There’s a game I begin playing about this time every year. With the warming temperatures, my neighbor across the street is the first out there working to keep up his immaculate lawn. It appears that there’s no expense spared for that trophy. Another neighbor, next to us, prefers the tranquil beauty of dandelions and crab grass. Not wanting the expense or effort required to be the best, yet not willing to be left in the dust, I do a little research, and get out when I can. I know that the neighbor on our other side will be soon to follow!
Perhaps you don’t relate to this particular competition, but there are plenty of other comparison traps we can fall into. Being a relatively new parent myself, I’m a little shocked at the competitive academic environment we observe in (just) kindergarten! Part of my job now requires a lot of reading, but as far as I remember, I couldn’t read half as good as our little kindergartener! (Sigh) What is with this drive to get ahead of others? Why do we play the comparison game?
James 4:1-3 states it well: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
“Coveting”. It’s the last in the list of 10 Commandments, given in Exodus 20. (In the same list as murder & adultery!) It Steals Joy and Contentment, and I dare say that it takes our thoughts away from far greater pursuits, such as seeking God’s approval over others’. In case you don’t see yourself entrenched in any of the above, let me mention a few more:
Comparing our homes/cars: Size, space, cleanliness, features
Comparing Spouses: (Gifts, Looks, Personalities, social or spiritual involvement (or Spouse’s parents to yours!)
Kids: Comparing the behavior, clothes, cuteness, athleticism, or achievements, of our kids versus others’
Job: Amount you make, satisfaction level, comparing your promotions to others’
Church: Size, Growth, Child care, Worship Band’s music ability, Pastor’s sermons and relatability, etc. (Pastors are not immune to this at all! There’s always comparisons going on at pastor’s gatherings.)
I’m just glad I don’t have competition at our church…yet… :) Ah, but wait; there’s also an often-unspoken competition between churches, when essentially we should be working toward the common goal of glorifying Christ and bringing others into His Family.
One of the greatest culprits in our modern-day comparison game is Social Media. Facebook, and others: continually show the “highlight reel” of “happy people”, which runs counter to your real life! A more recent term I’ve heard: “Facebook Depression”, comes from comparing your life to others on the site. Advertisements have always sought to entice you to compare what you have with what you COULD have. Now, they just don’t have to promote it as directly; just get people you know to promote it on their page! All this simply feeds the anxiety, leading to increased stress, even hysteria by some. ISIS has tapped into it, as the world around us sees the discrepancies, comparing their lifestyles to ours, treating it as a social injustice (as it IS at times).
I think of Adam & Eve again, having lived in complete perfection and bliss, and a garden that met every need, they were still enticed by a serpent who planted the temptation that “God is withholding the best from you”, and “you could have so much more”. It led them to break the only prohibition that was given! The same temptation is given to us daily. With all that we have in Christ, and heaven in store, how about just wanting a little bit more??
Listen: We should “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15), and be happy for others and their achievements, and suppressing our urge to judge. (Maybe they NEED that vacation!)
So, suppress the desire to check the number of “likes” on your post, and speak out against the “not fairs” creeping into your thought life. God, who knows the end from the beginning, has got a BIGGER Story –as is not swayed by the “likes” of popular opinion on His Word. As our children are observing us, let us run counter to culture, seeking His Glory above all else, loving Him through loving others over self. It’s not “high self-esteem vs low self-esteem”, the Bible describes it at “self-esteem vs God-esteem”!
Knowing this, and my eternal security with Him, I MUST live differently, considering the socio-economic discrepancies in the world, and around me. I know, there are dozens of non-profits all clamoring for our generosity, and we have to be shrewd. But I would rather be known as one who gave much, versus one who accumulated much!
Jesus is my model, who left the glories of heaven for our sake, and invites us to join HIM!