Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Comparisons can be dangerous for Christians. It can be a useful tool when applied carefully, but all too often when lose our perspective when we compare. We focus so much on the comparison itself that we forget the larger context. If we give comparisons too much power, they will run away with us and completely distort our lives. 

Envy feeds off comparison. Most of the time I am very happy to have a modest, comfortable home, a working automobile, and a job that pays my bills, but when I compare myself to some friends who have received large sums of money from their well-off parents, I suddenly feel a lot less happy about my situation. When I look in the mirror and consider only myself, I often feel quite comfortable with my body, but if I start to think about how I look in comparison to others, I might feel insecure instead. I have a beautiful singing voice, but I sometimes feel intimidated by people who have particular musical skills that exceed mine. Without the comparisons, I am perfectly happy with what I have, but when I start comparing what I have to what everyone else has, envy creeps in and poisons all of the good gifts God has given me.

Comparisons also contribute to arrogance. What does it really matter if I have more possessions than someone else? It is only by the good grace of God that I have those things, and I could lose them all tomorrow through no fault or virtue of my own. Instead of feeling superior to others, I should share what I have with them so that even more joy can come out of what I have been given. What credit is it to me if I have talents or qualities that others do not? I did not design my own body or spirit; I can only work with what I have been given by God. Moreover, if I was truly fair and omniscient in my comparisons, I would see that each person has special gifts and good qualities and that no one is qualitatively better than someone else. Having success in one area where someone else fails does not make me better than that person. Instead of feeling smug about my successes, I should try to encourage others so that they succeed as well.

As a Christian, I find comparisons to be much more useful for the things they teach me about myself than for the value judgments I might be tempted to draw from them. If I feel jealous of someone who has a talent that I don't, that probably means that I'm not completely comfortable with using my own talents, not that I'm inferior. Instead of figuring out how to change myself to so I can compare more favorably to someone else, I should learn to use my own talents and gifts more fully. If I envy someone who has something I don't, I inhibit my own ability to do my best with the negative energy from that jealousy. I should focus instead how to do the best I can with what I have been given instead of worrying about what other people have. I don't want envy or arrogance spoiling the joy I have at the special gifts I have been given by God. God did not design my life to be comparable to anyone else's, so I should be rejoicing in my uniqueness instead of inhibiting myself with pointless comparisons.

The next time I feel tempted to declare myself "better than" or "worse than" someone else because of some specific comparison, I hope I can manage to stop envy and arrogance in their tracks and go joyfully onward as nothing more or less than myself.

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