*This discussion was spoken at the CMMC Women’s Ministry on March 9th, 2021. Some of the phrasing has been modified for ease of reading in this post.
Wow, I cannot believe we are already in March!
Ever since I signed up to lead this discussion, I have prayed for guidance in what to talk about.
Pretty soon, the answer became very clear on what I was being nudged to speak about tonight – about the trap of comparison.
And not just about comparison – but to also take it a little further, and talk about what to do with that need for approval that humans have!
A lot of other speakers I’ve listened to in the past on this subject failed to deliver on this. I was always like “OK, but where should I direct the need I have for approval!?” Because it’s in our human nature to want to be liked and be approved of!.
It’s not from the Bible, but Theodore Roosevelt’s quote “comparison is the thief of joy” is very, very true.
For a long time, I thought it was just my generation and the generations younger than me that struggled with feeling less than – mostly due to social media, the highlight reel most folks are addicted to that constantly feeds the human need to be liked.
But then, at lunch, one day, a friend (who is 52) mentioned how she was feeling blue after seeing someone else’s Instagram feed that left her feeling left out, less than, and as if her life was boring and monotonous.
Galatians 6:3 says “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
How does this tie in with comparison?
Comparison comes from our human flesh – it stems from human pride, an under or over-inflated view of self.
When we feel ourselves diving into comparison, we are really diving into our prideful nature.
It doesn’t take much to start comparing ourselves – it doesn’t even have to start with social media.
Maybe someone has your dream home.
Maybe someone else got that dream job, or dream raise.
Maybe someone just got engaged, and you have repeatedly fallen for the wrong types of guys who leave your life as soon as they enter it.
For me, comparison is an easy trap I have to fight a lot.
My husband and I have battled infertility for almost 5 years – most of our childhood friends have become pregnant, or are even expecting their second or third child, while we remain childless.
Maybe it’s the opposite for you; maybe you want a grandchild, and for whatever reason, everyone else has become a grandparent but you.
There are a million different reasons why comparison can become a struggle.
To be honest, a lot of the comparison game comes from not minding our own business or from gossip!
In 1st Thessalonians 4:11, it says “and to aspire to live quietly and to mind your own affairs” ….. a quiet life does not come from comparison.
Minding our own affairs can be difficult in the age of things like Facebook and Instagram where users are constantly bombarded with someone else’s life, their affairs.
Minding our own affairs can be difficult because so many people are prone to gossip – unfortunately, some of the worst gossipers I’ve ever known are women from different churches.
Comparison can quickly become a vice for women – who’s wearing what, what name brands are they wearing, what job do they hold, do they have kids, why didn’t they do “this” or “that” with their life?
Comparison feeds jealousy, and the need to “outdo” someone else.
You would be surprised by how common this is in churches on Sunday mornings all over America – Sally only wore *that* outfit to outdo Molly, who only wore what she did to impress Pam because she got some name-brand dress.
I’ve seen it in every church I’ve ever been to.
In James 3:16 we read “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder”.
Comparing what we do, what we wear, what our home looks like, and how much we make only feeds jealousy and selfishness.
Instead of being grateful for what we have, we start trying to outdo someone else’s accomplishment – we start living for other people, instead of living for Jesus.
In Galatians 1:10 we see Paul speaking about gaining the approval of man versus approval from God.
The text reads “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
This verse really stands out to me, and it definitely delivers a knockout punch for those playing the comparison game trying to live for other people – in the last verse, he points out that if he (Paul) was still trying to please others as he had in his former life, he would not be a servant for Christ.
This is important because it shows us an important lesson – we can either chase after the approval of other humans, or chase after the approval of Christ.
We can either please other humans or chose to please Christ.
It also points us in the direction of another thought – that if we are trying to please others, we aren’t fully committing to being a servant of Christ.
If Paul had never started following Jesus and had chosen to keep his past life full of power and wealth, a life I am sure some envied and compared their own lives to, think of all the Biblical content we may not have today.
In your own life, if you choose to play the comparison game becoming jealous and seeking approval from others, what does that do to your testimony? What is that teaching those around you? What does that show friends and family who may not be fellow Christians?
