2 Corinthians 10:1-18; Galatians 6:1-5; James 2:1-12
If I may select a well-known phrase from the cobwebs of the fourteenth century and wipe away the dust to garner your attention, it is:
COMPARISONS ARE ODIOUS
Odious . . . disgusting, detestable. If you want to be a miserable mortal, then compare. You compare when you place someone beside someone else for the purpose of emphasizing the differences or showing the likenesses. This applies to places and things as well as people. We can become so proficient at this activity that we sustain our addiction through an unconscious force of habit. Inadvertently, the wheels of our thinking slide over into the ruts of this odious mindset. Comparison appears in at least two patterns.
Pattern one: We compare ourselves with others. You can imagine the results already. Either you are prompted to feel smug and proud because your strengths outweigh his weaknesses . . . or, more often, you begin to feel threatened, inferior, and blue because you fail to measure up. Striving to emulate a self-imposed standard, you begin to slide from the pleasant plateau of the real you to the sinking sands of I don’t know who. This sometimes leads to extreme role-playing where you try every way to adapt and alter your portrait to fit into someone else’s frame. In simpler terms, you’ve pawned your real personality for a phony disguise. That’s odious! Paul penned similar sentiments to a church that had become known for its comparison cliques:
We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. (2 Corinthians 10:12 NIV)
The very next verse tells us, “Our goal is to measure up to God’s plan for us” (TLB, emphasis added). Not for someone else, but for you, personally. God’s great desire for us is that we fulfill His plan for us in our own lives. In His way—His timing.
Pattern two: We compare others with others. This is worse than unfair; it’s stupid. And often cruel. Children suffer most from well-meaning adults who catalog one child’s talents in front of another child in some misbegotten effort at motivation. “Look at your sister Debbie. If she can get an A in math, so can you.” Or, “See how easily Jimmy learned to swim? Why are you so afraid?” That sort of comparison is toxic—poisoning a child’s self-image and smothering the very motivation the parent was seeking to kindle.
But children aren’t the only victims. People compare preachers and teachers, church philosophies and orders of service, soloists and song leaders, personalities and prayers, wives and mothers, families and friends, homes and cars, salaries and jobs, scholarship and salesmanship, husbands and fathers, weights and worries, luxuries and limitations, pain and pleasure. That’s odious! Why not accept people and places and things exactly as they are? Isn’t that true maturity? Why not accept and adjust to differences as quickly and enthusiastically as God forgives our wrongs and stands behind our efforts to try, try again? When love flows, acceptance grows.
Do you know what it is that kicks the slats out from under yesterday’s routine and challenges us to rise and shine on today’s menu of hours and minutes? It’s variety. It’s not the similarity of days that brings fresh motivation and stimulates enthusiasm—it’s the lack of such, the varied differences that keep our attitudes positive and pleasing. To try to compare one day with another, then complain because today wasn’t at all like yesterday, would be sheer folly and foolishness. The same principle applies to people.
Now listen very carefully: God, our wise and creative Maker, has been pleased to make everyone different and no one perfect. The sooner we appreciate and accept that fact, the deeper we will appreciate and accept one another, just as our Designer planned us. Actually, there is only one thing that would be worse than constant comparison, and that is if everyone were just alike.
Can you think of anything more odious?