A Few Cautions Against Spiritually Keeping Up with the Joneses

A natural part of being human is to compare ourselves to others around us. Sometimes we pick out a bad part of their character or how they live and then make ourselves feel better because we are better in that area. Often it is the other way around. We look at others, and feel bad that we can’t attain that level. This could be how much money we have, toys, or status. It could also be about character.

This attitude creeps into our Christian life as well. We have a tendency to notice people who are really gifted in a certain area and we feel bad that we can’t compete. For me, there has been a tendency to compare myself to other pastors, thinking I don’t lead as well or preach as well or grow a church like they can. Our comparison could be in how God has used someone to heal people, or somehow act with the power of the Spirit in a way that we have not experienced ourselves.

Here are a few cautions of why comparing is not helpful.

1. We don’t know the whole story. 

We have heard enough sad stories of people who had great public ministry only to find out later that their private life was a mess. They were sinners just like us. Sure, they had a large platform and a wide audience, but their personal life or their home life suffered greatly. Some of these were terrible to work for. They were mean and bullied their staff.

We don’t see the things that hold others back from being their best. We focus in on one or two key areas that we can see, and then we assume that their whole life is way better than ours. They may have a better position in a church or organization and we envy that, but we don’t know the struggles and the depression they fight as they work to be their best. We see their great family and don’t know the pain they are dealing with in the privacy of their own home.

2. God has gifted us all differently

John Maxwell writes in “No Limits”, about a man who devoted his life to being the second chair. He had realized early on that he was not a good leader. He was great at being the second in command but needed someone above him to be the leader. We need that kind of personal discernment about what we are capable of, how God has gifted us, and what we have learned through experience.

It is valuable for us to learn who we are, how God has gifted us, and how we can best serve God. There are a number of assessment tools out there that may help, but some of it comes with trial and error. Try something, see if you are good at it, and if not, try something else.

I was never going to be a pastor, but the president of the Bible College I attended encouraged me to do a summer intern position. I remember the specific day I was preaching to the small crowd gathered on that warm summer evening in that stuffy church. I was preaching from Philippians – when I suddenly had this feeling, this thought – I like this. I think I could really enjoy doing this. Sometimes it is as we try new things that we discover where we fit.

3. Compare yourself to yourself.

If you want to see how you are really doing, compare yourself to what you were like last year, or five years ago. Have you grown and developed personally in that time? Are you growing in your relationship with Jesus? Are you living in the fullness of the Spirit living in you? Have you figured out some of what you are good at? And are you working to do that and to continue to improve in how well you do?

4. Compare yourself to Scripture.

There are many places in scripture where we are told how to live. We are told what kind of actions and behaviors glorify God. How are you doing with that? As you read the Bible, and I hope you read it regularly, daily, keep asking yourself how well you are doing in regard to what you are reading. Look at how to improve daily. Look at how to develop habits that help you develop into a person who consistently glorifies God with their life.

5. Ask God what He thinks of you.

I have enjoyed having more conversations with God – not just praying to Him, but also hearing from Him. I believe that you can ask God what He thinks of you and He will tell you. Ask God where there are areas you need to grow in and what you can do to grow. Instead of trying to become like someone you admire, become someone God admires. Become who God wants you to be without worrying about how big your audience or your fame is.

The envy of others will never make you a better you. You need to learn to be the best you that you can be. Don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone has their own path. Maybe God will give you a large public voice, and maybe it will be a quiet encouragement to individuals. Like the story of the talents in the Bible, you are only responsible for what you have been given. God has made you with your unique abilities to be you in your own unique way. Your responsibility is to just be the best that you can be, without comparing to others. And then serve Him well.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

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