We make comparisons all the time. For example, we compare things when we are looking to buy them. Which Refrigerator is best? Which clothing lines fit my style or principles? Which cars will have the best features? What is the cheapest? Has the best value? Is the coolest?
Comparing things is one thing but should we compare people? More specifically, should we compare ourselves to other people? There are two answers to that and depending on the perspective you use for the comparison, the proper answer can be “Yes” or “No”.
On one hand, we compare and we fall short.
Sometimes, we compare ourselves to others and we think that we fall short of a particular standard. For example, when Moses was told by God to go back to Egypt and tell Pharaoh that he needed to let Israel go, Moses had a few thoughts about his ability to do that.
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exo 3:11)
But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” (Exo 4:10)
Moses did not think he measured up to the task that God was giving him. Of course, we aren’t confronted with a burning bush and the voice of God today but we still have tasks to do that we are able to do….God doesn’t demand more than we can do.
Comparisons that leave us feeling like we are not good enough are not good comparisons. Today’s world is full image projections that we somehow digest into our brains to think that WE need to be like that, believe this way, act this way, look this way, dress this way….and of course, use this toothpaste!
It has been reported that one Supermodel reportedly said that she even wished she looked like herself. No, she wasn’t being arrogant, she was being realistic. Because by the time photos are through being photo-shopped and manipulated, the image may look like the person but the person does not look like the image. All flaws are gone and sometimes so is extra weight, short necks, the correct color of eyes…etc. etc.
Life is not photo-shopped.
We should not look at others and think…I am not good enough, but often we do.
On the other hand, we can compare ourselves with others and think that they are not good enough.
The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector helps us to see this principle.
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luk 18:10-14)
There are lots of comparisons in this Pharisee’s life.
- I am not…
- I do this…
- I am soooo good, you are really lucky to have me in your life God! (Well, he didn’t quite say that but it was close.)
Read the parable of the Prodigal son in Luke 15 and you will see the older brother’s reaction to the Prodigal’s return was also a bunch of comparison.
But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ (Luk 15:28-30 emphasis mine)
Consider carefully if you compare yourself with others and find yourself falling into one of these two situations: Falling short or elevating yourself. Neither one is good.
We should not compare ourselves with others based on what they have but on who they are. More on this thought next time.
Do you compare yourself with others to make yourself feel better or to justify your own feelings of inferiority? Try being content with what you have, you will find it more satisfying.
The sermon for this post can be heard at this link
Last week we looked at a lesson based on the question of “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The actual answer Jesus gave was not as much what the young ruler needed to do as much as what he needed to give up.
In the sermon, I suggested that perhaps there would be something in our personality that we should give up. One of those personality traits that comes to mind is that of complaining. Even if you don’t think of it as personality, it certainly is a habit many of us have.
Recently, my wife and I read a book (actually, it was an audiobook) entitiled, “A complaint free world” by Will Bowen. The major premise of which is a challenge to go 21 days without complaining. As he says in his book, and I found out in my own life, complaining is an action that is never to far away from us.
This got me to thinking…Do I complain? Honestly, yes I do. I don’t think of myself as a complainer but complaints still are verbalized by me. Complaints fall into the category of expressing discontent with someone or something, criticizing someone, or gossiping about another person.
When we read the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, we see admirable things: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control…..Apparently, Complaining does not make the cut. That’s right, complaining is not a fruit of the Spirit.
There are many reasons why we complain. Sometimes because we forget the blessings of God. Israel sure did this. (Psalm 78:10-20). Other times, we complain because we do not want conflict. That is, we fear that the person we have a complaint against will get mad (or more mad) at us if we bring it up. We even complain to complete strangers just to start a relationship: “The weather is soooooooooooooo hot!”, we complain and viola! instant camaraderie.
There are many reasons why we complain but really, none of them are good reasons because they do not resolve the problem. Discussing the issue with the person who can resolve it is not complaining (as long as you don’t whine about it to them), it is taking steps to fix the issue. Telling the waiter that your dinner plate is the wrong one and asking them to fix it is not a complaint, assuming you use good manners and proper tone.
Can you go 21 days without complaining? It is a good question. I hope you will take the challenge with me. I think that the book by Will Bowen will be worth the read.