A Deeper Look at Comparison
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” You've probably heard this phrase before. While it's true, there is so much more to comparison. Comparing yourself to others can steal your joy, but why?
A DEEPER LOOK AT COMPARISON
Let's evaluate for a moment. What is going on in your mind when you are comparing yourself to others? Probably something along these lines: “wow, if only I could be like her,” “why can’t I paint as well as you,” “she is so much better than me at everything,” “I wish I looked like her,” “why does she get to be so smart,” “she is so much better at her job,” and so on.
Most of the time when comparing you're probably not thinking: “wow, she is really good at what she does, praise God,” or, “she seems to know more than I do on this subject, I should ask her for advice.” I’m not saying you never think like that, just that it's likely more rare. Comparing yourself to others can quickly lead to jealousy, envy, bitterness and discontentment when it is rooted in pride. It is when pride and envy enter in that comparison becomes sinful. James 3:16 says, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.” Pride wants glory for self and therefore sees others as a threat to its own personal glory.
Comparison in and of its self is not sinful. In fact, the Bible tells us to be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12). God also calls us to be imitators of Him, (1 Corinthians 11:1; 4:16; Ephesians 5:1). Imitation requires comparison, so comparison is not all bad, it's where our heart is at when we are actually comparing ourselves that matters.
COMPARISON TO CHRIST
We are all broken and sinful people, so really you are the same as the person next to you, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Instead of comparing yourself to others, compare yourself to the almighty God of the universe, for He is the only standard of perfection. Many times people don’t like to do this because doing so reveals sin and wretchedness in our hearts.
When you compare yourself to God it leads to conviction, repentance, and worship.
“When sin is made most grievous, Christ is made most precious.” - Matthew Henry.
Isaiah 6:1-7 is a beautiful passage of what happens when you see yourself for who you are (a sinner) and God for who He is (The Holy God of the Universe):
In the year of King Uzziah’s death I [Isaiah] saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said,’ Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, 'Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.’”
When you compare yourself to others in pride you entertain sinful unloving thoughts, attitudes and desires towards others in your heart and mind. You cannot love God and others while being envious, jealous and bitter. So why is comparison stealing your joy? Because you are entertaining unloving thoughts, attitudes and desires towards God and others when you compare yourself to others.
God calls us to love others, how do you do this?
If you are loving on a non-Christian friend the most loving thing you can do is share the gospel with them through words and actions (2 Corinthians5:20-21). If you are loving on a believer you are to build them up by encouraging them in Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Ephesians 4:11-16).
So the next time you find yourself comparing yourself to someone in pride, or envying what they have that you do not, turn your eyes toward Jesus, speak Gospel truth into your life and pray for forgiveness. Then ask the Lord for help to walk in love for His glory.