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(Romans 12:16) Eating Humble Pie

(Romans 12:16) Eating Humble Pie

Ref: Romans 12:16

When the Apostle Paul said that 'in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor free,' he was proclaiming a truth that is wonderful in theory, but difficult in practice. It seems that as soon as we step foot in church on Sunday mornings, our own prejudices and biases come out in a number of ways. That's why we need to keep eating "humble pie" as often as we can. We can't be spiritually healthy without it.


“Eating Humble Pie”

Romans 12:16

In the 17th century, Lords of the Manor often held elaborate hunting expeditions . . . they would camp out in the open, complete with moving kitchens, dressing rooms and libraries.  The tents that followed were magnificent and it wasn’t unusual for the aristocracy of Great Britain to have dozens of guests, musicians and many servants along with them.

After they successfully shot and killed a number of deer, the expedition would turn into a festival of merry-making with plenty to eat and drink.  The host of servants however, never got any venison to eat.  Although they did all the work, the rich ate the venison, while the servants were all too happy to be given the remaining organs of the deer known as humbles, from which they created their own meal.  Often the umbles were cleaned, prepared and then along with vegetables and fruit, covered in dough and baked . . . coming out looking very much like a pie. The servants referred to this special meal as umble pie. 
Adapted from

This phrase would change over the course of time and come to refer eventually to someone who might be forced to live in a state of humble circumstances . . . “they ate humble pie.”  The phrase also came to refer to someone who had been taken down a notch or two because of some mistake or failure . . . he was said to be “eating his humble pie.”

That’s what happened yesterday to State, right? 

They lost . . . they didn’t score as many points, right?  I’m not trying to rub it in . . . I’m just proving my point.

Nobody likes to eat humble pie . . . it doesn’t go down easily, does it.  In fact, I have never seen “Humble Pie” on any menu.

It’s human nature to stay away from that stuff.  To love yourself and promote yourself and advertise yourself and defend yourself . . . don’t step down a notch or two . . . certainly not willingly!

Maybe you know someone – you work with them or for them or go to school with them and you’d love to see them eat a slice of humble pie.

Maybe you’re living with someone like that – I don’t want a show of hands!

I read recently about a woman who had been trying for years to persuade her egotistical husband to put an end to the idea that he and he alone was better than everybody else.  He never stopped talking about himself; he was first in sales in the office, first on the list for the next promotion; he enjoyed tennis and gold, but only when he won . . . in any case, they were at the State Fair and this man’s long-suffering wife watched with interest when he stepped up on one of those fortune telling scales – describes who you are and gives your weight.  He dropped a coin into the slot and the lights began to whirl and the dial on the scales began to move back and forth.  Finally, it stopped and out came a little card which read, “You are a born leader, with superior intelligence, quick wit and a charming personality; all this makes you most attractive to the opposite sex.”  The man handed the card to his wife and triumphantly said, “Ha, read that!”  She did, then she turned the card over and said, “They got your weight wrong too.”
Michael Hodgin, 1001 More Humorous Illustrations, (Zondervan, 1998), p. 263

In our last session, we began a study of grace – this active, dynamic grace factor that distinguishes us as a people of God. 

Our lives are marked with grace . . . our conversations and our activities and our relationships marked by that same quality that so marks the character of our Lord – he is known by us for His amazing grace.

Paul is not pulling any punches . . . his quill is dipped in the reality of life . . . and he writes in clear, undeniable, unavoidable language.

There just aren’t any loopholes in Romans chapter 12.  If we belong to a gracious God, here are real-life situations where we are to be identified as a gracious people.

In verses 14 and 15 are challenged to be gracious to people who are rejoicing.  We are to be gracious to the heartbroken and even gracious to the heartbreakers.

Now, in verse 16, we’re introduced to several more, real-life situations.  Notice, “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly.  Do not be wise in your own estimation.

Paul is referring not so much to unanimity, as he is harmony.

When Paul exhorts the church in Corinth and in Ephesus and in  Philippi and here in Rome to be of the same mind (phroneo), he was not saying, “Everybody has to think alike!” 

Paul is referring to “a kind of harmony,” one author wrote, “which proceeds from a common object, common hopes and common desires.”

William R. Newell, Romans (Moody Press, 1938), p. 473

You may be very different from others in the body; but you have the same object of faith; you have the same hope . . . you have the same desire to glorify God.

This is how the church can be so diversified and yet so unified!

That happened yesterday at the State/Carolina game – thousands of screaming fans . . . cheering on the same team, right?  They were probably very different from one another, except for two things: they all wore red and, secondly, they hated everybody wearing blue. 

They had a united passion . . . to win? 

And I noticed on the television screen as I watched the seconds tick away, that there were a few fans who showed up, risking their lives by wearing blue.  But they also had the same desire, right?  To make it out of the stadium alive.

