Luke 18:9-14 (the Message Bible and New Living Translation)
When I first moved to Colorado from Southern Minnesota all I wanted to do was be in the mountains snowboarding…I always loved it and almost felt that I owed it to my friends back home to spend as much time snowboarding as I could. These were the hay days of the Mack Dawg videos and pretty much all we did (aside from schoolwork) was watch snowboard videos and figure out how we could get in more time on the snow…I think I got nearly 100 days on the hill that year, which is quite impressive considering I lived in Denver.
I recall days spent working on new tricks, trying new things and enjoying every second of it…and then I began looking at others on the hill…comparing myself to my friends and people I didn’t even know! Did I progress like I should, did I have the right gear, talk the right way, do all the right things…it got so I was so worried about playing the part of a good snowboarder, that I forgot to have fun and be thankful I GOT to be in the mountains, with great friends…enjoying the beauty of what we have in Colorado.
On one particular day, I rode home almost angry with myself for not hitting some jump that my buddies hit…I realized at that moment that I was NEVER going to come back from the mountains with regrets. If my friends back home (or a 17 year old version of myself riding good ol 365 vertical feet of Mt Kato, MN every day and LOVING IT) could see me returning from Breckenridge bummed out because I didn’t hit some jump I would have some serious explaining to do…
My point is really, that on that day…I realized that comparison is the thief of true joy.
This world isn’t about using others abilities, status, objects or life to use as a guide for yours to seem better or worse.
Comparison is the thief of joy and won’t get you any closer to God.
There is a story that Jesus tells in the Bible to a group of people that thought pretty highly of their standing with God. The story is of how there were these two guys…one was this religious leader who seemed (and thought himself) to be quite the perfect spiritual guy…and the other guy was a tax collector, a person whose income typically came from skimming a little cash off the top for himself amongst taking the taxes from the people. Most people hated tax collectors…weird right?
So the story goes, they both head into the temple to pray…the religious leader basically stands where he can be seen, prays out to God saying…”God, thanks for making me awesome, for not being a bad person like the crooks, robbers, adulterers or even like this terrible tax man…” (seriously who prays out loud like that with an IRS agent right there?!) … Meanwhile the tax man just quiets himself, sits off to the side and says simply to God…”forgive me, I am not perfect.”
Jesus comments that the tax man, although not perfect, left the temple in a better place with God than the one who seemed perfect to the worlds standards.
Dissect that story for yourself…but for me the message isn’t so much about a pastor and a evil tax man…and who is in and who is out…but much more about how we see ourselves in comparison to others. This world is filled with ways to compare yourself with the people around you, but in the end, what good does it do to try and place yourself above others? How does that really bring you closer to God or even closer to a better you? The end of the story finishes with Jesus saying, “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted” … it would seem that the key to this life is not to be better than others, but to be content being YOU and you will then become much more than just YOU.
Which character in the story above do you typically most relate to?
Have you ever had a time in your life where you compared yourself to others in order to feel more holy or righteous? Did it seem to work? Did that feeling last?
What can be done when we notice ourselves falling into that comparison mode…how do we recognize it, stop it and reshape our mindset?
By Shawn Gruenhagen | Denver, CO