Comparing ourselves to others or what others have can be destructive. But what if there’s a healthy comparison, too?
We have all heard it said that we should not compare ourselves to others. This is mostly true. It is unhealthy to stress about the fact that our home is not as neat as someone else’s, or that we have not nursed our babies as long as others did (or not at all), or that we don’t make the same kind of “healthy” meals for our families as our friends do.
This kind of comparison results in us feeling bad and in trying to live up someone else’s expectations. It breeds discontentment, resentment, unkindness, and lies. Most devastatingly it takes our eyes off of God and places them onto man causing us to fear man for than God.
But there is a sense in which we should compare ourselves and our lives with something else.
4 Ways Comparison is a Good and Necessary Discipline.
1. Compare what you deserve to what you have
Discontentment often comes about when we believe that we deserve a certain kind of life. I went to college so I deserve a good job. I work hard so I deserve to make good money. I’m a good person and a devout Christian so I deserve for things to go well. But if we were to take a moment and look at what God says we actually deserve we would quickly realize that all we have is grace because what we deserve is hell (Romans 6:23). Our entire life is built on the grace of God. It is by grace that we are saved (Eph. 2:8-9), and every good thing in our life is a gift from God (James 1:17).
2. Compare what you are taught with God’s word.
I have a number of favorite authors and preachers whom I trust theologically. This is great, but it is easy to become a bit lazy in testing what they teach against scripture. In 1 Thess. 5:21 we are told to “test everything.” We have the example of the Bereans who Acts 17:11 listened intently to the teaching of Paul but also examined the Scripture “to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11) We should be quick to listen, but just as quick to compare teaching to the Scripture.
3. Compare the material with the immaterial.
I don’t know about you, but I go through phases where I can easily get sucked into the world’s views on materialism. All of a sudden what I have is not good enough. Amazon is an amazing company, but, boy, does it force me to exercise self control. I have to constantly remind myself that there is more to life than stuff. While material possession are not bad, we need to focus just as much time on our character, the knowledge of God’s word, and loving others.
4. Compare our life with the life that is yet to come
Paul compared this present suffering with our future glory (Romans 8:18). If we focus on the difficulties in this life, then it will be easy and tempting to lose hope and get discouraged, depressed and worn out. Suffering is a part of every Christian’s calling because it is a calling to live godly lives in the midst of a godless culture. But, we are told that this life is but a mist, a vapor that is here today and gone tomorrow and what awaits us is more glorious than man can ever begin to imagine.
Comparing ourselves to others is unhelpful, dangerous and sometimes even sinful. While we can learn from each other’s strengths and help each other with our weaknesses, it is always best to only compare ourselves with the truths found in God’s word. It is the highest and best standard filed with encouragement and help from a God who truly loves us.