When Paul says, “be of the same mind toward one another,” he is telling us that one of the marks of graciousness is harmony. 

Not uniformity, but unity . . . and the outward evidence of unity is harmony.

We’ve entered the final stages of a building program which will tax this blessing of harmony.  It’s so easy for people to say, why aren’t we building that, or why are we doing this, or why aren’t we using our money for that . . . couldn’t we do without this, or how can we do without that . . . the health of this church will be seen in the level of harmony as we follow our leaders and ultimately follow THE Leader.

Harmony says, “even though I don’t have any pre-schooler’s let’s give the children everything we possibly can; let’s give the teenagers and the college students everything we can; let’s give the men and the singles and the seniors everything we can . . . and for goodness sake, let’s give the women as many bathrooms this time as we can build, amen?

I’m reading a little paperback by Warren Wiersbe entitled, On Being a Servant of God.”  In it he reminded me all that we have never been asked by God to manufacture unity in the church.  It’s already there.  We are already one in Christ (Galatians 3:28).  But we do have the obligation to maintain the unity that Jesus Christ died to create – so here’s a common passion – endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3)

Adapted from Warren W. Wiersbe, On Being A Servant of God, (Baker Books, 1993), p 49

It is not our responsibility to produce unity in the church – it is our responsibility to protect it. 

One of the attributes of the true church is unity – one body!  Now our actions should match our attributes!

And one of the marks of a gracious people of God is not that they have the same personality, but that they have the same purpose.

Simply put, this first phrase is nothing less than a call from the Apostle Paul to get along! 

Remember from verse 10, there is the principle of devotion to one another in love; there is the principle of deference to one another – giving preference to one another in honor . . . listen, these are the marks of a gracious people and the world can only wonder how people, with so many opinions and so many tastes and so many backgrounds and so many different accents, can get along.

One answer . . . we who belong to a God of grace, are a people of grace.  

Now, you could divide verse 16 according to these three phrases which act out the same Greek root word – phron: phronountes and phronimoi) – they all relate to thinking or setting your mind on or considering. 

In fact you could circle that word as it is translated “mind” in your text – be of the same mind (phronountes; 16a);  do not be haughty in mind (phronountes; 16b);  do not be wise (phronimoi)  – literally don’t be high minded (16c).

It’s obvious that this one word, repeated three times in the text is emphasized for a reason.

Remember how Romans 12 began by calling us to be transformed by the renewing of our, what?  Our minds!

Coming to Christ doesn’t mean you begin to think a little differently from the world; coming to Christ means you have a new mind.

A new mind-set . . . a new perspective . . . a transformed way of thinking.

And one of the most significant changes in the believer is how we think about each other!

Now, in verse 16, Paul gives us three very specific ways to think.  And we can easily divide these three phrases and rewrite verse 16 into the form of three tests of gracious thinking!

The first phrase would deliver 1. the test of harmony.

Be of the same mind toward one another.

Harmony in the body of Christ is as important as harmony in the human body.  When there is disharmony in our physical bodies, with one group of cells devouring another group of cells, we call that cancer . . . it’s life-threatening.

It is no less serious to the local body of believers.

You go to the doctor to get your physical . . . how important are the results to you?  How concerned are you?  Extremely.

In my message recently to the student body at Shepherds seminary’s fall convocation, I shared how a couple of months ago, for the first time in my adult life, I was lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to an IV, preparing for an outpatient procedure.  I had arrived at that age when I was told to have an endoscope and a colonoscopy.  It was a delightful time.  It had been 30 years since any kind of hospital visit of any kind . . . I lay in that bed, dressed in that lovely blue gown, who invented that thing – you only get the front half!  The nurse came in and said she needed to take my temperature and my blood pressure.  I mumbled, sure . . . she enclosed my upper arm with that blood pressure wrap and took it . . . then said stopped and said to me, “Now listen, honey – which reminded me I was in the South where everyone is honey – “Listen honey, your blood pressure is way out of line – I think what you need to do is think some happy thoughts.”  I said, “What?”  She said, “That’s right, you need to think happy thoughts and I’ll take your blood pressure again.”  What kind of theology is that? 

It was embarrassing to know that my inner turmoil and worry over that examination could be graphed!  So I thought happy thoughts – she took my blood pressure again and said, “Now, honey, that’s more like it.”

Does it ever bother us that we can have a good physical examination, but not pass a spiritual examination.

Here’s one of them – the spiritual test of harmony – look at it again – be of the same mind toward one another.  I can just hear that nurse saying, “Think happy thoughts about each other.”

That’s actually very good theology.

