When You Compare, Beware.
”An argument started among them about who was the greatest of them” (Luke 9:46, CSB)
We like to think that in the Christian world comparisons don’t exist. After all Paul called us the body of Christ. Every part of the body is important. Jesus said that anyone that does the will of the Father is Jesus’ brother or sister. In the Kingdom of God, there is only one alpha and He is King Jesus. However, even Jesus’ apostles fell to this selfish practice of comparison. These people walked and lived with Jesus, yet here they were having an argument over which of them was the greatest apostle.
Comparison does not lead to healthy conversations between people. Often, it leads to arguments in which we are not even trying to love our neighbor. Comparison can infect your mind and start to tell you things that are not true about both others and yourself. Simply put, comparison is one of the enemy’s most effective weapons. As President Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
In the Old Testament there is a helpful story which shows how much upheaval comparison can cause. It started with a song sung to celebrate two men, but obviously one was being celebrated more than the other.
“As they danced, the women sang:
Saul has killed his thousands,
but David his tens of thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7, CSB)
Saul at this time was still the king of Israel, but the people credited his loyal soldier, David, with more kills. When Saul allowed himself to stew on this comparison, chaos ensued which would eventually affect the entire nation, as Saul would eventually drive his most capable soldier from the palace and hunt him as if he were a fugitive. This is how quickly obsessive comparison broke down the relationship between Saul and David: In 1 Samuel, we are told that the very next day after the song an evil spirit came upon Saul. And while David was playing music, Saul threw a spear at David, trying to pin him to the wall.
This is not to say that you will throw a spear at someone whom you compare yourself with. But with obsessive comparison, you are definitely making yourself vulnerable to the influence of evil spirits who will lead you down the path of jealousy and envy. Your mind is no longer being filled with thoughts of God’s glory, and your mind becomes susceptible to evil.
So how do we resist obsessive comparisons? When we find ourselves comparing ourselves and feeling jealous, what should we focus on instead?
One of my favorite stories in the Bible can be found at the end of the Gospel of John. Peter was walking with Jesus on the beach. And Jesus let Peter in on the fact that Peter would pay the ultimate price of servitude for Jesus: he would die for Jesus.
Put yourself in the scene. Imagine that you are walking on the beach with the King of Kings. And He singles you out and lets you know that you’re going to suffer for the glory of God. True, there are other people that followed Jesus onto that beach. Yet it is you that He tells this news to. What would your reaction be?
Missing the point in a way we can all relate to, Peter’s immediate reaction was to look toward another apostle—John—and ask Jesus, “What about him? Despite everything that Peter had learned about the Kingdom of God, he still couldn’t stop comparing himself. Here is how Jesus responds:
“If I want him to remain until I come,” Jesus answered, “what is that to you? As for you, follow me” (John 21:22, CSB).
If you want to stop obsessively comparing yourself to other people, there is an easy way to get away from that mode of thinking. You focus on Jesus.
When we compare ourselves, the focus is put on yourself and you start striving to be better than other people. Jesus has a plan for everyone, and those plans differ for each person. Our job is simply to follow Him and He will show us the way. Jesus needs to be our focus all day, every day.
Comparison is just the start of the negative thoughts that will follow: envy, jealousy, and, as we saw with Saul, murderous hatred. Following Jesus keeps you off that path and keeps you focused on the Kingdom of God.