Whatsoever Magazine

Going ‘Beyond Compare’

Posted on: November 22, 2006

It happened again this morning. As I had a break from tweaking with the Whatsoever Magazine blog, I grabbed a snack and pulled out some old HopeChest back issues to read.

Now if you haven’t seen HopeChest Magazine, let me tell you that it’s a pretty fine publication. Rich, inspiring, godly content. Quality writing. An aura of femininity and sweetness. Neat and classy page design. Dozens of subscribers, many of whom seem eager for interaction and fellowship through the magazine’s pages. That magazine is to Whatsoever what the proverbial big sister is to the little one: confident, assured, doing great things, always several steps ahead. And as I sat and paged through one of those big-sister-type issues, I felt that old familiar stirring of comparison.

The temptation to compare and contrast isn’t only limited to my little world of magazine editing. It can happen anywhere, anytime. I’ll see music teachers whose multitude of students are powering through exams and earning A-plus grades all the way, and I’ll wonder why my most recent examinee scraped through with a B-minus and the ad I put in the newspaper last week didn’t garner any calls. I’ll watch someone sing their heart out to Jesus, strumming at a beat-up guitar with complete and beautiful abandon, and my own self-consciousness and lack of natural talent will come rising up before my view. I’ll stand in church and watch a bride, with that beautiful bride-glow on her cheeks, give herself to her husband, and I’ll ask, “Is she more holy than me? More beautiful? More ready?”

Sometimes we can’t help but compare. Stand me next to my Uncle Steve and it’ll be impossible not to notice that he’s a towering six feet and six inches tall, while I’m struggling to make five feet seven. It comes naturally to notice differences. What we do with the noticing is the thing.

When comparison leads to wishfulness or envy or discontent or distraction, it becomes a danger. I suffer from its effects. The disciples concerned themselves unduly with it. Even highly-respected teacher John Piper struggles with unhealthy comparison. Quoting from the Scriptures, he shares Jesus’ exchange with Peter, who was allowing comparison to distract him from what was really important.

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… 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!” [1]

Then Piper adds:

I was refreshed by Jesus’ blunt word to me (and you): “What is that to you? You follow me!” 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. Ouch. To this day, I recall the little note posted by my Resident Assistant in Elliot Hall my senior year at Wheaton: “To love is to stop comparing.” What is that to you, Piper? Follow me.
….That word landed on me with great joy. 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.[2]

What is it to me that HopeChest is a more professional, wider-circulating magazine? Or that he has twenty-five music students while I have five? Or that she sings like an angel while I sing like a shoe-shiner? Or that she is married while I am still most definitely single? What is it all to me? It is God’s plan for me. That is what it is. And He wants me to pursue that plan with my eyes on Him, doing all for Him. Looking at others, comparing their walk with mine, will only lead to distraction.

Bob Kauflin writes,

“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 Saviour 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 if 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.”[3]

by Danielle Carey

[reprinted from Volume 9 #2 of Whatsoever Magazine]

NOTES: 1.John 21:18-22; 2.excerpt from “What is that to you? You follow Me!” by John Piper; 3. Bob Kauflin, “The Trap of Comparison”.

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1 Response to "Going ‘Beyond Compare’"

[…] Your favourite regular columns appear in this issue, too, including editorials by Danielle and Lauren, Good Books, and The Scrapbook. […]

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