Americans are a competitive lot, always comparing! We love lists: winners and losers, the 100 richest people, the worst-dressed, the best-dressed, who’s hot, who’s not. So, what’s the matter with that? It is destructive to all that is good, whole, and best for us. Comparing ourselves with others will always produce a bad result. We will become vain, superficial, hypocritical, miserable people. Why would I say that?
Let me illustrate what I mean in this way. A young man decides to start going to the gym to improve his health. His is a great, admirable motive – being healthy. But, while he is getting himself in shape, he starts to watch others who are coming to work out. Their sharp muscle definition and perfect abs become a source of envy. By comparison, he is nothing. A few questions reveals that that with some help from chemicals and steroids he can have a body like those he admires with much less effort on his part. With injections and pills, he achieves the look, but actually destroys his health in the process. He lost sight of why he was going to the gym and what he started to do to gain health, begins to destroy him.
Christian, do you realize that your spiritual life can be derailed in the same way?
It is possible to do all the right things for all the wrong reasons.
You can attend worship regularly to love God and build strong relationships within the church, or you can do it to gain social acceptance and admiration.
Prayer, Bible Study can be done to enhance spiritual vitality; or they can be done for show, a means of gaining status in a spiritual community.
Giving can be an overflow of a grateful heart or a way to get your name put on a plaque for all to see.
Spiritual acts done in the service of self are corrupted and soon stink like the rotten things they are! The Word says, “wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every kind of evil.” (James 3:16, NLT) Another way to say it – “Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats.” (James 3:16, The Message)
Christ-followers are called to humility and contentment, completely opposite competition and comparison. Nothing is more deadly to true spiritual development than allowing the opinions of other people to shape our sense of personal worth. In Matthew 6, Jesus spoke to prayer, giving, and fasting illustrating the importance of keeping God as the focus of our spiritual service. He reminds us that if we do our spiritual disciplines to gain the approval of others, the sole benefit will be their applause! “When you give a gift to someone in need, don’t shout about it as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I assure you, they have received all the reward they will ever get. … And now about prayer. When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I assure you, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly. Then your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you. … And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, who try to look pale and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I assure you, that is the only reward they will ever get.” (Matthew 6)
When we turn from comparing and competing and choose to become an integral part of the Body of Christ, something of great beauty emerges. God invests the Spirit in us, equipping us with gifts (divine enablement) that allow His work to be done effectively. Have you ever watched a person who is amazingly coordinated dance? Every limb moves in sync, every muscle contributes to the graceful movement of the dancer. You do not really notice the hands, the feet, the arms, the legs because you see the dance! This is the picture of the Church, where Christ is the Head and each Christian a submitted part of the whole!
So, how can we be content and contribute in the best way? Accept this declared truth – God loves you completely just as you are! There is nothing you can do that will make Him love you more than He does at this moment. Your significance as a person, your worth, is secure in His love. Settle that for yourself, then begin to live for the approval of just One Person. Make it your goal to be all He wants you to be, no more, no less. There we will find genuine humility that leads to sweet contentment.
Here’s a word from the Word. Think on it today – “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:25-26, NIV)“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.” (Galatians 6:2-5, NIV)