Social media overflows with mantras meant to encourage us in our struggle with comparison. Half-truths sounding delightful to the ears of sinners, beckon us to fix our eyes on something other than the person next to us. Unfortunately, they fail to point us to the right place. Maybe you have heard something like this:
“We won’t be distracted by comparison if we are captivated with purpose.”
Wait, is being captivated with our purpose truly the safeguard from a life of joyless comparison? Here’s another:
“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”
Heard this one before? Is that actually the reason? No, insecurity in the human heart finds its root in something much deeper.
The majority of the conversation surrounding comparison point both men and women to themselves. They force-feed us lies, telling us if we find our purpose and focus on our own highlight reel, then we’ll be freed from comparing ourselves to others. Honestly, is this working for anyone?
The Bad Fruit of Comparing Ourselves to Others
We have got to stop pretending like comparison isn’t a sin. It’s not just a burden placed on us that steals our joy. Comparison burns a hole in our communion with God and our community with those around us. Here are some rotten fruits that grow in our hearts through this sin:
Most often, comparison acts as a glorified word for envy. This shows up in our desire for our neighbor’s gifts or success, whether in their career, marriage, or something else they have that we lack.
Often intertwined with envy, pride is another bad fruit that grows from holding ourselves up to others on a scale. Pride surfaces when we think we deserve the God-given gifts others have when truthfully we deserve no good thing.
On the other hand, the arrogance in our hearts is exposed as we look at the sin of others and decide our sin is less despicable to a holy God. Or maybe it’s our theology we compare. We think we deserve the leadership role or book contract because we’ve read the Puritans and have our systematic theology down pat.
When we compare our lot to the lives of our fellow believers, we show we’re ungrateful for the many gifts we’ve received from God.
Sometimes, we covet something in an unbeliever’s life, revealing our priorities are misaligned. Why would we envy their life when our portion is the Lord? We get Jesus! He is a treasure that far exceeds anything our neighbor possesses (Psalm 73).
Comparison can drive us to sinful competition with other believers. We might find sinful motivations in our heart for serving at church or studying our Bible. If we can do more and do it better than them, we’d get the praise and recognition we “deserve.”
Being Unloving Toward Others
In all these things, we find a common thread: we’re doing a terrible job at loving others.
Captivated by Christ
If we’re encouraged to focus on our gifts, talents, and goals rather than those of others, we’re missing the mark. I’m betting you still feel insecure sometimes. Or maybe you’ve still had moments where you pridefully look down on someone whose sin is obviously far worse than yours. “I’m a sinner, but at least I don’t sin like they do.” Well, if that doesn’t sound strikingly familiar…(Luke 18:11).
The truth is, whether comparing ourselves to another leaves us feeling downtrodden or pretty great about ourselves, we need a renewed vision—a renewed heart.
The key is Christ. We need to be captivated by Jesus.
The Good Fruit of Comparing Ourselves to Christ
What would happen if everyone took their eyes off of themselves and turned them upon Jesus like the old hymn encourages us to do?
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in his wonderful face,
and the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
in the light of his glory and grace.”
Good fruit will spring up in our hearts when we fix our eyes on Him rather than our circumstances, ourselves, or anyone else.
A Correct View of Self
When we ponder Jesus and all He is and has done, we’re reminded of how truly amazing it is that He’d come down to rescue us. Daily gazing upon His holiness corrects our view of ourselves. We will recognize how far from holy we are and how much we need His grace.
In comparison to Christ, we could never measure up. He is holy and good and we are not (Romans 3:10-12). He is preeminent; we’re the dust of the earth (Colossians 1:18; Psalm 103:14). He is the Potter and we are the clay (Romans 9:21).
Even in the virtues where we bear His image we discover our bankruptcy in comparison to Jesus. We’ll never be as kind, loving, just, or faithful. This truth should lower our faces to the ground in worship of the King who reigns over all.
Seeing ourselves rightly leads to a deeper humility toward God and others. Humbled hearts are thankful hearts. Humbled hearts know they’ve received more than they deserve. This becomes a safeguard against envy and enables us to rejoice with others in what they receive.
Likewise, we will grow in grace for others, knowing we are a great sinner who has been forgiven of much.
Growth in Holiness
Eyes focused on Christ will behold His holiness and become more like Him day by day. We’ll grow in holiness and preach Jesus to the world through our lives. Our hearts will cherish Him more and lead us into worship and loving obedience to His commands.
Loving Others Well
In all this, a greater love for others will blossom in our hearts. Instead of coveting their circumstances, we will rejoice with them. Rather than wishing to be gifted in the ways God has made our fellow saints, we’ll appreciate their giftedness. And instead of looking down on others for their sin, mercy will mark our thoughts and interactions with them.
Ungodly comparison often feels like a trap we fall into. But truly, it’s a heart issue we must tackle. It’s not a snarethat lives outside of us, but a sin that springs up from within.
Freedom for the Christian is possible. The Holy Spirit enables us to look to Jesus, behold His beauty, and walk in faith, enjoying His good gifts. Then we will be free from looking at others and bemoaning our supposed lack or cowering over others in pride.
Truly, we lack no good thing.
The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. (Psalm 34:10)