeling good about ourselves because we think we don’t do this, stop. We’ve all done it and do it, only without the phylacteries and tassels. We brag and gloat and work hard for people to see all the good stuff in our lives. This happens on playgrounds, in school cafeterias and on basketball courts. It happens on news discussion panels, in political speeches, and on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. It happens at home, work, the gym and church. Wherever any number of people are gathered, physically or virtually, this can happen.
My favorite translation of verse 10 of Romans 12 is from the Message. The last part of the verse says, “practice playing second fiddle.”
Just think how much would change if we practiced this.
What a difference between seeking honor and showing honor! The difference can mean changed lives and restored relationships. Better marriages, life-giving friendships, less conflict at work, peace and joy.
Unfortunately, I tend to seek it more than show it, but with God’s help, I will get better and better at the best kind of outdoing.
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