The Curse of Comparing

I’ve been doing a lot of Facebook surfing lately, in fact, not only Facebook but Instagram and Twitter also- just not Tik Tok, I don’t even know where to begin with that. But I just don’t think I’m doing this quarantine thing right. I see my friend’s families taking pictures playing in the yard, like something you would see on a magazine cover. My news feed has been flooded with gourmet stay-at-home chefs making breads, and other colorful dishes and home renovations that would make Joanna Gaines jealous- and here I am not sure when the last time I showered, watching my kid scream in my wife’s face while the house is trashed. I don’t want this, I want that! I want to play in the yard! I want that beautiful home! I want my wife to make delicious cookies and pies. I want that! Where did I go wrong? I want to quarantine like that! But friends I’m here to tell you that the fastest way to kill something is to compare it to something else, or lets state it another way: Where comparison begins, contentment ends.

Truth is, it’s never been easier to compare in the history of the world. Social media, you can be having a really good day, you pull up Instagram or Facebook or whatever and you see everybody else is out having fun. You’re like, “Why didn’t you invite me? Why wasn’t I invited? Why didn’t I get to go be here?” You see your friend like, “She’s on her second vacation of the year.” You can’t even afford to go to grandma’s house. You’re like, “Oh, there she is sitting by the pool reading a book taking a picture of her feet overlooking the pool.” (Why do they always do that?) Your friend is out to eat and they’re having a perfect dinner and there’s a ring and lobster, and you’re at home, he’s playing video games or eating TV dinners. It is so easy to lose contentment when you start to compare.

I want to start with Paul in II Corinthians. Paul was saying this, “We don’t dare compare ourselves with other people.” He said this is verse 12 of chapter 10, he said, “They’re only comparing themselves with each other using themselves as the standard of measurement.”He says, “You know what? How ignorant, how ignorant it is to say, ‘Look how their kids act all the time,’ ‘Look how much money he’s getting paid in his job and I’m not,’ ‘Look at their relationship and what I don’t have.'” How ignorant it is to find yourself comparing? In fact, it either makes you feel superior or inferior and neither honors God. Right? It makes you feel better than or less than and neither one of those results honors God.

What I want to do is show you in John chapter 20 about a little conflict apparently going on between two of the disciples, Peter and John. A pastor once pointed out to me, Peter and John didn’t like each other. What!? They’re disciples! They’re next to Jesus. But the more I look at it, the more I think there was some quieter, maybe not so quiet competition between the two. In fact, if you just even look at all through the Gospels, they’re like, “Hey, I got to sit next to Jesus. I was closest to him.” Who’s his favorite? There’s this little competition between disciples because they’re regular people.

John liked to refer to himself as “The one that Jesus loved.” How ridiculous is that? “The one,” this is his favorite, “the one that Jesus loved.” Evidently, and this is just my opinion, there’s some competition of Peter comparing to John, who’s the favorite, who’s the best, who’s the greatest one in the eyes of Jesus?

It was three days after Jesus had died. He was supposed to be in the tomb but when Mary got there, the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty. She didn’t know what to think. Was he risen? Did someone steal his body? Where was he? Mary went running to the disciples and here’s how the story goes in John 20. A footrace ensues! The tomb is empty, Christ is risen, and John is all excited that he’s faster than Peter. “Mary came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, John, “The one that Jesus loved”. They had taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they put him, “Peter and the other disciples started for the tomb. Both were running but “John, the other disciple,” outran Peter and reached the tomb first.

How much of a dude is this? “Just in case you’re wondering, Christ is risen and I beat Peter to the tomb!” “Both were running,” the Bible says, “but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. Then Simon Peter came along.” “Finally, the other disciple who had reached the tomb FIRST went inside. It was a race for bragging rights!

Then in verse 21 the men are fishing from the boat, and not catching anything and they see some guy on the shore and the guy says “Cast your net to the other side”, and of course the nets are full of fish and the men finally recognize it’s Jesus. John jumps up “I recognized Him first! That’s Jesus! I see Him!” and Peter dives into the water to be the first to greet Jesus on the shore, and you can feel the competitive nature of these two almost jockeying for position on the boat to see Jesus.

So Peter meets Jesus on the shore and they have this epic exchange, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” and Peter replies all three times “Yes Lord, you know I do.” and Jesus responds, “Then feed my sheep.” and in my previous writings I’ve stopped there but this time I noticed something interesting directly afterwards. The Bible says Peter turned around and who does he see? The one Jesus loves, John! and you can almost feel Peter’s sense of urgency as he redirects Jesus’ eyes on himself, “what about him? What’s he supposed to do? What are you going to say to him?” Here’s my point, Jesus responds to Peter about John “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what’s that to you? Why are you wasting your time on him, I’m talking to you!” Your job is to feed my sheep. Follow me. Feed my sheep. Don’t worry about him. Do what I asked you to do.

We can not faithfully follow Jesus if we’re always comparing ourselves to somebody else. We can never be who he fully calls us to be if we’re always looking over our shoulder saying, “What about them? What do they have? What are they doing? Where are they going? Why are they getting the attention? Why are they more blessed than I am in this area of their life?”

We can never fully follow Jesus if we’re always comparing ourselves to somebody else. Why is it that we do this? Because by nature, we are sinful human beings. Our sin nature takes us away from the heart of God toward ourselves, and we are trying to find some external win to satisfy an internal longing and there is no external accomplishment, blessing, relationship, amount of money, satisfaction that ever quenches the inner spiritual longing that we have, so we want more and we want to be the best.

Listen, especially the teens reading this. I was your age, I made mistakes then and I continue to make them now: There will NEVER be enough ANYTHING in the world to satisfy the spiritual brokenness that we have inside. You can’t have enough money, you can’t get enough likes, there aren’t enough followers, there’s not enough attention, there’s never a right relationship, a good enough house, the perfect vacation. You can look for it and look for it and look for it, but there is nothing on the outside designed by God to satisfy you on the inside beside the God who created you. This is why it’s ignorant, it’s stupid, it’s useless, it’s a waste of time, it’s destructive, it’s hurtful, makes you feel superior or inferior and neither honors God.

So who or what will define our worth? If your answer is anything but “Jesus” you’re running a race you’ll never win.

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