To whom are you prone to compare yourself?
As you probably know, I’m a piano teacher. I am more advanced than my students, and I enjoy instructing them in the things I have learned. Yet when I watch videos of professional pianists, I’m stunned. They are so amazing. And I feel like a beginner compared to them. I have much to learn, so far to go. There’s no way I will be as good as some of the pianists I’ve seen.
There is a wise truth here, which was something that was explained by Andrew Pudewa (EIW author) at the last speech & debate tournament we attended.
You’ll always be better than someone else.
But there’s always someone better than you.
If we compare ourselves to those who aren’t as accomplished as us, we tend to become prideful. Do you realize that this can even be true in spiritual matters? Sometimes we compare ourselves to others in terms of how much doctrine we know, how biblically we can respond to different questions or refute secular humanism. We can become prideful even in our diligence to pray or read God’s Word! Jonathan Edwards wisely expresses: "The spiritually proud person shows it in his finding fault with other saints... [he is] quick to discern and take notice of their deficiencies."
On the other hand, if we always compare ourselves to others who we perceive (or who in reality, are) better than us, we can easily fall into self-pity or despair.
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses…. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor. 12:9-10
Instead of focusing on our inability to match others, we should look to Christ. After all, we are commanded to be holy (1 Thess. 4:7, 1 Pet. 1:15-16), imitators of God (Eph. 5:1), and count everything else as loss (Phil. 3:8).
But we don’t always do that. Instead, we look to others for the bar of success or accomplishment.
“That’s the way we sinners are wired. Compare. Compare. Compare. We crave to know how we stack up in comparison to others. There is some kind of high if we can just find someone less effective than we are.” John Piper
Ultimately, we must learn to compare ourselves to the one and only standard, Christ, because after all, it is to Him that we must give an account (2 Cor. 5:9-10). Yes, we need to work hard and diligently at the tasks we are given. We are to do everything for His glory! (1 Cor. 10:31) But our love for Him should drive our diligence and hard work ethics, not the motivation of catching up or surpassing others.
May this God-centered focus result in all praise and glory going to Him, and may our lives be worthy of the gospel of Christ!