To an unbeliever, it shows that Jesus is *not* enough for you and that you value the things of the world more than the things of Jesus. How many people could that negatively affect in your life?
1 Timothy 6:6-9 speaks on this perfectly.
“But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7- for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8- But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9- But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”
Let’s break down this verse and apply it to comparison.
Verse six says that godliness with contentment is great gain. How many people do you know that are 100% content? Are you content? It’s hard to be content in life. It’s even harder to be content – or godly – when we compare our lives to others.
Verse seven is used a lot for many different contexts, but in the context of comparison, verse seven should show us that whatever we are comparing our lives to, especially something material such as a house/car/clothing/etcetera, isn’t something that matters in the long run. We can’t take any of that with us to Heaven. It will burn up in the end.
Verse eight really strips down to the necessities of life – food and clothing. It doesn’t say anything about fancy food or high-dollar name brands. It simply says “if we have food or clothing” that with those we should be content.
Verse nine is something I wish every 18 to mid-20 year olds would fully understand. The desire to be rich makes us fall into temptation! it doesn’t say that to be rich is bad. It says the *desire*. Social media especially is full of influencers and rich and famous people whom many want to be and will die desiring to be rich by working themselves to the bone, while missing out on what a life for Christ is truly all about.
Comparison is the opposite of thankfulness. Comparison is often seen as the root of ungratefulness – if we were truly grateful for what we have, there would be no need for comparison.
“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”. This is from 1st Thessalonians 5:18.
I love how this verse clearly defines the context of “when” we are to give thanks for what we have – in all circumstances.
My husband and I may be struggling to have the gift of a child – but we are to be thankful nonetheless.
Maybe someone else has a fancier home or car, this verse still calls you to be thankful.
Maybe someone else did get that promotion, this verse still calls you to be thankful.
Maybe someone else got engaged, this verse still calls you to be thankful.
The later part of this verse is also important – it points out that Jesus Christ has a will for us.
It says “you” and is meant for each and every reader.
His will for me will not be His will for you.
His will for you will not be His will for me.
This nips comparison out completely if none of the other verses did – His will for each of us is unique.
How can we compare our lives to one other, or via someone else’s highlight reel, when through Jesus our lives are going to be completely different?
The answer is we can’t.
So, if we are:
*to live quietly and mind our own affairs
* to not be jealous or selfish
* to not to seek other humans approval
* to be godly and content, acknowledging that we cannot take the things of the world with us, content with the food and clothing we are given, and understand that the Bible clearly says that the desire to be rich causes us to fall into temptation and that we are instructed to give thanks in all circumstances understanding that Christ has a unique will for us all
*What* are we to do with this human need to be liked and approved of?
We are to be imitators of Christ Jesus!
1st Corinthians 11:1 says “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
Again, Paul is speaking here. He is using a “show and tell” approach to discipleship in his own ministry.
Instead of wasting our time and energy in the game of comparison, we should be using these two valuable resources to becoming imitators of Christ!
When you think of this charge, it’s very large and daunting.
To fully focus on imitating Christ will take up any room that the comparison game would need – you won’t have the time or the energy to compare your life to others lives if you are fully focused on imitating the life of Christ.
Instead of relying on others, you will *have* to rely on Jesus, because trying to imitate such a perfect and pure life will require only Jesus to be your strength! No human can give you that!
I want to leave you with one more Bible verse that you will hopefully remember when you are tempted to compare yourself to someone else.
This verse is Psalm 139:14. “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
I want to remind you that you are fearfully and wonderfully made by the creator of the Universe!
How amazing is the thought that God, in all His wonder, thought that the world needed one of *you*!?
Think about that for a second!
He didn’t make everyone carbon copies of each other. He made us all unique. Intrinsically *us*.
It’s impossible to fully comprehend this thought – but it shows that comparison has no place in any of our lives!
We are each fearfully and wonderfully made.
We are each a special edition to Christ.
He made only *one* of each of us – what is there to compare?
There is *nothing* to compare!
So next time you are tempted to compare your life to someone else’s, remember these Bible verses.
Memorize them. Pass them on!
I hope and pray this discussion has helped someone today!