We’re always a bridesmaid and never the bride. We make an honest living, with a small bank account to show for it, while our neighbor lies and cheats her way to wealth. We’re waiting on God for that one thing, while our friends receive without delay. Whatever our circumstance, we can all admit that comparison has burrowed its way into our minds and hearts. Maybe it was just a fleeting thought, maybe it was just a season, or maybe comparison is a life-long struggle.
Comparison kills contentment, doesn’t it? It robs us of the enjoyment of what we do have and where we are. It robs us of time and presence.
For King Saul, the struggle was real, and relentless. King Saul, the first king of Israel, compared himself to the shepherd and giant slayer, David, with such fixation that he became obsessed. For Saul, comparison bred destruction. Fixated on David, Saul became an impotent and unreliable leader. His distrust for David was a reflection of his distrust of God’s plan for his people. As a result, God’s plans were unchanged, but Saul’s legacy ended with opposing God’s military strategy (1 Samuel 14), paranoia, and his and his son Jonathan’s deaths (1 Samuel 31:2-6).
Comparison is like a makeup brush that you use daily but never wash, and then wonder why you’re breaking out. You’re trying all kinds of cleansers, creams, and masks to combat the pimples dotting your cheek, but you have not taken a moment to realize that all that dead skin and dirt and bacteria growing in the hairs of your makeup brush are causing your blemishes. Even if you don’t realize it, it’s sitting there, festering, infecting. First, comparison manifests as discontent and self-doubt. Then one day, bitterness and envy sit like oily, swollen poison on the surface of your thoughts and words and actions. Your view is distorted by discontent. That’s what happened to Saul. David went from Saul’s armor-bearer to being hunted as an enemy of the state, because of Saul’s jealousy.
Quitting comparison is necessary for flourishing of the body of Christ. God did not carefully make every person uniquely gifted, just so we could compare ourselves to other people instead of living in our purpose. As Paul said in Ephesians 4:11–12, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ”. If everyone is comparing, it is impossible to build up the body of Christ—as Proverbs 14:30 says, “envy makes the bones rot.” A fortified person takes her confidence cues from the God who made her. Her satisfaction flows from being beloved.