Imagine for a moment that you are a soldier in boot camp. You’re away from your home and all that feels secure. The physical demands are probably the toughest you’ve ever faced. You’re physically and mentally exhausted; and you’re strictly running on the grit of your determination. You have a goal, and that’s what keeps you going. You’re in this to finish! You’ll eventually be sent on to your next task. For now, though, you train and learn. Your skills are improving in some areas, and you also learn your weaknesses. Day in and day out, you give your all and strive to reach your goal and grow. Let’s suppose, though, that one day you wake up for a morning run. This particular day you’re emotionally exhausted. Your mind starts to wander, and you begin to notice that some of your fellow soldiers are faster than you. As you contemplate this, you begin to realize that they score higher than you on their classroom exams as well. You don’t notice it at that moment, but your pace has begun to slow since your mind has turned from your goal onto others’ performance. It’s a slippery slope, soldier. One you shouldn’t take.
While you or I may never be a solider in the military, as followers of Christ we are most certainly in training – and already at war. There is a spiritual war waged on every human soul, and Christ-followers are the enemy’s main target. 1 Peter 5:8 says it like this – “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (NIV)
“Be alert and of sober mind.” In other words – think straight. Your goal should be clear: living out this journey called life for and with Jesus. Once covered with the blood of Christ, your destination is heaven. Until we reach our home there, we are to train and learn here…living out a life of love for God and others. The tricky part is that, as human beings, we are prone to compare ourselves to others. It’s as old as the Garden of Eden, where Satan tempted Eve to compare herself to God. In the very next generation, Eve’s son Cain killed his brother Abel. The first murder occurred because Cain compared himself to his brother, who stood righteously before God. Instead of getting his own relationship with God corrected, jealousy led him to murder. Think about this: jealousy would be impossible if it weren’t for comparison.
According to Webster’s dictionary, the word compare means “to look at (two or more things) closely in order to see what is similar or different about them or in order to decide which one is better.” Who is “better” is not for us to decide. The disciples got caught up in comparing, and Jesus gave them the solution. “Then a dispute arose among then as to which of them was the greatest. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, and said to them, ‘Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great.’” (Luke 9:46-48 NIV) Jesus makes no distinction about who is better. He plainly tells us that ALL of us who humble ourselves in love for His sake will be great.
While it’s easy to fall into comparison about innumerable things – our walk with Christ, our spiritual gifts, our family, children, finances, education, career, ministry, etcetera – the truth remains that comparing only stunts our growth and walk with Him. Just as the soldier in our story above was slowed by looking around at others, we too defeat our own purpose and goal when we start looking around in comparison. Proverbs 4:23 warns us: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on all God is. Fix your eyes on our Savior – for He is our goal and prize!