When we see someone being placed into a position of leadership, or called to a position of service that we see ourselves better suited for, what does our heart feel; does it constrict within us, resenting (begrudging) the individual, or does it rejoice?
Comparison is a form of measurement that can lead us down the slippery slope of sin. It yields works of the flesh such as jealousy, envy, bitterness, backbiting, gossip, derision, and unkind judgment of others. There is great danger when we begin to compare ourselves against another, especially within the church body. It can bring divisions among brethren that can be irreparable. I confess that I have been guilty of comparison and have had trouble with envy. All the enemy needs is a foothold if I give him the chance, and he begins to whisper all sorts of wrong thoughts in my head.
Side Note: Sin is not sin if you do not answer the door of temptation. If you are tempted to envy, repent at the first thought and move on, it then does not birth sin because you do not dwell on it, letting it take root (James 1:14-15).
I have struggled with comparison in part because of the way I grew up. This is by no means an excuse, but it does show me a root cause as to why I have struggled with it. Many people have root causes for their behavior but once identified they can begin working on it, and with God’s help, overcome their weakness for it. The root cause of my behavior was in part because of my childhood.
My childhood was very violent. I grew up in a home with an alcoholic father who would beat my mother mercilessly. After my mother left my father, she had her own brokenness to deal with, so I grew up lacking praise and acknowledgment as a child. It seemed that my efforts were often greeted with disregard and no recognition whatsoever. Any achievement came without merit. As children, we seek these things from our parents; we want to know we matter and have value. Consequently, because I was starved this acknowledgement, as an adult, I found myself seeking to fill this gaping hole from others, especially those in positions of authority, interesting enough. I found myself doing and serving for the reward of recognition and praise. It fed a deep reservoir that needed filling. I believe comparison comes from a deep need to be recognized. But through the work of the Holy Spirit I came to realize that it was a heart sickness I did not want in my life, and God used my time in the word to show me this.
During one of my studies, the Lord led me to read 1 Corinthians 3 to 4:1. This part of scripture talks about being babes in Christ and still struggling with envy, strife, and divisions among believers. It broke my heart to tears when I realized that I had been serving carnally. That I was seeking fleshly desires and accolades for my own gain and not for His glory. God disciplines those He loves, and He did that day with me, but He did it in great love and tenderness because that is how He teaches us. He truly is the greatest parent. He desires for us to come up higher with Him, but He can’t if all we do is look around at others and what they are doing compared to us; …But they [who are], measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise (2 Corinthians 10:12). How powerful and quickly our emotions of jealousy and envy can rise up within us when we are still walking in our carnal nature. This was the situation Paul faced with the church in Corinth. A church with problems, struggles, and pressures that needed addressing if they were to grow spiritually.
A Study of 1 Corinthians 3:1-4
Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world? When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world? (I Corinthians 3:1-4 NLT)
Paul starts out 1 Corinthians 3 expressing to the church of Corinth that he can’t even speak to them as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. Paul desired greatly to feed them solid food, getting to the meat of the word, but they were still acting fleshly. For He saw envy, strife, and divisions among them, calling them out as behaving like mere men; men who still walked as the world did. They were gloating and laying claim as to whose ministry camp they came from….comparing themselves with one another. When we are not fully walking in the Spirit, we do not exhibit the fruit of the spirit.
…Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things you wish. (Galatians 5:17 NKJV)
It is necessary that we can be instructed as believers when God is bringing disciplinary instruction our way. Paul was doing just this when speaking to the men in Corinth because they were still behaving like the world by comparing themselves to each other. If we are to manifest fruit in our walk with God, the fruit should be evident; the evidence of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control towards one another. We who belong to Christ have to crucify the flesh and its passions and desires; desires to elevate ourselves against another; to gloat and proclaim superiority over another.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:25-26 NKJV).
God cannot, and will not, use us if we are still walking in our carnal state. It becomes about us when feelings of strife, envy, and jealousy engulf our emotions. It is a “me first” mentality rather than a “God first” mindset. We cannot walk around thinking what can we get for it—what will I be credited for? If we find ourselves serving without the heart of loving others beyond ourselves, we do for our own conceit. I want to learn to rejoice with my sister or brother when God elevates them, not begrudge them. Are we not just mere servants?
Let a man consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. (I Corinthians 4:1 NKJV)
Let the Lord be our judge for it is He and He alone who gives the increase. One may water, and one may plant, but it is God who gets the glory, and each one will receive his just reward according to their individual labor, so why compare? So, if you are struggling with comparison, I’d say what Barney Fife of The Andy Griffith show would say, “Nip it, Nip it in the bud!” and move on.