Anyone who knows me, knows I’m competitive, and I’m sad to say I compare myself to others too often. That’s why I can say with complete authority that neither competition nor comparison belongs in church.
Needless to say, this has been a lifelong struggle for me. It started innocently enough with the mindset of “be the best.”
The problem with that is this: there is always someone better.
Of if there isn’t at the time you reach the pinnacle, there will be soon enough.
If being the best is the crowning achievement, I will always be dethroned. Even if I don’t look too hard at others, I will still see someone who’s better at me in one way or another.
After all, I’m a sinner. A sinner saved by the incredible grace of Jesus, praise the Lord, but still a sinner. That means I will always fall short.
Here’s the thing, though, if I compare myself to others it fosters a sense of competition. “Well, she might be a better teacher but she can’t play the piano.” Or “I know she’s a way better accompanist than me, but have you seen her writing? Bah!”
No, no, no.
The church is the body of Jesus Christ. Does our physical body compete with itself? Do the legs say, “Ha! I can walk further and you can see eyes?” That would be silly right?
Let’s look at a bit of scripture that will clarify why competition will undermine the unity of the church and how comparison leads to competition and worse, discontentment.
Comparison Leads to Envy
The truth is, the Lord never asks us to look at others with a leveling stick. He commands us to do plenty of self-examination (Galatians 6:4-5) but when He wants us looking at others it is with compassion not comparison.
For where envying and strive is, there is confusion and every evil work.
The Lord’s brother James writes about this in James 3:16. Imagine how it must have been for him growing up in the shadow of a perfect older brother. And I do mean perfect in every way. Maybe he speaks a bit from personal experience as he writes that envy leads to strife, confusion and evil works.
We shouldn’t want any of those things in the church.
Competition Leads to Discontent
Contentment is the optimal state of a Christian. The Apostle Paul confirmed that he had learned to be content (Philippians 4:11), and he went through plenty of challenges. One of them had other ministers and fellow Jewish believers competing with him. Not only that, they put him down and tried to make him look bad (Philippians 1:15-16).
If we have the measuring stick out, always looking at fellow church members and competing with what they’re doing, we won’t be content in our gifting and calling.
I’m a fan of the attitude: If I am a better person today than I was yesterday, I can go to sleep happy. My life becomes about competing with myself and striving for improvement.
But even that can be a stumbling block.
Christ is the Measuring Stick
If we want to compare ourselves to anyone, the standard is Jesus Christ the Lord.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. – Romans 8:29
Let’s look at this verse. God’s plan – His predestinated will—is for each believer to be like Christ. “Conformed to the image” is more than just an outward thing. It has the implication of Christ as a mold and we are pressed into the mold, shaped like malleable clay and then fired so we can keep that “shape” through and through.
Think about that. Let the full counsel of God’s Word seep into your heart because that’s where the change begins.
Comparing ourselves to other fallible humans wastes our time and energy and leads to sin and strife. Competing with other church members –or even ourselves—won’t make us a better servant of our Lord.
Rather than competing with others, let’s compare ourselves to Christ. Then, rather than being discouraged by how much we don’t measure up, let’s lean into his grace and walk assuredly by the power of the Holy Ghost, our guide and helper.