Few things steal the joy out of life like comparison. Comparing myself to someone else can ruin my day in five seconds flat.
Most Christians, myself included, are too poor to be constantly acquiring new, expensive, hoity-toity toys. Unlike Scrooge McDuck, I don’t have a large vault in my home, in which I regularly swim. I can’t keep up with the rich Joneses of the world, so I don’t bother trying. I’m pretty content with my middle-class home, my beater car, which sounds like a Cessna airplane on steroids, and my medium-sized flat screen television. I don’t feel pressure to keep up with rich people.
However, every Christian sub-culture has its own set of unwritten Jones-ish rules, which everyone tries to abide by. Those who keep up with the Jones rules are seen as mature, spiritual believers. Those who don’t are considered to be slightly lower on the Christian maturity scale. What sort of unwritten rules am I talking about? For example:
- Most families in the church homeschool or unschool their kids.
- Most families have five or more kids. These children are well behaved and respectful all the time.
- Most young people are married by the age of 25, and have four kids by the age of 30.
- Most families in the church are staunch Republicans, and cling to their guns and their religion tightly.
- Most families are on some sort of organic, free-range, paleo, wheat free diet.
- Most families adhered strictly to the time-honored principles of courtship, rather than dating.
There’s inherently wrong with anything listed above. However, these kinds of unwritten rules can have the side-effect of making us absolutely miserable.
Parents who choose to send their kids to public school can feel as if they are somehow failing their kids. As if they aren’t as godly as those parents who homeschool. Everyone else’s kids know Latin by the age of nine. My kids are behind. I’m a failure as a parent!
Moms who decide that they only have the emotional capacity for two children can feel like they are total losers. Everyone else has a big family. Why can’t I handle more than two kids? Why are my kids so crazy and disobedient? Something must be wrong with me!
Families who, due to financial stress, can’t afford to feed their children organic, free-range food, can feel like uncaring, unwise parents. Everyone else seems to be on some sort of special diet. My kids are eating cheese sandwiches and cheese puffs for lunch. I must be an awful parent!
Here’s the good news: Jesus sets us free from comparing ourselves to other people.
My fundamental identity is found in Jesus Christ. I am united to him, joined to him, him in me and me in him. God doesn’t love me because I homeschool my kids. He doesn’t love me because I have a lot of kids, and my kids are well-behaved. He doesn’t love me because of what I, or my children, eat. He loves me because I am his child. Period. No more.
I don’t need to keep up with other people in my church. I don’t need to be like anyone else. My success in God’s eyes is not contingent upon whether or not my family is “better” or “worse” than other families. My success in God’s eyes is not contingent upon whether or not I measure up to all the unwritten rules. My success is tied up in Jesus, and he was already completely successful.
Are you constantly comparing yourself to other people? Are you constantly feeling like you don’t measure up? Are you constantly feeling like a failure? It’s time to stop! Stop playing the comparison game. Stop trying to measure up to the standards set by other people. Jesus already measured up to all the standards that really matter, and his righteousness is credited to you. Your job is simply to love Jesus, seek to obey the Bible, and joyfully go about your life. If you don’t measure up to the expectations of others, who cares!
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. (1 Corinthians 4:3-4)