Chapter Five

Christian Self-Evaluation

How would you describe yourself as a person? What good exists in your life? What are your major shortcomings and your significant accomplishments? How would you describe yourself as a Christian? What spiritual good exists in your life? What are your major spiritual shortcomings and your significant spiritual accomplishments?

Is your evaluation of yourself as a person and as a Christian two different, distinct evaluations? If they overlap and entwine, how much do they overlap? Is what you are as a person and what you are as a Christian so entwined that an evaluation of one is an evaluation of both?

Self-evaluation is an inescapable process in everyone's life. Some seek to eliminate self-evaluation by ignoring it, by hiding from it, or by pretending they never do it. Others abuse self-evaluation by using it as a means of self-glorification to arrogantly inflate their egos or by using considerable self-deceit in making evaluations. Though some seek to eliminate it and others abuse it, self-evaluation is practiced by all. It is essential that Christians learn to practice it correctly.

The Responsibility To Evaluate
Self-evaluation is a continuing responsibility for every Christian. In Galatians 6:3, 4 Paul wrote,

For if a man thinketh himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let each man prove his own work, and then shall he have his glorying in regard of himself alone, and not of his neighbor.

The responsibility to "prove your own work" is the responsibility to evaluate one's own deeds and actions. Each Christian is to find his spiritual fulfillment and sense of accomplishment in Christ in terms of his own service to the Lord. One dare not build his spiritual sense of accomplishment on the labors of others.

Everyone enjoys being a member of an active, serving, working, achieving congregation. Many enjoy being around the activity without being a part of it. As they passively enjoy the activity and enthusiasm, they love to talk about what "we" are doing. Their whole sense of fulfillment and achievement is derived from the work of other Christians. Christians must protect themselves from this temptation by examining and evaluating their own involvements and services.

Why must a Christian practice self-evaluation? Self evaluation protects the Christian from thinking he is something when he is nothing. It is an essential protection against self-deceit. A Christian can lie to himself about himself more convincingly that he can lie to anyone else about anything else.

2 Corinthians 13:5 also emphasized the responsibility of self-evaluation. A segment of the Corinthian congregation attacked Paul and his work by denying his apostleship, discrediting his work, and attacking him as a person. Paul wrote that when he returned the matter would be resolved completely. Until that time he instructed, "Try your own selves, whether ye are in the faith; prove your own selves."

In seeking to understand and declare God's truth, there is an enormous temptation to focus all attention on the lives and shortcomings of other people. It is easy for the Christian to become the expert who knows everyone else's sins and shortcomings but who never examines his own. Paul emphasized two continuing responsibilities each Christian must accept. First, he must try himself to see if he is in the faith. Second, he must prove or evaluate himself. This is not a once-in-a-lifetime nor even a once-a-year responsibility. It cannot be done when one occasionally takes a convenient break from evaluating everyone else. The Christian's first responsibility in making evaluation is to himself. His salvation does not hinge on being an expert in evaluating the lives of others; it depends on ably, honestly evaluating his own life.

I Corinthians 11:28 also stressed the responsibility of self-evaluation. Observance of the Lord's Supper was abused terribly in the Corinthian church. It had been perverted to the extent that Paul would not recognize it as an observance of the Supper. After specifying their abuses, Paul instructed them in the proper observance of the Lord's death and resurrection. In explaining the correct manner to commune, he stressed the seriousness of the observance. "But let a man prove himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup."

Self-evaluation is an essential part of proper observance of the Lord's Supper. In communion the Christian seriously concentrates on two things: the death of Jesus and his own life. "Proving one's self" is not to see if one is worthy to take communion. In the true sense, no one is worthy because no Christian is deserving of Jesus' sacrifice. No human act can make one deserving. Nor is the purpose of the evaluation to determine is one is righteous or sinless enough to take communion. In taking communion this is never the issue because such righteousness and sinlessness is an impossibility. One proves himself by looking at who he is, what he has done, and how he is living. By considering the enormous sacrifice made by God and Jesus, he sees and acknowledges his debt by standing squarely before it. This is the purpose of the evaluation. As a result, he is filled with gratitude, and he renews his determination to be more like the Savior who died for him.

Galatians 6:3,4; 2 Corinthians 13:5; and I Corinthians 11:28 make it evident that Christian self-evaluation is essential to Christian existence.

The Responsibilities of Evaluating
Christian self-evaluation contains three basic responsibilities. First, he must know his own heart. This requires him to know and understand his own feelings and motives. Is he following the Lord because of what he feels for Christ within his own heart, or is he merely going through the motions by observing meaningless habits?

Second, the Christian must know his own influence. He must examine the impact of his life on other people: mate, children, parents, co-workers, friends, neighbors, and associates. He needs to determine if his influence is leading others further from God or closer to the Lord. Every Christian is a living advertisement of the Lord's power to help His people. Can others see in him what Christ can do for a person? By observing him, are others convinced that the only distinguishable difference between those who are Christians and those who are not is a name?

Third, he must know his own deeds. He must ask, "What am I actually doing for the Lord? Am I spiritually productive? Do my deeds bless my Lord, or are they hurtful to Him and His cause?"

These three responsibilities are not an attempt to cultivate a good opinion of oneself. They are the responsibility to examine accurately one's life.

