Comparing Yourself to Others
Types of comparisons
There are two ways of comparing yourself to others. One is thinking you're better than someone else and the other is thinking someone else is better than you are. Here we'll discuss the latter.
We think others are better because they have something we don't. Perhaps we had an older sibling who excelled in school and impressed the teachers, but the teachers were disappointed when we didn't measure up, leaving us disappointed as well. Perhaps we are envious of a neighbor or coworker who makes more than we do or has a larger house.
Cain and Abel
One of the most famous Biblical stories is Cain and Abel(Gen. 4). God accepts Abel's offering but not Cain's. This made Cain jealous of Abel and very angry. He later lured Abel into a field and killed him.
God confronted Cain and punished him. Cain was a farmer, but God cursed him so the land would no longer produce crops. Cain was sent away from the presence of God and lived as a wanderer until settling in the land of Nod. His descendants were wiped out in the flood of Noah.
Joseph's brothers were envious of him and sold him into slavery(Gen. 37; Acts. 7:9). Jacob, grandson of Abraham, loved Joseph more than any of his other sons because Joseph was born to him when he was old. That was enough to make Joseph's brothers angry, but Joseph described to his father and brothers two dreams that symbolically involved them bowing down to him. This further angered his brothers, leading them to sell him into slavery in Egypt.
Before Joseph was at the mercy of his brothers, but later the situation was reversed when he became a powerful figure in Egypt(Gen. 42-45). God blessed Joseph in Egypt to the point Joseph became the governor there. When a famine hit the land, Joseph's brothers went to get grain in Egypt. When the brothers came to Joseph to get food, they didn't recognize him, but he recognized them. At first Joseph accused them of being spies but later forgave them.
Another example is the story of Israel's first king, Saul, and his envy of David(1 Sam. 18-19). David was successful in all Saul sent him to do. Crowds chanted how Saul killed thousands while David killed tens of thousands, which made Saul angry, yet he was also afraid of David. David was destined to take over the kingdom and replace Saul. Saul twice tried to kill David with a spear and even tried to get his own son, Jonathon, to kill David. He later had the priests of Nob killed for helping David(1 Sam. 22:9-19).
Despite all this, on two occasions David had the opportunity to kill Saul but didn't. One time David could have killed Saul in a cave but didn't(1 Sam. 24:3-20). When Saul found out, he wept and acknowledged he wronged David. Another time was on the hill of Hakilah(1 Sam. 26) when Saul was sleeping. This would have been an ideal time for David to kill Saul, but he didn't because Saul was appointed by God to be king. When Saul found out David spared him a second time, he was repentant and admitted he erred.
At one point Peter, the lead disciple of Jesus, showed a hint of envy of John, the apostle Jesus loved(John 21:20-23). Peter asks Jesus if John will have a long life. Jesus responded to him by saying "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me."(NIV)
Why it's wrong
Comparing yourself to someone else is destructive and leads to disastrous consequences. The Biblical stories of Cain, Joseph's brothers, Saul and others make this point. This leads to jealousy and in extreme cases lead to murder or attempted murder.
It also violates the commandment about not coveting what your neighbor has(Exo. 20:17). It specifically mentions your neighbor's house or wife but also means more. Your neighbor isn't just who lives next door to you but those around you.
The Apostle Paul also said much on this subject. Paul said to be what we are and that we each have gifts(Rom. 12:6). He says to examine yourself deeply and not compare yourself to others(Gal. 6:4). He also says we should test our own actions and each of us should carry their own loads. Most of all Paul said we should not compare ourselves to those who think they are important by their own standard(2 Cor. 10:12).
God created us(Job 10:8-12; Jer. 1:5; Psa. 139:13) and knew what he was doing during the process. He has plans for you and will fulfill his purpose in us(Psa. 138:8). We cannot have everything. Instead of focusing on what we don't have, we should focus on what we do have.
Last updated 4/20/2012