I’d done it again. It was subtle, and neither my husband nor any of our five children sitting in the car with me knew what I had done. That’s how sneaky sinful comparison can be.
While reading during a long road trip, right in the middle of a well-crafted sentence in an edifying book, I compared the author’s skill with my own, and my own fell short. Faster than I could blink, let alone pause the thought, the comparison settled into the fertile soil of my mind, ready to put down roots.
What was originally an admiring thought about the author’s style, “Her writing is so good,” turned into the loaded comparison, “I wish my writing was that good.” And that statement opened the door to a host of sinful temptations: jealousy, complaining, discontentment, discouragement, and pride, to name a few.
Thankfully, the Lord helped me shut that door. I said a short prayer and kept reading.
But that’s how quickly sinful comparison functions. While comparison itself can be neutral, a simple lining up of the similarities and differences between things or people, our sin-infected hearts make it all about us. All we have to do is notice another woman’s body shape, relationship status, career or ministry success, or the size of her home, and we’re at risk of wanting what she has that we don’t—or feeling proud that we have what she doesn’t. Instead of celebrating what God has given, too often, we flip His blessings into sources of dissatisfaction.
This dissatisfaction doesn’t only land on ourselves. To continue the plant image, if left to itself, sinful comparison happily spreads its tendrils to those closest to us, including husbands and children. Sadly, we can measure our husbands—and their abilities to provide for and lead us—against other men. And to their detriment, it’s all-too-easy to compare our children and their achievements to other children. This often results in angry words, fret-filled conversations, attempts to control, and withholding of affection.
Do you see how dangerous sinful comparison can be? It, like all sin, “when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:15). How do you and I fight our battles against this subtle, divisive foe? This answer may sound simplistic but bear with me. We fight sinful comparison by drawing near to God.
Learning from Asaph’s Experience with Sinful Comparison
The singer Asaph learned to draw near to God when struggling with sinful comparison, and he sang about his experience in Psalm 73. His “feet had almost stumbled,” and his “steps had nearly slipped” (verse 2). Why was he in this situation? Because he was “envious of the arrogant” and “saw the prosperity of the wicked” (verse 3). He saw how good unbelievers seemed to have it, and comparing their experience to his own, he wondered, what’s the point of following God? It didn’t seem to do him any good.
It didn’t make sense—that is until he drew near to God. For this Old Testament musician, drawing near to God meant going to the temple to worship, and it was in the sanctuary that he understood the end of the matter. Despite temporal comforts in this life, the wicked would eventually “fall to ruin” and be “destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors” (Psalm 73:18-19). Whatever wealth and health they had experienced on earth, all of it would be gone.
But for Asaph, nothing on earth—no possession, relationship, achievement, or status—could compare to God. In his words,
“Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).
When Asaph went to the temple and drew near to God, he knew there was nothing that anyone else had that beat what he had. The Lord was better.
Not only that, but his relationship with God was continual, ongoing. He enjoyed the comfort of the Lord’s presence, his guidance and counsel, and future hope (Psalm 73:23-24). He could declare, “But for me it is good to be near God” (Psalm 73:28).
What good was it to follow God? It was very good. It was the best good. There was nothing better.
When You’re Tempted, Draw Near to Jesus
Ultimately, sin leads us away from the Lord. It resulted in Adam and Eve being cast out of Eden, separated from God; and as we inherited sin from our original parents, we, too, were separated from God. Only through the dramatic reversal of our Savior, Jesus, taking the punishment for our sins on the cross do we experience forgiveness and glorious reconciliation (Romans 5:6-11). As believing women, we are people who have been brought near to God. Not only that, when we face temptations of all different kinds, we’re invited to draw near to Jesus “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
How do you and I battle sinful comparison? The antidote to this sin and so many others is to draw near to Jesus by staying close to Him and keeping Him in view.
The lie of sinful comparison says that you have to meet or exceed the standard set by another person in order to be happy:
- You have to weigh less than she does.
- Your home has to be bigger, in a better neighborhood and kept better than hers is.
- Your children have to behave with better manners than hers do.
When sinful comparison rears its ugly head, remember that you don’t have to be better or have better, or feel ashamed or embarrassed when you don’t, but that Jesus is better than it all. Consider the redemption and reconciliation He bought for you. Speak truth to your soul, repeating that your worth and value are found in Christ and what He accomplished for you on the cross, not in anything you have or anything you do, even good things you do in His name.
My worth isn’t found in how well I do or don’t write; it’s found in Jesus. Your value isn’t measured in your accomplishments, how many children you do or don’t have, what you wear or drive, or anything else. Dear sister, you were bought with the blood of Jesus, and there is no price tag for that.
When you’re tempted, draw near to Jesus. He will help you. And His grace will be sufficient for the battle (2 Corinthians 12:9).