The Foolishness of Comparing
But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. (2 Corinthians 10:12).
Comparison with others is a basic fact of life. We look at others and judge ourselves inferior in money, beauty, intelligence, ministry, career, or family. As a result, we feel insecure. Or we see that we are succeeding in some of those areas and feel reassured.
Much of advertising is built on this unconscious activity of comparing ourselves. Isn’t the comparison of our perfect Facebook or Instagram lives one reason that anxiety is on the rise? Though men are not immune from this temptation, mothers in particular can feel this heavy, unconscious burden of comparison running in their minds.
In the verse above, God speaks into this rising anxiety and calls it foolish. When we are comparing ourselves with others, God says we are not seeing things from his perspective.
What exactly would God say to us? What perspective does it take to be wise?
Defeating the Comparison Virus
I can discern at least three truths to help with the virus of comparing ourselves to others.
1. None of us measures up. There really is only one standard that matters—how we stand before God. He tells us that each and everyone of us fall short of his glory (Romans 3:23). We fall short of his glorious intention for us as individuals and we fall short of entering his glorious presence. When we place our faith in Christ and are adopted as his child, we are accepted. We are loved. Now we do measure up, not because of what we do but because what his Son has done.
Ultimately we live for an audience of One. Now that I am accepted in the Son, only one thing matters – pleasing my Father. It is his smile only that I live for.
2. We each have a different number of gifts, talents, and resources. Jesus tells us the parable of the talents and the parable of the minas (Matt 25:14ff, Luke 19:12ff). In each story, the point is similar. The master entrusts different resources to different servants. And he rewards each based on their faithfulness with what they have been entrusted, not what the other person has. For example, the one with five talents earns five more and is commended. The one with three earns three more and is commended. He was not expected to earn five. He started with less and returned less, but was still rewarded as faithful.
Similarly, God doesn’t create us with equal talents and abilities. And I only have to be faithful with what I have, not what I don’t have. If I have been given three talents, I should not feel insecure around the person with five talents nor superior to the person with one talent.
3. We each have different calls on our lives. In John 21, Jesus reinstates Peter but informs him that when he is older he will glorify him in a martyr’s death. Peter immediately points to the Apostle John and asks about him.
What is that but comparison? Jesus responds to Peter, “What is that to you? You follow me.” Church history records that John did die a natural death while Peter died a martyr’s death. Peter learned that Jesus calls each of us to follow him. As the sovereign Lord he has the right to dish out different circumstances on life’s journey. For example, one person may be called to endure poor health while another never suffers.
Driving These Truths Deep Into My Soul
God drove these truths deep into my soul when, as a young pastor, I realized I was not producing the results of my mentor. I could not physically work as many hours as he worked nor could I mobilize men the way he could. Was I a failure?
No, as I realized the three truths above I gained a healthier view of myself and a healthier walk. What would I do?
I would be the best Chap Bettis I could be. Given my unique “fingerprint,” what was God calling me to do?
I began to internalize: First, I am an unworthy servant (Luke 17). I need a Savior and I will strive after holiness no matter what others do. Second, I have a unique gift set and will give an account for that. I’m a three-talent person and need to invest well to produce three more. And third, Jesus has the right to call me to unique circumstances that he doesn’t call others to. I will glorify him in those circumstances without jealousy of others.
Comparison for Excellence Only
I still cast a side glance to see at what others are doing. But this comparison is to help me strive after excellence, not to settle my identity and worth.
Moms and dads, are your homes unsettled because of foolish comparisons to others? Are you tossed by the anxiety of the age? Turn off the social media and live to please your Savior. Stop comparing yourself with someone else.
You live to please the Lord. It is only his smile that counts.