Galatians 6:3 If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
The literal meaning of the original Greek in this verse is pretty close to what we actually get in the English translation here in the NIV – except perhaps the word “anyone” might be better translated as “whoever,” but the implication of these words in the context of the rest of the Chapter give us a deeper and more specific sense of what Paul is really saying. This is more than just a proverb. If a person thinks they are “something,” well, that implies a person who is much too self important. Paul has just discussed conceit and “vain glory” in verse 26 of Chapter 5. The “something” here certainly fits in with that discussion and description. He or she obviously thinks a whole lot more of themselves than they should, and hold themselves above others. They are just too important to condescend to the level of those “caught in sin” in Galatians 6:1, to have to get their hands dirty or sully their own precious reputations by stepping down and helping to shoulder the burdens of another Christian as commanded in the precious verse. “Nothing” here implies someone who is a nobody except in his own estimation, in hi sown mind. “Deceives” here implies a deep fog – a delusion, but also an implication that the person is cheating themselves.
I picture the person who thinks they are “something” here as being a step or two beyond the “conceited” person of Galatians 5:26. This is someone who is otherwise marked by Christian maturity – an active member of the church, perhaps even in a position of responsibility or authority. They have already received the benefit of having more mature believers (those who are “spiritual” per Galatians 6:1) who have helped these self-anointed “Somethings” by carrying their burdens and deal with sins they have been caught in (per Galatians 6:1-2), But now, these “Somethings” think they are better than all that. The thought of returning the kindess paid to them by those who helped bear their burdens is repugnant – for whatever reason: fear, the busyness of life, obsession with wealth, job, or family, or a focus on being recognized etc. In thinking they are “too good” or “too important” to be intimate with those who immature is a delusion that deprives them of all the blessings that flow from such selfless service. If walking closely with the folks the world sees as “nothing” and helping them deal with sin and bondage in their lives fulfills the law of Christ (see the previous verse), to shy away from this concept is to be in opposition to the law of Christ. As I’ve repeated over and over again, RELATIONSHIP trumps everything. For it’s the promise of Galatians 3:16 that is the product of God’s relationship with man. While correct theology – knowing and believing the truth is absolutely essential, to place our own concerns and desires ahead of the relationship God has commanded us to be a part of is akin to denying the basic truth of the Gospel. How many of us have known people who believe in all the right things, but aren’t really following God? Or use the truth of the Gospel for their own selfish motives, or to put others down, and exalt themselves? Or simply refuse to answer the call in their life to get involved with the “someones” who are “caught in sin” back in 6:1 – the unlovable, the undesirable, those who need help but might not be the same color, ethnicity, denomination, or economic group? That is the great tragedy – that is the heresy Paul is fighting and great tragedy and heresy we fight in American churches today.