“There is no win in comparison.” A few years ago our church went through a sermon series entitled “The Comparison Trap.” Since then, the above opening statement has echoed in my mind any time I start to compare myself (or my life) with others. Still. Some days it’s a challenge not to be swept away with covetousness, jealousy, and envy.
Those are some pretty ugly words, and I hate to even put them in print. But unfortunately, that is the reality of my sinful heart at times…and the reason I’m writing this post right now. I don’t usually struggle with jealousy of material items but the other night as my husband and I walked past some big, beautiful old houses (my weakness) I couldn’t help but feel a painful twinge of dissatisfaction with our own home. Looking at the nicer neighborhoods, paved driveways, and larger yards suddenly made our current residence seem quite inadequate.
But comparison doesn’t just stop at the material. Oh no, it shows up big time for me when I see someone else with personal qualities I admire. Qualities I wish I possessed. It even rears its ugly head when it comes to my relationships with other people. Unsurprisingly, moments spent in comparison leave me feeling weak, insecure, and to use the word from above, inadequate. Definitely not a win.
Where does this ugliness come from? What is at the root of it all? I reflected and prayed about these questions during my walk this morning. Along quiet familiar streets under a freshly risen sun, one word came to mind: pride.
Of course. The love of self glorification. A sinful tale as old as the garden of Eden. Why else would I feel discontent with a home that has literally everything I need and more…a home the vast majority of the world’s population would love to inhabit. Would something bigger with more beauty add to the love and laughter of our existing home? I know the answer is a resounding “No.”
When it comes to envying the personal attributes of others, pride is without a doubt the underlying factor. I want to be recognized as smart, engaging, funny, wise, beautiful, and talented. I want to be sought after by my friends, a favorite of all. Whew. I’m putting it all out there with this one. But this has been my struggle over the last few weeks.
All of these thoughts roamed through my mind as I continued to walk. When I rounded the corner to my street, lyrics from a Jeremy Camp song played in my head:
Holy Father, burn away my desire for anything that is not of you, and is of me; I want more of you and less of me. Empty me, empty me. Fill me with you, with you.
Isn’t that the answer to all of our pride? More of Jesus and less of us. To love his glory more than our own.
John the Baptist did this really well. Before Jesus began his ministry, John was the voice in the wilderness crying out, preparing the way of the Lord; the one proclaiming the good news of the coming Messiah. Some viewed this wild, camel hair wearing, locust eating man as crazy- but he sure could draw a crowd. People came to him to be baptized. He was kind of a big deal. But at the end of John chapter 3 we see how he responded to his followers’ concern about the attention Jesus was drawing. (They saw Jesus as a threat, as someone who was taking followers away from John.) But John said to them in verse 30, “He must increase, I must decrease.”
John knew his role. And he knew his role because he understood who he was and who God was. So often we get this backwards. We forget which one of us needs to decrease. In our pride we falsely believe that our greatest happiness will be achieved when we are made much of. But what did John say about this? In verse 29 he gave an example of the joy experienced when a friend is about to be married. On the day of the wedding, great joy is found in admiring and delighting in the bride and groom, rather than in oneself. Likewise, John (speaking of Jesus) said, “That joy is mine, and it it now complete.” Truly, our greatest joy comes from the glorification and exaltation of our Savior.
Over this past week I have listened to the above mentioned song several times, often in the morning while getting ready for work. I’ve also spent time in prayer asking God to empty me of my pride. And in moments of wrestling with doubt and insecurity, He has lovingly reminded me through His Spirit and His Word, to turn my eyes on Jesus. What joy and relief this has brought- for when my eyes are on him, they are not on myself or the things of this world.
I heard a pastor once say, “Your destination is as glorious as your god.” How true that is. When I let my pride go unchecked, comparison and envy are quick to take hold. Undoubtedly, the destination of the “god of self” is despair. But the destination of a holy, righteous, loving, and perfect God is eternity in heaven and sanctification on earth.
Galatians 5:1 tells us that it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Yes, freedom from the guilt of sin so that we can stand uncondemned before the Creator of the universe. But through Christ we also have freedom from the bondage of sin here on earth- freedom from comparison, envy, and pride. When our eyes are fixed on Jesus, we are filled with overwhelming joy, gratitude, and contentment, with a desire to see him glorified rather than ourselves. As John Piper so famously said, “He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Let us then, like John the Baptist, know our role as we strive daily to make him known by finding our deepest satisfaction in him. May He ever increase as we decrease.