Culture has set us up to constantly be comparing ourselves with others. We compare the things we own, like our homes and cars. We compare our family dynamics and physical appearance. Thanks to Pinterest, Instagram, and HGTV (only to name a few), we have a constant window into the lives of others and the newest trends. All of this comparison can leave us feeling pretty discontent. On the other hand, if we are keeping up with the latest and greatest, we may feel pretty good about ourselves.
The reality for most of us is that we find some who make us feel better, and come across others who make us feel inferior.
The greatest tragedy of all is when we allow this mindset to seep into our spiritual life. We may hear a message on Sunday morning and think that we really wish so-and-so were there to hear it, but all along God had something to speak to us about the topic. We may be with a group of our church friends and find out about a family issue they are dealing with, causing us to reflect on our own family and feel better in comparison. Or, we may hear that our friends just paid off their house and we immediately feel jealous. We may see that we are reading our Bible more often than our spouse, so that must mean that they are the one causing the issue in our relationship.
If we are truly following after God, then it makes sense that we desire to be living our lives well. However, comparing our life to those around us will never measure the growth we truly desire.
2 Corinthians 10:12 (NIV) says, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.”
We should not convince ourselves that we are patient because we didn’t respond to the situation with the outburst that our friend did. We should not convince ourselves that we are more spiritual because we gave more to the homeless shelter or go on more missions trips. We should also not feel condemned when we fall short or feel as though we are doing less than someone else.
What is the standard we should live by?
Are you sure you want to know? It’s actually an even higher standard than the one we’ve set so far.
There is one to whom we should compare ourselves to. His name is Jesus, and he set the standard far above any other standard. In Jesus’ first sermon, he says “do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them (Matthew 6:17).” Jesus did just that. He upheld the whole law and, in his life, fulfilled all of its requirements. In the same sermon, he addressed the law in a deeper way. He started several instructions with, “you have heard it said, … but I tell you…”, each time raising the bar as to what it meant to love your enemies, murder, commit adultery, and so on. Now this was truly an unattainable standard.
How could we ever measure up? We cannot. I cannot. You cannot.
It is only by God’s grace through his sacrifice that we can live righteous lives.
Romans 6:11-14 says: “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” (Further reading: Romans 5-8)
Jesus fulfilled the law for us through the power of the Holy Spirit. He then ascended to Heaven and sent that same Holy Spirit to live in us. When we accept this gift, sin no longer rules in us, but God gives us grace to overcome sin. It is not just a knowledge of what the right thing is that enables us to live holy – this was the way of the law. Rather, it is a constant connection to the spirit of God. Apart from him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). While we may still sin at times, we can ask God for forgiveness and help to obey him in that area the next time.
Jesus’ standard puts us all on the same level. None of us are measuring up. Despite the fact that we all fall short, we all have access to the same Holy Spirit to help us live holy lives. We hurt each other and the church as a whole when we decide we are good enough compared to this person or that person. Our hearts need to be ever sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit because it is his power that helps us to do the right thing.