The Danger of Comparing Ourselves to Others

Article by: Bridgehaven Team

Counselors Reflect on Dangerous Calling by Paul Tripp: A Series to Care for the Care Takers of God’s People

“In the face of his [God’s] glory I am left naked with no glory whatsoever to hold before myself or anyone else. As long as I am comparing myself to others, I can always find someone whose existence seems to be an argument for how righteous I am. But if I compare the filthy rags of my righteousness to the pure and forever unstained linen of God’s righteousness, I want to run and hide in heartbreaking shame” (Paul David Tripp in Dangerous Calling, page 121).

Comparing ourselves to other people is a deadly enemy of the Christian life. The true danger of comparison comes when we look horizontally (i.e. looking at another person instead of God) in order to set the standard by which to measure ourselves.  We are tempted to compare job status, martial status, recognition, station in life, personalities, friendships, opportunities, shortcomings, sufferings, sin struggles, et cetera. Before reading any further, I encourage you to open up your Bible to read Numbers 16 [Yes, seriously]. After reading, you probably noticed several characters in the story: Korah, Moses, Aaron, Dathan, Abiram, and others. Korah was part of the Levitical priesthood. The gist of the story is that the Lord had blessed Korah and his descendants with the role of the care and carrying of the most holy things in the Tent of Meeting (Num. 4:4-16). Korah and his descendants had been set apart because they were part of the tribe of Levi, the line of the priesthood. The Lord gave them specific roles as a part of stewarding their worship to Him. Instead of being thankful for their role, Korah and his followers looked to Moses and Aaron and wanted the priesthood. They wanted to know why Moses and Aaron were the ones to “set themselves above the LORD’S assembly” (v. 3), but the irony was it was not Moses or Aaron who had given themselves that role; it was the Lord. Through the rest of the story we see a “show down” between Aaron, Moses, Korah, and Korah’s followers to see who the Lord had chosen as priest. Because of Korah’s rebellion, the Lord wanted to the put the assembly to death, but because of the intercession of Moses, the Lord punished the “tents” of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram by opening up the earth and swallowing them. From our human point of view, we may ask, “Wow- isn’t that a bit extreme?” From the perspective of the Lord, though, it was a defilement of his holiness. Only a descendent of Aaron was to burn incense before the Lord (Num. 3:10; 16:40). By Korah and his followers placing their eyes on the priesthood and wanting the roles of the priesthood, they were questioning the design that the Lord had appointed and given to them. Ultimately, they were questioning the goodness of God (sounds a lot like the Garden of Eden). The story, however, does not end there. Go to Psalm 84. The Psalmist notes that the role was to be near the altar of God (v. 3) and that “Better is one day in God’s courts than a thousand elsewhere.” The Psalmist would “rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God than dwell in the tents of the wicked” (v. 10). Now notice the author: the sons of Korah. Even after Korah and his followers were punished by the Lord, we see that the line of Korah did not die out. This Psalm speaks to the understanding and stewarding of the role that the Lord had assigned to them. There was a recognition of the very character and nature of God that “no good thing does God withhold from those whose walk is blameless” (v. 11).

Back to comparison—how have you compared yourself this week? Have there been questions regarding a job, hardship, station of life, lack of recognition? Our questions often take the form of looking to other people and comparing what we have to one another. Now look up. Where has God placed you? What is God teaching you based on where He has placed you? What is He teaching you about Himself in the process? How has He blessed your life? When I ask myself these questions, my perspective changes. Though comparison can be spiritually deadly (when comparing ourselves with others), looking to the Lord can bring life.  Though we may run and hide in “heartbreaking shame” as Welch states, we do not have to because we have One who has taken that shame and sin on our behalf. Looking to the Lord is the best place to look. When we see our sin (because we will when we truly look at His holiness), we can be reminded that there is grace and forgiveness because of Christ. When we want to question God’s goodness, we can be reminded that He is good and has blessed us (even though sometimes we may have to think on the blessings instead of the hardships). If you find yourself comparing, change the direction. Look up.

Join us as we explore “Dangerous Calling” by Paul David Tripp.

To order a copy of your own of Paul Tripp’s book click on the link below.

Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry By Paul David Tripp / Crossway Books & Bibles

Kathy King

Staff Counselor, Bridgehaven Counseling Associates

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