Throughout my life, one of my greatest temptations has been to compare myself to others. I hardly have to work at it. It just comes naturally.
I see someone else leading a congregation in worship and one of two things happens. Either I start to criticize his singing, playing, leading, song selection, content, or looks (if I’m really desperate); or I feel sorry for myself because he’s doing something better than I would or could. The only worship that’s taking place in my heart at those moments is directed towards me.
Today and tomorrow I have the privilege of speaking at the Seminars4Worship event in Pittsburgh, PA. Paul Baloche, whose songs have been sung all over the world, will be leading us in singing God’s praise tonight. At conferences like this, the lure of comparison can be stronger than ever. Of course, I can compare myself to just about anyone. A neighbor, another dad, a co-worker, another golfer (I stink in this so I don’t know why I’d compare myself to anyone else). Anything and everything is an opportunity for me to put someone else down or raise myself up.
Justin Taylor recently posted some insightful and helpful thoughts from John Piper on the subject of comparison. John was commenting on the time Peter asked Jesus what was going to happen to another disciple.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:18-22)
Here are some portions of Piper’s comments:
Peter had just heard a very hard word. You will die—painfully. His first thought was comparison. What about John? If I have to suffer, will he have to suffer? If my ministry ends like that, will his end like that? If I don’t get to live a long life of fruitful ministry, will he get to?That’s the way we sinners are wired. Compare. Compare. Compare. We crave to know how we stack up in comparison to others. There is some kind of high if we can just find someone less effective than we are…. Jesus will not judge me according to my superiority or inferiority over anybody. No preacher. No church. No ministry. These are not the standard. Jesus has a work for me to do (and a different one for you). It is not what he has given anyone else to do. There is a grace to do it. Will I trust him for that grace and do what he has given me to do? That is the question. O the liberty that comes when Jesus gets tough!
Let’s let Jesus get tough with us in this area. Resist the temptation to compare. How much better to thank God for those who are more gifted than us and to pray that we’ll benefit from their influence and example. How much more pleasing to the Savior when we seek to serve those who are gifted in ways we aren’t for the sake of the One who came to seek and save us. How much more humble when we remember that any gift we possess was given to us for God’s glory, not ours. How much better for everyone when we stop comparing.
There is one comparison that’s good to make, however. Never tire of comparing what you would have received apart from Christ, to what you have now received because of Him. That comparison puts all other comparison in perspective, and produces good fruit that will last for eternity.