The responsibility of self-evaluation destroys the old myth that it is the preacher's job to evaluate people's lives. For generations too many Christians have believed it was the preacher's responsibility to "get on" people, to condemn people, and to tell people all about their sins. The common concept of a "good" preacher is the preacher who rides people for wayward living. Because of this myth many people define "good preaching" as preaching which walks roughshod over people an makes them feel guilty. While a legitimate part of preaching is opposing sin, it has never been the preacher's responsibility to preside as the official evaluator of the lives of the flock.

No one else has that responsibility. While elders watch in concern for the souls of the members, they are no one's official evaluator. Nor is it the job of the family, the spouse, or the children. Each Christian bears the primary responsibility for evaluating his own life. The Lord holds the individual responsible for making correct self-evaluation.

Self-evaluation is as difficult as it is necessary. They who believe self-evaluation is easy guarantee they will do a poor job of it. It is not effortless, and no one has a natural ability for it. Effective self-evaluation is dependent upon earnestness and sincerity.

Accurate self-evaluation requires accurate knowledge of God's Word. Evaluation is dependent upon a reliable standard of measurement. Accurate measurement of anything is dependent upon a reliable, known, available standard. Christian hearts and deeds are no different. If a Christian is ignorant of the proper standard, he will make the wrong evaluation of his life.

False standards for self-evaluation abound. More people use false standards than use God's Word. False standards include comparing oneself to the weak and unlearned; comparing oneself to spiritual failures who have reverted to sin; and comparing oneself to sinners who make no pretense of being godly. All such comparisons are meaningless and futile. Paul said, "They themselves, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves with themselves, are without understanding" (2 Corinthians 10:12). The lives of others can encourage a Christian, teach him, and help him gain understanding. However, the only proper standard for evaluating one's life is God's Word. Without understanding of the Word, an honest evaluation cannot be made.

Accurate self-evaluation requires life's most difficult form of honesty. One must be honest about the way he is living, what he is doing, and what he is not doing. He must be honest about his feelings, his attitudes, and his abilities. Life's most difficult form of honesty is honesty with self about self.

The reason for self-evaluation must be understood clearly. It is not an attempt to force an admission of mistakes. Admission of wrong is not the basic objective of self-evaluation. Developing humility is not purpose. Correction, not confession, is the purpose of self-evaluation. One evaluates to correct attitudes, feelings, and deeds which are wrong. The objective is growth. Spiritual growth is possible when one understands the need to grow and identifies areas in which he must grow.

Basic Awarenesses
As they evaluate, Christians must hold specific basic awarenesses. Awareness one: "God measures me by me, and that is what I must do." God's expectations for any person are based on his actual ability and potential. Divine expectations of an individual are never founded on the abilities of others. Jesus taught that God's expectations of a person are based on his true ability, true potential, and real opportunities. In the parable of the talents, the responsibility given each servant was based on his ability (Matthew 25:14-30). Each was judged on the basis of what he did with his ability. The two who used their opportunity to the best of their ability received precisely the same reward. Though one achieved more than the other, each was equally faithful in using his ability. A Christian must measure his spirituality by what he has the ability to be and by what he has the opportunity to do. He seeks to be 100% himself in Christ.

Awareness two: the attitude, "I am as good as he is," is pointless and meaningless. How good or bad someone else is has no bearing on God's evaluation of a Christian's faithfulness or service. If a sinner proves his daily life is as good as a Christian friend's, he does not thereby remove one sin. If a Christian proves he is as good as another Christian, he does not thereby make himself righteous or faithful in God's sight. To seek to prove one's goodness by comparisons to others is an attempt to "get by" or to "coast along." No spiritual state of "getting by" or "coasting along" exists.

Awareness three: a Christian must understand he "proves himself" (1) to prevent self-deceit, (2) to avoid blindness, and (3) to increase personal spiritual productiveness. One does not want to tell himself, "I am a growing Christian!" when he is spiritually sick and dying. He does not want to be blind to his real condition as was the church at Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22). He wants to be increasingly fruitful, and not be a branch to be pruned (John 15:1, 2).

The Christian who depends on a preacher to make him feel guilty is evading the responsibility of self-evaluation. If the preacher succeeds, it has little lasting effect or influence. However, when a Christian is motivated to evaluate his own life and to see for himself the changes he needs to make, lasting good is accomplished. The only person who can put a Christian's life in order is the Christian himself. Putting one's life in order must begin with self-evaluation.


  1. What is self-evaluation?
  2. Read Galatians 6:3, 4.
    1. What is the meaning of "prove your own work?"
    2. Explain how Christians can build their sense of spiritual fulfillment on the labors of others.
    3. What is the fundamental reason for a Christian "proving his own work'?
  3. Why did Paul tell the Corinthians to "try your own selves...prove your own selves" (2 Corinthians 13:5)?
  4. Explain the relationship between proper observance of the Lord's Supper and self-evaluation (1 Corinthians 11:28).
  5. Explain the responsibility to know one's own heart.
  6. Explain the responsibility to know one's influence.
  7. Discuss the responsibility of knowing one's own deeds.
  8. What myth have Christians long held concerning preachers?
  9. What is the relationship between knowledge of the Word and accurate self-evaluation?
  10. What is and is not the purpose of self-evaluation?
  11. State and discuss the three basic awarenesses a Christian must have as he evaluates his life.

Thought Questions

  1. Why are Christians often fearful of making self-evaluations?
  2. Why is self-evaluation essential to spiritual growth and Christian maturity?
  3. Explain this statement: Christians cannot get to heaven by knowing the sins of others.
  4. What is the most important lesson in this chapter?
transcribed by Christy Hesslen
Copyright © 1983, David Chadwell
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