We’ve all done it. We’ve looked at somebody else with some sort of envy. We compare our lives, our stuff, our jobs, our families, our churches, etc and think the grass is always greener on the other side. Why do we do this? What in our nature keeps this particular idol coming back like an annoying weed? It’s our sin. This particular sin motivates people to do crazy things like quit jobs, cheat on spouses, leave families, or be entirely depressed and unjoyful in the present.
As pastors, we compare our flocks, the number of people coming to a service, the amount of work we are doing in a community, the amount of staff, or the amount of money, and we think “if only I could have that, I’d finally be satisfied.” As church planters, there’s the temptation to compare our progress with that of other church plants. If we’re not careful, our identity is built on that comparison.
Whether it’s in your life or your ministry, you won’t ever be satisfied if your satisfaction is based on the comparison on others!
Comparison is an idol because it takes our eyes off of the only one who can sustain us who is Jesus Christ. The Gospel says, “We are inadequate. We are sinners, and we are weak.” There is nothing about us that God looked at and said that we’re redeemable. He looked at us, saw our weaknesses, and our sin, and redeemed us for His glory. Not ours. If it was something we had done, we would have something to brag about or boast about (Eph 2:8-9). But instead, we have nothing to brag about, so God receives all the glory.
The idol of comparison has some pretty gnarly consequences. Here are some:
1. Creates an unattainable image of who we want to be.
When you compare your image with others, you only see the strengths of their personality, life, gifts, etc, and you only see the weaknesses of yours. So, your image of what you’re not is corrupted and is truly unattainable. All people have flaws and weaknesses.
2. Leaves us joyless in the present.
Those who are stuck in the idol of comparison have trouble enjoying the present. They can only think about what is bad, so they live life without joy. They can’t just be and enjoy the moment. They’re always thinking about what’s being compared.
3. Hurts the relationships of whom we are closest.
Often those that are hurt the worst by the comparison idol are not you but the people around you that you love the most. Think about it. As you wallow about in self-pity and envy, that joylessness starts effecting those around you. They start to believe that you don’t want to be around them which hurts them.
4. Doesn’t let you enjoy blessings.
Whenever you suffer from the envy trap and something good happens, you can’t enjoy it. This is mainly because your mind is only happy if you get the one thing you idolize. Everything else is superfluous. You don’t want it.
5. Your peers become competitors instead of friends.
It becomes difficult to have true friends with your peers. If you’re a pastor and you’ve been to any conference, the first question is “How many people you running?” The answer to that question will often either put the questioner in envy or security. If you’re number is higher than his church, he is envious. If it’s lower, he’s secure because he beat you. This is not an example of being kingdom minded but territory minded.
6. Always leaves you wanting more.
When you fall to the comparison trap and even when you get things that you desire, there are always new people and new things to compare yourself to. You can’t be satisfied because it’s only a place that God can satisfy.
7. Immobilizes us from doing anything of value.
Comparison creates the facebook complex where you look at social media and can’t help but keep looking. As you look, you become more depressed at how happy and awesome everyone looks around except you. In turn, that keeps you looking, which gets you more depressed. It’s a vicious cycle.