The Danger of Comparing (part 3)

Every man has his proper gift from God. (1 Corinthians 7:7)

What is a “proper gift” from God.  The word for proper comes from the word idios, which means private or separate.  We see this word as the root for the word idiosyncrasy, which means a mode of behavior peculiar to an individual.  

When I think of the word indiosyncrasy, it reminds me of a car that was given to me.  The previous owner said that before he would pass on the car, he wanted to show me the idiosyncrasies of it.  Because it had a Diesel engine, it had its own particular quirks.  Additionally, there was a problem with the side window whistling and he showed me how to stop that.  There were quite a few distinct issues with the car that needed to be deal with in particular ways.

Just as my car was particular, so are we.  God, who knows our beginning from the end, provides for us exactly what we need and when he does, he gives us our “idios” gift or a gift that is distinctly for us.  What is vitally important for us to know is that the private or separate gift that he gives us was done so according to the grace that he has given us.

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, … (Romans 12:6)

When we measure ourselves to others and seem to fall short, we try to demonstrate grace in our lives that God has not given to us.  Consider the following illustration.

Imagine a woman who does not have any artistic ability.  Her home is tidy and neat, but sparse with decorations.  She doesn’t knit, sew, or create crafts.  However, she begins to compare herself with the “Martha Steward” in the church.  When she does so, how do you think she will fair?  My guess is that she will compare rather poorly.

So, she beats herself up, goes to the altar and tells God that she is going to be a better wife and mother.  She buys items from the craft store and sets out to achieve her goal.  However, the items sit in the closet for about a month or so.  They seem to be calling to her and she runs in fear from their voice.  Eventually, she is back at the altar again making more promises.

She finally starts working on the project, but it is just one problem after another.  She eventually sits in tears–a failure and a lousy Christian mother.  Does this sound familiar? But let me ask you, “Is she a lousy Christian mother?  Let’s take a closer look.

Each night she sits at the kitchen table encouraging her child who has learning difficulties. Through all of the frustration and tears, she remains patient and supportive.  Her children–as all children–have their moments, but instead of lashing out and taking her frustrations out on the, when they disobey, she remains gentle and calm–even in times of discipline.

While at church, she doesn’t look down her nose at others.  In meekness, she encourages those that she sees struggling.  She does this because she recognizes that she too has struggles.

However, this woman does not see herself as a spiritual success because she fails to recognize all that the Lord is doing in her life and the work of grace that is evident.  Why does she continue to see herself that way?  She sees herself as a failure because she compares herself to others.

The Danger of Comparing (part 2)

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. (Psalm 139:14)

As we look at this passage we can see that there are keywords to be identified: praise, fearfully, wonderfully, and marvelous.  

Fearfully – to fear or to frighten. 

Wonderfully made – to distinguish, to put a difference or to set apart.

Marvelous – to separate, to be great, to make singular or to distinguish

Knoweth – to understand

Right well – vehemently (strong emotion), greatly, sore (knowing that affects you emotionally).

If you take these definitions and then use them in place of the words, you can paraphrase the scripture in your own words to help you better grasp the meaning.

I will praise thee, because it is frightening how I am distinctly set apart as a singular person and I am emotionally stirred by this understanding.

From this, you should recognize your distinctness.  You should see that because you are distinct, you have a distinct purpose.  Because you are distinct, you should not compare yourselves to anyone else because they are distinct with their own distinct purpose.  This should cause you to lift your heart in praise to God because of the distinct work that he has done and is doing in your life.

In 1 Corinthians 12:4-12, the Apostle Paul speaks concerning gifts of the Holy Spirit.  From this passage, we learn some important truths, which will aid us from falling into the trap of comparing.  Coupling these truths with what we have previously discussed, we can come to the following list of conclusions.

1. I am a distinct person.

2. I have a distinct purpose.

3. God has equipped me with gifts. (vs. 7)

4. These gifts match my distinctness.

5. God willed me to have these gifts and not me. (vs. 11)

6. God has declared that church members are not the same. (vs. 12)

7. God placed me in a church to fulfill a distinct purpose.

So, if God created you to be unique and equipped you with a gift or gifts to be used to fulfill his unique purpose for your life, why would you compare yourself to others?  Comparing yourself to others, would cause you to draw conclusions that would be wrong and that is why it is unwise.

For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. (II Corinthians 10:12)

 The Danger of Comparing Yourself (2 Corinthians 10:12)


Did you ever compare something before?  Were you ever ready to make a purchase, but before making up your mind, you compared one item to another.  Sometimes the decision is easy.  However at other times, it can be quite difficult.

How many times have you compared items and made a wrong decision?  You tried your best, but your decision was wrong.  It wasn’t the end of the world and in the end nothing bad probably came from it.  All of us have done it.  However, there are times when we make comparisons that the outcome can be problematic and even harmful.

Consider the scripture:  II Corinthians 10:12

For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.

If you took the keywords, defined them and then paraphrased this passage, it would look something like this.

We should not do the extreme behavior of counting ourselves as part of a special group, nor should we judge ourselves with those that exhibit themselves: because those who measure others to themselves or compare themselves to the standard of others are not wise.

What does this actually mean?  We are all familiar with the phrase, “He thinks he has arrived”.  People who see themselves this way are guilty of making themselves of the number.  Sometimes these people stand out.  However, there are others who are guilty of this, but they cloak themselves with false words of humility.

You measure yourself by yourself when you determine your spirituality based on how you compare yourself to others. You may measure yourself more spiritual than others if the others have fallen short of your standard of living or you may consider yourself less spiritual because you have not attained the standard of living that others have set.

We have all done this. We look around the church and interact with those present.  In the back of my minds, we compare ourselves to those we meet.  We point out their weaknesses or shortcomings as the scale of righteousness tips in our favor. For others, the process is quite different. They view others in the opposite way. They identify good qualities in others and make a comparison of themselves. Again the scale of righteousness tips, but they are on the unfavorable side. The event goes on Sunday after Sunday.  This two way street of measuring our spirituality is wrong and unwise.

Why do we do it or how did we get this way? There may be many reasons why you and I act this way but for most of us, it can boil down to a few sources. All while growing up, we were measured or compare. Compared to the older brother or sister or even compared to the neighbor. We were compared to a performance standard to get into sports, compared grades for honor privileges, compared to honesty, compared to hard work, compared in every facet of life. We compare ourselves because we were raised to compare. These comparisons–as a whole–were right, but they are not right spiritually.

Another reason we compare is because of our insecurity as human beings. Since the fall of man, we have fallen short of God’s intended design for man and this creates an insecurity within us. Deep within us, we seek acceptance from others and for those who come to know Christ, we seek acceptance from God. Some of us recognize that in Christ we have obtained acceptance. However for so many of us, this is not so.  Why?  There have been wounds that we have obtained: wounds upon our souls. These are wounds of rejection.  Every time somebody treated us wrongfully, we were also rejected.  Being laughed at, mocked, shunned, and even being teased hurt us deeply because each of these was a rejection. These wounds pressed us down and at times even depressed us.  Our natural response was to seek acceptance from others. In an effort to attain this, we identified what were acceptable standards and then set out to accomplish them. Be thin! Be fun! Be smart! Be popular and the be’s go on. When we came to Christ, the attitude remained within us. We identified acceptable spiritual standards and then set out to accomplish them. Be faithful, be modest, be giving, be helpful, be humble – and the be’s go on. We compared ourselves to others to see how we were doing and when we did, we were not wise.