“Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” (2 Corinthians 10:12 ESV)
This verse is a part of a larger discussion about the influence of other teachers on the church at Corinth who have followed Paul’s initial work there. Paul starts this section by reminding the Corinthians that just as the new teachers claim to be under the leadership of Christ, so also is he. But he includes the verse above to make a key point -- anytime we get into the habit of comparing ourselves to others, we reveal a grave misunderstanding. In the context of being under the Lord’s authority and leadership, Paul is pointing out that it is foolish to compare his ministry to another’s, since both are under Christ.
The reminder for me is this: because Christ is Lord over my ministry, when I look to others as a way of either making myself feel better or worse, I undermine his authority. As Lord over everything I do, my idea of success of failure comes from Christ and His Word alone -- not comparison of others. And this is what we need to see: when I get into the habit of comparison, I begin to replace Christ’s authority, with a false standard derived from my own interpretation of other’s achievements.
I have to admit, this is tough for me. When I read this passage in my quiet time I found myself just a few hours later comparing my ministry to someone else about my age.
“Why am I not doing what he’s doing?”
“I’m a better teacher than him. Why did God give him that opportunity and not me?”
These are the types of questions that begin to plague me when I compare.
But this danger of comparison is not just for those in ministry; it can seep into every area of our lives. When I begin to compare my job performance, year of my car or size of my house, I will begin to create false standards for myself. These false standards become the source of my identity and sense of worth (or lack thereof). And, because the standards are false, I end up completely deceived about who I really am.
So here’s the challenge: Let Christ be the one we look to for identity and value. His substitutionary work on the cross is the complete motivation for everything we do. The minute I begin to compare, I walk down a dangerous road of subtly replacing my identity in Christ for an identity in an idol of my own creation.
Are there areas of your life that you find yourself comparing to others? If we constantly find ourselves in “comparison mode,” we may have placed our identity in the accomplishments and status of this world. In so doing, we find ourselves slaves not to Christ, but to idols of our own creation.