2 Corinthians 10:12
For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves…
At the first reading we might scarcely see any distinction between the two faults spoken of. "Measuring themselves by themselve," and "comparing themselves with themselves," where is the difference? This habit of measuring self by self may arise from various causes.
1. It may arise from conceit. The man thinks himself perfect. Or, if not perfect — which no one says, or perhaps thinks — still sufficiently so for practical purposes. He needs no thorough remodelling; he may still be his own measure, though the measure itself may bear a little repairing to bring it up to statute and regulation. But the measuring of himself by himself may have another explanation.
2. Isolation will account for it. A man lives alone, does his own work, does not read, does not mix with others, never sees either self-denial or courage or patience or nobleness exemplified in life or action — how can he measure himself by any one or anything but himself?
3. A third account of it might be that sort of sluggishness and stupidity of the moral sense which acquiesces in the thing that is, thinks it will do, hopes all will come right. St. Paul does not "presume" or "deign" to make himself of the number. How palpably the opposite of that heroic soul which "counted not itself to have apprehended"! Self-measuring is one of the two faults, let us turn now to the other. "Comparing themselves with themselves, they are not wise." Here the singular has become plural. The standard of the individual has become the standard of a multitude. The men spoken of compare themselves with themselves after all, only the self which they make their measure is a plural self, a composite self, a self of surroundings and circumstances, an "environment" of beings just like themselves, reflections of their own thought, their own principle, and their own judgment. This is, or may be, a less unlovely person than the former. He is no solitary, and he is no pendant, and he is no misanthrope. He does not profess himself the one wise man, or the one important man, or the one perfect. He is willing to let in some light upon the self-life. But it is a limited light. It is the light of his own little world. It may be a very little world. Some people — especially among the poor — pride themselves upon their littleness. They make it a merit not to go about houses. Men bound themselves by the workshop, the office, or the counting-house — women literally by the home. Yet within this fraction of the race multitudes of individual men and women are absolutely cribbed and cabined. They think within it, they judge within it, they act within it — worse still, they aspire within it. Not one idea comes to them but from it. St. Paul says that they who are described by either of these titles, self-measurers by self, or self-comparers with each other, "are not wise." He might have put it more strongly. A man might be unwise, though applying a right standard to himself, because he was condemned by it, because he did not live up to it. But the man whose measure is self, or whose self-comparison is with other selves, as fallible and as prejudiced and as half-informed and as lazy-minded as himself, has no chance and no peradventure and no possibility of wisdom. He is on the wrong tack. "Measuring themselves by themselves, they are not wise." What is to be done? Evidently self is the inordinate, the exaggerated, the overgrown thing. Self is here the thing which must be counteracted, combated, taught its place. "Measuring themselves by themselves," they must be taught to measure themselves by something else. Almost anything will be a better standard. And now we must take the two men of the text, each by the hand, and bid them rise to a life higher for them both. We shall bid them to rest in no earthly heroism, and to acquiesce in no human example of virtue. We shall carry them on, without pause or dallying, to the contemplation of One in the presence of whose beauty and glory all such minor excellences pale and fade away.
Parallel VersesKJV: For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
WEB: For we are not bold to number or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves. But they themselves, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves with themselves, are without understanding.