You’ve heard it said that comparison is the thief of joy. But I’d like to take it deeper. Comparison is more than the thief of joy; it opens up the door to all kinds of sin. We first notice comparison creeping into our hearts and coming out in our thought life. What we do next can make all the difference.
Comparison is what led to the very first murder. If you read from Genesis 4, you see that Cain was angry because the Lord had regard for his brother Abel’s offering, but no regard for Cain’s offering.
(Disclaimer: The story of Cain and Abel has HUGE theological depth that I am not aiming at here. I am just taking one small implication that I happened to observe in my recent study.)
What happens next is crucial for us to learn from. What did the Lord say to Cain in Genesis 4:7? “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
Think about this for a minute. The very moment that comparison starts to creep into our hearts, we have a decision to make. We can choose to do well, turn from it, do what is right. If we don’t, it opens the door to all kinds of sin: envy, covetousness, jealousy, ungratefulness, discontentment, entitlement, hatred, bitterness, and the list goes on! What we do in those very beginning moments of comparison determines what path we will take in that instance. We either give in to the sin that is crouching at our door, or we choose to do what is right.
So what does it mean to “do what is right?” Comparison is rooted in our hearts and manifests itself in our thought life. It then has the potential to grow out of control if we feed it. The moment we realize it, we can turn from it and do the right thing. Scripture offers us the perfect advice for combating comparison. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:16-26
Many times, comparison causes us to sin toward others by leading to bitterness, anger, and maybe even hating them in our hearts. The Bible tells us that these negative feelings toward others is the same as murdering them (Matthew 5:21-22; 1 John 3:15). Scripture makes it clear how imperative it is that we settle matters of anger and bitterness toward others in our hearts immediately. In Matthew 5:24 and Mark 11:25, we see that the sinful thoughts and feelings that we have toward others really hinder our relationship with God.
When we encounter feelings of comparison, the first step is to identify any sinfulness associated with it, confess it to the Lord in repentance, thank God that because of Christ we can receive forgiveness, and then pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
In the Bible account of Cain and Abel, we can see what kind of sin and destruction comparison can lead to. This is not a light matter. While most of us would never try to cause physical harm to someone because of the bitterness caused by comparison, according to scripture, we actually are causing harm to them; the same as murdering them in our hearts. Let us guard against that by asking the help of the Holy Spirit to identify comparison the moment it begins, and then doing what is right.