Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.
The Greek word translated “conceit” here is kenodoxoi, which literally means “vain-glorious” or “empty of honor”. So conceit is a deep insecurity, a perceived absence of honor and glory, leading to a need to prove our worth to ourselves and others. This in turn fixates our mind on comparing ourselves with others. When we seem better than someone else in some trait, our “honor-hunger” puffs us up and makes us feel great. When we seem to be inferior to someone else, we are devastated for the same reason. In addition, “honor-hunger” can make us very competitive. This describes the natural state of our heart without the gospel.
Paul is saying that this desire for glory either makes us provoke or envy others. When we provoke others, we feel superior and look down on them and when we envy others, we feel inferior to them. So Paul is saying that both superiority and inferiority are a form of conceit. This is striking, and profound. Both the superior and the inferior person are self-absorbed. In both cases, you are focusing heavily on how the other person makes you look and feel instead of how you make him or her look and feel. So both the superiority complex and the inferiority complex are, at root, born of insecurity and inferiority. They are just two different outworkings of our desire to gain glory for ourselves, to feel worthwhile as people.
See: Keller, Timothy. Galatians For You (God’s Word For You) (p. 147-149).
I too feel this temptation to compare myself to others, to look down on others or to envy others. Galatians 5:26 reminded me once again how much I am daily in need to apply the gospel to myself. I do not need to look for “glory” anymore by trying to get the approval of people. There is also no need any more to look down on others because it`s neither my correct believes, nor my correct living which gives me my identity but the love of Christ alone. As I stay in His love there is true freedom, freedom to agree or disagree with others but without having to look down on others. Paul says in Galatians 6:14 exactly that: “As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” There is no comparing with others necessary anymore because Paul has arrived at the place of complete peace and harmony “in Christ”.
Heavenly Father, thank you that you have freed us through the love of Christ to truly love ourselves and love others. Help me to be fully satisfied in You today and to extent your love to others. Amen.