At some point, nearly everyone has compared themselves with the people around them. And while comparison can sometimes have a positive effect, most of the time it’s rooted in negative feelings such as jealousy, envy, and pride.
These negative feelings are a result of using comparison as a measuring stick in evaluating how successful we are in life. By comparing what we consider success with the success of others, we invite anxiety and chaos into our lives when we feel we don’t measure up.
But for believers, comparison is more dangerous than negative feelings; it’s something that can heavily impact our spiritual journey. By glossing over our own sins because “we aren’t as bad as that guy over there” we inadvertently see ourselves as more holy, pure, and above all, a better Christian.
Scripture provides a perfect example of this in a parable spoken by Jesus:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:10-14 NIV)
Just like the Pharisee in the above example, once we begin comparing our sin with the sins of others, we run the risk of allowing pride to grow without feeling remorse for any wrongdoing. Instead of repenting and working on change, we dismiss our sin altogether as irrelevant when compared to the sins of our neighbor.
But that’s not all. Making comparisons also fuels jealousy and envy. And having those kinds of negative emotions can often lead us down a destructive path. Remember Cain and Abel? Although extreme, jealousy and envy fueled Cain’s anger and he murdered his brother—a devastating outcome caused by disobedience and sin (Genesis 4, James 3:16).
Sometimes, however, we compare how God uses others to how he uses us. Our job in God’s kingdom may seem unimportant and trivial to us, so we question why others seem to have more meaningful or successful opportunities for serving the Lord.
However, thinking this way robs us of the unique life God has set apart for each and every one of us. The apostle Paul teaches that God has given to each of us a different function within his church. And each function (or gift) furthers Christian unity as well as God’s kingdom.
(Corinthians 12). Besides, who are we to question the wisdom of God (Job 38:2-12)?
So let’s stop comparing our lives with the lives of others. Our lives are special and have meaning because it’s a life God planned out for us right from the beginning of time. He knows our needs, our desires, our heartaches, and our accomplishments.
After all, God created each of us to be an original and nothing compares to that.
Donna Hughey is an award-winning Christian author and columnist. She lives in Crescent City.