2.  The second phrase will deliver the second test; it is the test of impartiality.

Paul writes on, “Do not be haughty in mind, (and he expects everyone to say, “c’mon Paul, we’re not haughty” so he adds, associate with the lowly

The first test asked the question, “Are you stubborn?”

This test asks the question, “Are you a snob?”

Will you associate with the lowly . . . with people who grew up on the other side of the tracks. 

  • Will the white collar associate with the blue collar;
  • Will the Hispanic and the Portuguese get along;
  • Will the Chinese and the Taiwanese serve together in the church;
  • Will the black man and a white man share a hymnbook;
  • Will the doctor and the mechanic laugh together in church;
  • Will the home-schooler and the public school principle care about each other;
  • Will the business woman and the mother of 6 share a cup of coffee together;
  • Will the old man seek to understand the young man;
  • Will the single appreciate the marriage conference at church;
  • Will the empty nesters pray for the single parents;
  • Will the drummer thank the violinist;
  • Will the PhD’s be taught in Sunday school by a college drop-out.

Paul gives us the test – do not be haughty in your thinking – will you partition your life from others or participate with others.

One of Colonial’s first charter members, was a native North Carolinian.  She’d lived in Cary her whole life.  Our church was a few weeks old and she showed up . . . an older woman, in her 70’s who didn’t say much, but who came to love Colonial. 

I went to see her a couple of times . . . she couldn’t get around much . . . she lived in the same little house she’d lived in for decades – no more than 800 square feet, with bare wooden floors, before wooden floors were popular.  When I showed up,  she’d say, “C’mon in preacher . . . and she’d spit out her chewing tobacco . . . and put in her teeth.”

That woman was part of our early days . . . before she went home to be with the Lord, where I’m sure she’s stopped chewing tobacco and she has real teeth again.

She happened to worship in the same assembly as an IBM executive . . . a medical doctor . . . a former secretary from the pentagon who worked for the joint chiefs of staff . . . a mechanic . . . a painter . . . a campus missionary . . . some housewives, college students and a pile of kids.

The church doesn’t pull from one side of the railroad tracks or another.

The average church planter graduating from seminary today is advised to target his audience . . . target an income bracket . . . to advertise specifically to attract the upper class . . . to pursue a certain segment of society.

That happens to be disgusting!

I think Paul made it very clear . . . don’t be haughty in mind, but associate with ordinary people.  Don’t think others are beneath you or out of your class.

In one of his books, I can’t remember which one, Chuck Swindoll tells the story of some children in his neighborhood who worked long and hard on their little cardboard clubhouse.  This was the place where they would meet together, play and have fun.  Since a clubhouse has to have membership rules, they came up with these three:

            Nobody act big.

            Nobody act like your worthless either;

            Everybody act medium.

That’s Romans 12:16 to the T!

            Nobody in here can be a big-shot;

            Nobody in here act like you’re worthless either;

When you enter this special place, everybody just act average.

Those ought to be new rules for membership in the church.

Listen, I’ve had people over the years say things, thinking they are giving me a compliment when they say to me like one man who said, “You pastor that church . . . I’ve heard that anybody who’s anybody goes over there.”

How tragic is that?

I don’t want be in a church of somebodies;  I want to be in a church of redeemed nobodies, who follow a Divine Somebody.

By the way, this same word “lowly” in Romans 12:16 appears  in Matthew 11:29 where Jesus Christ describes himself, “for I am meek and lowly – same word.”  Paul wrote, “Our Lord humbled Himself, taking on the form of a bond-servant.” (Philippians 2:7)

The Lord pulled a chair up to the table where the servants ate and willingly took a piece of humble pie and ate it without any hesitation.

He wasn’t born into a high ranking family – they wondered in Matthew 13:55, “Is this not the carpenter’s son.”

He had no special property or wealth, “for the son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58).

He had no special upbringing, “for can anything good come out of Nazareth”  in other words, “that crummy little town where nothing interesting happened and nobody important came from” (John 1:46).

He certainly didn’t have a special reputation – he was a friend of crooked tax-collectors and sinners (Luke 7:34)

No special physique . . . Isaiah described him as unattractive (Isaiah 53:2).

No special record of success . . . He was despised and rejected (Isaiah 53:3).  Even His business partners, so to speak, abandoned Him at the hour of His greatest crisis.

Let me paraphrase what Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “And what kind of people has He chosen as His follower?  He has not chosen people who are wise in the ways of the world; He has not chosen many noble born or well connected; but look, instead Christ has chosen the unskilled laborer, the one who isn’t a mover and shaker in the world system; He has chosen people who are looked down on as unsophisticated and ordinary . . . these are the ones who make up the majority of the church, so that no one can boast.”  (I Corinthians 1:26-29)

The point is, there is no aristocracy in the church; no place for an elite upper-crust.  

