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Nobody Wins the Comparison Game

Via Flickr, by user Jason Hargrove. Used under Creative Commons License.

It used to drive me crazy: As a young journalist just a couple of years out of school, I didn’t make much money (although I certainly enjoyed my job traveling the world). From time to time, though, I would meet someone else my age who did — a fresh dental school graduate who had opened his own practice; an up-and-coming lawyer; an old school friend who landed a great job working for the governor. Just thinking about all their success — and all the money they were making — made my skin crawl.

Almost everyone I met told me that they envied my job as a travel writer. But secretly, I envied what they had. They had big jobs in well-respected fields, that would pay them big dollars over time. Throughout their lives, they would enjoy expensive houses, fancy cars and luxurious vacations. I told myself that it was because these guys had “sold out,” pursuing big-money majors in college instead of being true to themselves (like I thought I had been). But really, I was jealous, plain and simple.

It wasn’t so much the material stuff that made me jealous — it was the fact that these people were going to be obviously wealthy. Society would look at them and say, “Wow, he’s been really successful. Look how much money he has! He’s great.” And I had trouble with the idea of  someone besides me being the most celebrated person in the room.

This corner of my heart developed a nasty little cancer. I began to identify myself by my salary, seeing myself as nothing more than a number. I could view the whole world in terms of their numbers — those who made less than I did, and those who made more. The former, I could pridefully laugh off as “losers.” The latter made me mad. They were sell-outs, no-goods, greedy wretches who didn’t deserve the things that they had.

Envy blinded me so much that I lost sight of my own identity. Money was telling me what I was worth, and dictating how I thought of the people around me. It controlled my thoughts and emotions. It had made me a slave.

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I learned the hard way that when you play the comparison game, nobody wins. It might be a nice boost for the ego to look around at all the people that have less than you do, but for every one that has less, you’ll find two that have more. When we begin finding our identities in our comparisons to others, we lose sight of who we really are, and inevitably see ourselves as less.

It took the word of God to break me out of this slavery. He reminded me that I am more than just a number, and more than the sum of the things I have. I am bought by the blood of Christ (Eph. 2:13). I’m the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:19-20). I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works (Eph. 2:10). God has a plan and a purpose for me (Jer. 29:11). He sees an eternal value in me, and He went to great lengths to claim me for himself.

As Christians, our identity comes from Christ. We are so much more than our salaries — we each have a unique calling and destiny in Him. Some of us will accumulate a lot of wealth along the way; others will store up massive treasures in Heaven. But what matters is that when we come to the end of our lives, the Master can look at us and say “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

That’s a reward that’s greater than the biggest of paychecks.

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