Do You Comparison Shop?
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17)
It’s been said that Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, once said “Comparison is the thief of joy”. Do you agree with that? First let’s take a look at the word “comparison”, because it’s something we all do from time to time and we need to be aware of where it can lead to if we do not stop ourselves from doing it.
To compare means to examine the character or qualities of something or someone especially in order to discover resemblances or differences; to view in relation to. Other words that are similar are to match, measure, consider, contemplate, inspect, scrutinize, stack up against, weigh against another, etc. When we compare ourselves to other people or compare what we have (or don’t have) to what others have, we are in some way dissatisfied with ourselves and/or what we have and long for what we don’t have. To take it further, we are dissatisfied with what God has provided for us. It’s not a problem if you see someone with a nice sweater (men, replace that with power tool) and think “that’s a nice sweater. I’d like something like that” and that’s where it ends. But for some, it doesn’t end there and it eventually turns to covetousness. They may not like the way they look and compare themselves to someone else who is younger, thinner, has better clothing, etc. They may feel they do not have as nice of a house as someone else and begin to desire what the person has. For some they may be having marital problems and begin to compare their spouse with the spouse of a friend or coworker. Soon they may desire that person instead of trying to repair their marriage. Others may compare their family who is having problems with someone else’s family who seems to get along better. Some people compare themselves with a coworker, sometimes desiring a position they may feel more qualified for but did not get. Comparison comes in many forms, but when left unchecked and not dealt with, can lead to coveting, anger, bitterness, jealousy and for some, violence.
Let’s look at some people in the bible who compared themselves with others and what came of it:
1. Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-16) – Cain compared himself to his brother, Abel, when his gift was not accepted by God but Abel’s was. Cain became angry and killed his brother.
2. King Saul and David (1 Samuel 15-31) – Saul compared himself to David when David returned from battling the Philistines and the women sang “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” Causing Saul anger and fearing losing his position and kingdom to David. Saul chased after David and eventually committed suicide.
3. Leah and Rachel (Genesis 29:15-35, 30:1-24) – Leah and Rachel were sisters and the wives of Jacob and they compared themselves to each other. Jacob loved Rachel more which caused Leah to crave the affection he gave to Rachel. Leah was fertile while Rachel wasn’t and she was desperate to have children. Leah made an idol out of being loved and accepted by her husband while Rachel made an idol out of being able to have children.
When we compare ourselves to others, we open up the doors to envy, jealousy, covetousness, anger, bitterness and more. The end result is division, something the enemy works at creating amongst God’s people. James 3:16 states the following:
16For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
We also become idolatrous because we are putting our focus more on material things, people and ourselves rather than on God. 1 John 2:15 states:
15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.
5Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)
What are we to do?
Galatians 6:4-5 states:
4 Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. 5 For we are each responsible for our own conduct.
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4).
We are not to compare ourselves with others and be envious of what they have or do. Comparing ourselves to others steals our joy and we know who is the one who steals it, satan. We also know Jesus is the one who wants to give us life and this is who we must put our focus on.
10The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:10)
Rather, we are to reshift our focus back to God and be content in what our Father in heaven has given to us and if we are in need, we need only to ask Him and He will provide according to what is best for us.
6 Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. (1 Timothy 6:6-8)
5Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)
14This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:14-15)
Take a moment and do a heart check today. Do you find that you are comparing yourself to others, what they have, what they look like, their work, their family? If so, confess it to the Lord, repent and surrender it to Him and ask Him to bring contentment into your heart. Remember, God created you and made you unique. He gave you skills and abilities to use for His glory. He knows everything about you and loves you for who you are and how He created you to be. You just have to believe it and walk in it.
13For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. (Psalm 139:13-14)