The three maxims or proverbs of the Oracle at Delphi were as follows:
As for the first maxim, it seems to fit nicely with Romans 12, where in the context of spiritual gifts we read,
For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith (v.3).
No single, solitary Christian has all the spiritual gifts. Some local assemblies of Christians mistakenly consider the senior pastor (minister, priest, bishop, elder, overseer, under-shepherd) to have all the gifts. What a distortion of Scripture, and what a burden for the minister to bear! No wonder many dedicated ministers burn out and seek another line of work in which the expectations of others are not so high!
Yes, there may be the occasional minister who thinks he or she has all the gifts, but his or her congregation will soon disabuse him or her of such delusions of grandeur!
My point is: all Christians, whether leaders or followers, whether the recipient of an in-front-of-the-camera gift, or a behind-the-camera gift, have at least one gift or, as C. Peter Wagner puts it, "a spiritual gift-mix," which I think is a more accurate term. God expects each of us, then, to "know ourselves" in terms of our spiritual gift mix and attempt with the Holy Spirit's enabling to use that gift in serving others, both inside and outside the body of Christ.
Another way to know ourselves is to realize we all are fallible, imperfect, and subject to temptations.
[Doing Good to All] Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted (Galatians 6:1 NIV).
Each of us has what Hebrews calls "besetting sins":
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us . . . (Hebrews 12:1 KJV).
My besetting sin may not be the same as yours, and vice versa. We all, however, have weaknesses and chinks in our spiritual armor. When we seek to restore a brother or sister who has backslidden, we are therefore to do so in a spirit of gentleness and godly fear, realizing that "there but for the grace of God go I."
A third way in which we are to know ourselves is in the area of our life's purpose. Probably ninety-plus percent of God's will for us is contained in the precepts, commandments, exhortations, promises, and warnings of Scripture. The remainder of God's will concerns such things as
- To marry or not to marry, and to whom (1 Corinthians 7)
How best to use our gifts, abilities, skills, education, and desires in the work-a-day world. Even the Apostle Paul, while having a clear grasp of God's will for his life regarding his ministry to Gentiles, also supplemented his income, when needed, by making tents. Work, by the way, is not a curse, but a blessing. God commands us to work because we are created in His image, and He is a God who works (Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working" (John 5:17 NIV).
What local church is to serve as our "base of operations" as we function as lights in a dark world. It has been said that the local church serves as a hospital, a nursery, a school, a military staging area, a human resources department, and an aid station for hurting people. What area or areas are you called to be involved in. Desire is a very important element in where and how to serve, but confirmation from other people that we do indeed have a certain gift is also important.
As for the second maxim, a verse in the King James Version of the Bible fits it pretty well:
Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. (Philippians 4:5 KJV)
Unfortunately, the word moderation has variously been translated as
Less ambiguous is the following verse:
Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; (1 Timothy 6:17 KJV)
In other words, we all are meant to enjoy all the good gifts God gives us, whether we are "rich in the world's eyes," relatively poor, or somewhere in between. The point is: God is the greatest and most generous and gracious giver, the source of all good gifts. Furthermore, we derive the greatest joy from God's gifts when we receive them with thanksgiving and partake of them in moderation.
Such riches could include the following: food; drink; good health; family; love in all its permutations (agape, phileo, storge, eros); satisfying work; recreation; hobbies; an appreciation for beauty; brothers and sisters in Christ to help bear our burdens, to encourage us, to rebuke us when needed, and to build all kinds of things into our lives along the way to heaven; and of course salvation full and free through our Lord Jesus Christ.
These good gifts from God are all to be enjoyed within the parameters laid out for us in Scripture. There is probably not a single item in the above list which cannot be engaged in to excess. Moderation, therefore, should be our watchword.
Even some of the Thessalonian Christians felt that since the Lord could return at any time, they were exempt from work. Wrong! Christians, of all people, are to be hardworking, demonstrating integrity in work and every other aspect of life. We are to "work out our salvation," not just bask in its glories with no thought to setting an example of good deeds before a watching world (Matthew 5:16).
As for the third maxim, if indeed it is worded "Be careful what you wish for," I am reminded immediately of Psalm 37:4,
Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Yes, we are to be careful what we wish for, and our wishes and desires should always be informed by that phrase in our Lord's prayer for His disciples,
"Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
Wishes, of course, are closely linked with asking, and while God encourages us to ask Him for the desires of our hearts, we are to ask with righteous motives and not selfish wants (James 4:2,3). In other words, we are to ask according to His will, and there is perhaps nothing closer to the heart of God than His will for all people to come to repentance and knowledge of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:9). To that end, we Christians have been commissioned to do the following:
In our going into all the world, we are to make disciples of all people groups, baptizing them . . . and teaching them to obey all that [Jesus] has commanded . . . (Matthew 28:19,20; my paraphrase).
The wish to enhance God's kingdom-work here on earth in the hearts of people everywhere by participating in some way in the making of disciples is one wish we will never regret having, because there is perhaps nothing closer to the very heart of God than to welcome people into His forever family!