John MacArthur, Romans (Moody Press, 1994), p. 199

The church should be marked as an association of ordinary people.

Nobody acts big or small . . . just medium.

Before we leave this second phrase, I think it’s interesting to note that Paul’s word for “lowly” (tapeinois) can be understood two different ways, depending on how it is understood. 

If translated as neuter, it would be understood as lowly or ordinary things; if it is translated as masculine (they are spelled the same way), in that case, it would read, lowly or ordinary mankind.

In cases like these, the context would have to determine whether it was “things” or “mankind”.  But the context doesn’t help here. 

After studying this textual issue, I believe the Spirit of God purposefully moved Paul along to write something that would be ambiguous.  Why?  So we could take it both ways!

Whichever way you take it, it becomes a great test of graciousness.

A gracious believer doesn’t turn up his nose to ordinary tasks in the church – he isn’t above sweeping the floor or cleaning up after kids or watering the grass; 

Furthermore, a gracious believer isn’t above ordinary people – he doesn’t stick his nose in the air as he walks by someone he thinks isn’t in the same class.

Either one has no place in the church . . . it is the opposite of graciousness.

The main course in the church is humble pie.  If you won’t have a slice with the servants . . . you probably aren’t developing that gracious spirit that should mark the people of God.

3.  There’s one more test of gracious thinking – the last phrase of verse 16 delivers the test of accountability.  Paul writes, “Do not be wise – high minded – in your own estimation.”

Let me put it plain English;

  • The first phrase tested our harmony and asked, “Are you stubborn?”
  • The second, tested our impartiality and asked, “Are you stand-offish?”
  • This third phrase tests our accountability and asks, “Are you stuck on yourself?”

Don’t be wise in your own estimation.  Which is another way of saying, “Don’t be stuck on yourself.”

The trouble is, the natural man is incurably addicted to himself!

Don’t be high minded in your own conceits.   Which is exactly what the natural man or unbeliever does, right?

His greatest thoughts are of himself . . . his highest thoughts are to do something for himself . . . his grandest thoughts are all about himself.

He is wise in his own eyes . . . his own conceits.  The only Biblical writers to use this same phrase are Paul and Solomon.

Solomon said, it this way . . . “Do you see a man who wise in his own eyes?  There is more hope for a fool than in him.” (Proverbs 26:12)

Later in verse 16. Solomon wrote, “The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can give a discreet answer.”

In other words, everybody knows the man is a sluggard – a loaf – a  lazy man, but if he’s ever challenged on it and held accountable for it, he will defend himself better than seven men put together, who are known for their oratorical skill.

He’s unaccountable!  He’s stuck on his impression of himself; he is above correction and beyond rebuke.

But then, the Holy Spirit performs the miracle of grace – and this man’s eyes are open to his sin and need for the Savior; and He comes to place his faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation. 

And then he enters the church and discovers how much transformation needs to occur in order to renew his mind!

In the world he’s been told to always be on top of his game, but in the church he’s informed that he doesn’t always have to be right; and that he probably isn’t.

So be open . . . be honest . . . be accountable; God as designed us to need one another’s counsel and perspective.  Learn to laugh at yourself and admit when you’re wrong.

Those are probably two of the clearest evidences that you are accountable . . . you can laugh at yourself as someone or something reveals who you are and you can admit when you’re wrong.

Neither one is ever easy . . . but they are always profitable.

A. W. Tozer said, “Never be afraid of honest criticism.  If the critic is wrong, you can help him; and if you’re wrong, he can help you.  Either way, somebody’s helped!”
Wiersbe, p. 52

You know the old saying . . . someone said it to Charlie Brown in the comic strip, “Well, just remember that you learn more from your failures than from your successes.”  To which Charlie Brown said, “That makes me the smartest person in the world!”

Will you own up to it?  Or resist it?

Are you stubborn?

Are you stand-offish?

Are you stuck on yourself?

It’s possible to be all of that inside the assembly.  Otherwise Paul would have never written this to the redeemed in Rome.

Paul is saying, in effect, to us all, “I highly recommend you develop a taste for humble pie . . . pull up a chair with the servants and dig in . . . it will truly make you a man or woman of grace . . . usable by God.”

Hudson Taylor, the great missionary who laid the foundation of the gospel in China several centuries ago, said on one occasion, “I often think that God must have been looking for someone small enough and weak enough for Him to use . . . and He found me.”
R. Kent Hughes, 1001 Great Stories and Quotes, (Tyndale House, 1998), p. 213

That’s the heart of it . . .

Becoming a gracious servant, available to experience the blessing of God and able to become a blessing for God to everybody else.


David . . . close with this??  I may quote it in my prayer . . . don’t know . . . if it works, if not, your choice.

When I survey the wondrous cross,

On which the Prince of glory died

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

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