I am a highly experienced comparative individual. I have the tendency to compare anything to everything, and with the advancement of technology, I have developed this "skill" and applied it to many areas of my life.
However, this ability is not something that is always favorable in the Lord's eyes or positive for me as a person.
"Everything is permissible"â ”but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"â ”but not everything is constructive (1 Corinthians 10:23).
Comparison shopping is useful. Tracking and comparing your personal skills and abilities to the past in order to reach higher goals is worthy. However, comparing yourself to others or what others have in a material sense is neither beneficial nor constructive.
I don't believe I am the only one who possesses this propensity to compare.
We compare our lives to the lives of those who are also single (or married). We compare where we live to where our friends live. We compare what we drive to what the person beside us is driving. We compare what we wear to what celebrities wear. We compare how much (or how little) money we have to how much others have.
Why do we (or at least I) do these things?
When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise (2 Corinthians 10:12).
Comparison living isn't a new way of life. In fact, we can find examples all the way back to the beginning of time.
Adam and Eve compared what they had to what they could have by eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:1-7).
A rich man asked Jesus how to receive eternal life and compared what he had, had to do and had to give up to be perfect and have treasure in heaven (Matthew 19:16-21).
The disciples compared themselves to each other when they asked Jesus, "Which of us is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?" (Matthew 18:1).
We almost innately compare ourselves to one another. We desire what we do not have (and lack appreciation for things we have been blessed with), we judge others for what they possess, and, as a result, we don't seek to understand God's specific will for our own lives.
Lack of Contentment
Brewing a lack of contentment is the strategy of every major marketing department. Their goal is to convince us what we currently have is no longer acceptable (or up to date), and what they are trying to sell us is what we need. With the amount of money the average American is in debt and the discontent we seem to have in relationships, in our jobs, and in life itself, they appear to be succeeding.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:12-13).
Paul shares from a jail cell that true contentment is not dependent upon what we have or don't have; it comes from our relationship to Jesus. If we compare what we seem to be missing to others who seem to have what we want, we will never be content. As a result, we may never realize the plans the Lord has for us individually nor appreciate the blessings that we have been given thus far.
A consequence of consistently comparing ourselves to those around us is the unfounded judgment of others. We see a material possession, a physical ability or a relationship that we yearn for and we draw conclusions about the person and how they were able to acquire it. We question, "Why them and not me?" We ask, "What did they do to deserve it?" We wonder, "How can we have what they have?"
Earth has nothing I desire besides you (Psalm 73:25).
King David had everything in the world a person could desire; he had power, fame, homes (palaces), influence, relationships and money. Through it all, he discovered nothing on the earth was more important or more desirable than following God. David was a man after God's own heart, and tells us to focus our thoughts upon matters of the Lord rather than on things of the earth.
If we live our life centered on God and our relationship with Him, we will not be as quick to compare ourselves to those around us and be less likely to judge others for what they have.
Seek to Understand
Being the first child born to Adam and Eve, Cain did not have anything to compare himself to. However, when his younger brother Abel was born, sibling rivalries were created.
(At harvest time) Cain brought to the Lord a gift of his farm produce, while Abel brought several choice lambs from the best of his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his offering, but he did not accept Cain and his offering. This made Cain very angry and dejected.
"Why are you so angry?" the Lord asked him. "Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you respond in the right way. But if you refuse to respond correctly, then watch out! Sin is waiting to attack and destroy you, and you must subdue it" (Genesis 4:4-7).
Was Abel favored over Cain? Why didn't the Lord accept Cain's offering? What right response was the Lord looking for?
It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. God accepted Abel's offering to show that he was a righteous man (Hebrews 11:4).
Cain's rejected offering was in response to his lack of faith and unrighteousness. God gave Cain an opportunity to remedy the situation; however, instead of listening to God and looking within his own heart to seek understanding of the situation, he took his anger out on his brother and killed Abel. Cain blamed Abel as the cause of the Lord's displeasure, not himself.
God's lesson to us is not about the material possessions we have or even in the material possessions we offer up to Him. He doesn't care about the things of the earth or how we compare to one another. What God cares about is our own faithfulness and our own righteousness, irrespective of one another.
Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else (Galatians 6:4).
Our goal is to stay within the boundaries of God's plan for us (2 Corinthians 10:13).
It is easy to look at someone else and want what they have, pass judgment, or blame them for our disappointment. However, God wants each of us to take responsibility for ourselves. He gives each of us the opportunity to respond in the right way. Let us not compare our lives to others, rather let us live it according to how God guides and directs each of us individually.
Paul gives us some final counsel:
Everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him (Philippians 3:8-9).
Cliff Young is a contributing writer to Sandlot Stories (ARose Books), as well as the monthly column, "He Said-She Said," in Crosswalk.com's Singles Channel. An architect and former youth worker, he now works with Christian musicians and consults for a number of Christian ministries. Got feedback? Send your comments and questions to CYdmg@yahoo.com.