Next week, Southern Baptists will gather in Baltimore for their annual meeting, preceded by the SBC Pastor’s Conference. I won’t be able to attend due to the fact that my wife is on the verge of giving birth to our second child.
I enjoy going to pastors’ gatherings, whether they’re focused on theology, leadership, missions, or whatever. I do, however, struggle with something when I go to these kinds of conferences: comparing myself or my ministry with others.
I once heard Robert Morris preach on this subject, and took notes. This post is a combination of my notes from Morris and my own thoughts mixed into one article.
1. The Situation of Comparing
A. It Makes You Feel Better or Worse Than Someone
Let me say it another way: You are choosing inferiority or pride. When you compare your house to someone else’s house, you are either going to feel inferior or superior. When you compare your job to someone else’s job, it is either worse than or better than. If you compare your spouse to someone else’s spouse, you will come away feeling inferior or superior.
This is the problem of comparing. My house is better. My job is better. My wife is hotter. Or, my house is smaller. My job is more stressful. My wife is not as sweet.
B. It Makes You Angry Toward God
Look, God has everything under control, but you’re not acting like that when you compare. You say things to the Lord like, “God, why are you blessing them, but not blessing me?”
You could talk with someone, and they say, “Man, this economy is crushing our business. We’re really struggling. How about you guys?” “No. We’re doing pretty well.”
“Really? Well, that confirms it. That proves, God, that you don’t like me and you do like him. That confirms some things to me. We’re both plumbers. He’s doing well and I’m not. I must not read my Bible enough. I’m not holy enough. Because, God, your favor is more on him than on me.”
This produces anger and resentment toward God. Not only do you resent God, but you resent yourself. You say, there is something wrong with you and you hate yourself.
Jesus said, in Mark 12:31, to love your neighbor as yourself. If you hate yourself, you hate your neighbor. You can’t love your neighbor until you love yourself. You can’t love others until you love the way that God made you. But that’s how we are.
When something good happens to someone else, we often get so mad. “Oh, really? Your aunt died and left you $2 million? Well, why can’t my aunt die?” OR, when something bad happens to someone who has had a long-streak of good things going in life, we feel a little good about it. “Really? He was in a car wreck? Is his face hurt? Is it permanent? Who wants to go to lunch? I’m buying!”
C. It Gives Satan Influence in Your Life
James 3:14–16 (NIV)
14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
Comparison is based on the sin of envy.
Psalm 106 says they envied Moses and Aaron, and when they did, the earth opened up and swallowed them.
Mark 15 says that Pilate claimed that they delivered Jesus up for envy.
Right there, it shows that envy opens the door to rebellion. When you begin to envy what someone else has, you are opening yourself up for the enemy to come in.
2. The Sin of Comparing
A. Lack of Acceptance
This is a lack of acceptance of who God made you to be. Can I tell you something? Nobody has the whole package. If you see someone who is really smart, or really good-looking, they have something else wrong with them. God doesn’t give the total package to anyone.
1 Corinthians 12:24–25
24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
Have you ever thought about this? We, in church, can often compare ourselves with others in the church. For example, if someone has a spiritual gift that is more in the spotlight than your spiritual gift, you could begin to think, “God loves them more than He loves me.” That’s not true! All of our spiritual gifts matter and are important in our church.
B. Lack of Identity
This is when we don’t really understand who we are in Christ. God has a specific gift and purpose for you.
2 Corinthians 10:12 (NKJV)
For we dare not class ourselves [think of the classes we have, even in church] or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
When you compare yourself, it is unwise and not of God. Going back to James 3:15, it is demonic.
As a general rule, jealousy has to do with people; envy has to do with things. When those things come to work, James says that every evil work abounds.
This goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Satan got Adam and Eve to compare themselves with God. “God has something you don’t have. If you eat this fruit, you’ll compare to God.”
Covetousness is selfishness and greed with a mask. Here is another way to put it: “I want what she has. I want her calling. I want her anointing from God. I want her family. I want her husband.” Basically, its you saying, “I want his life, because, God, I don’t like the one You gave me. I want his wife because I don’t like the one You gave me. I want his job because I don’t like the one You gave me.”
Covetousness is ingratitude at the highest level, with a fist in the face of God.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
You might say, “Well, how is covetousness idolatry?” Its very simple. An idol is anything that takes the place of God. You look at what God gave someone else, and you want that thing more than you want God. It becomes an idol.
I want that house. Car. Job. Family. That, then, becomes your idol.
Covetousness is what causes us to compare ourselves to other people.
We all want to receive blessings from God. Could it be true that you not wanting God to bless someone else is what is stopping God from blessing you?
God wants to bless you, but He can’t because of your poor attitude when someone else gets blessed. Instead of letting something rise up inside you and saying, “Why isn’t something good happening to me?” You should be the first person to encourage them and bless them for the blessing they’re receiving from God.
3. The Solution of Comparing
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, [Remember that when you compare yourselves to others, you’re not wise according to 2 Corinthians 10:12] 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
They began to worship other things of this world and what other people had instead of what God was giving to them. Verse 21 is where we can see the solution.
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
A. Honor / Glorify / Magnify God
When they stopped honoring God, they started to focus on others. They transitioned from focusing on their Creator to creation, and that’s when they started to focus on satisfying the lust of their flesh.
Let me give you another word that may be used for “glorify” since we don’t use that word very often—MAGNIFY. There must have been a time in your life, probably when you were a child, did you ever have one of these (hold up a magnifying glass).
What do these do? They magnify. We need to magnify God. When you hear “glorify,” think “magnify.” We want people to see how big He is.
Here is what we do, though: We magnify that guy’s job. We make it bigger than what it really is. We magnify his house, her family, her car.
When we magnify anything other than God, we are on the road to the sin of comparison. Don’t magnify anything in your mind other than God. When we do that, we’re in trouble.
I was watching a preacher on TV this past week, and I thought, “I wish I could preach as well as he.” I caught myself comparing!
B. Be Thankful
You’ll never have a problem with gratefulness if you understand that nothing you have is deserved. If you start to be more and more grateful, you will stop comparing yourself so much with others.
A lack of thankfulness opens the door to all kinds of evil in our lives. A lack of thankfulness becomes habitual. So, therefore, thankfulness is a habit.
C. Renew Your Mind
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
We started this message by looking at Jesus’ conversation with Peter, and Peter looked at John and said, “Well, what about him? Give John some bad news, too.”
I think Peter completely overcame his struggles with comparison. Right before he dies, according to 2 Peter, as he was on his way to Rome, and he says, “I’m going to die the way Jesus said I was going to die.”
We know Peter died between A.D. 67–68, so he knew this truth from Jesus for over 30 years. Now, the Bible doesn’t say this, but there are three historical documents that note that Peter was crucified upside down. He said, “I’m not worthy to die in the manner our Lord died.”
Even in his death, he did not want to be compared to Jesus. He said, “Don’t compare me. I don’t compare.”