Ramona and I recently purchased a new van. Well, it turns out there was a minor problem that went unnoticed before purchase, so we needed a loaner van from the dealership for a day while they investigated the problem. The loaner van was the same make, model, and year as our van. There was one significant difference. It was loaded: it had every option imaginable (I did not know you could get a heated steering wheel!). I believe I saw this van while online shopping but determined the mileage was too high. So, we didn’t look at it. It was about the same price as the one we purchased. Then, I got to wondering.
I really liked all the toys that came with the loaner. If had I looked at both, would I have still picked the one with 26,000 fewer miles? Or would I have opted for the total package? Ah, the dangers of comparison. I thought our van had everything we needed until I drove one loaded to the gills. Then I wasn’t so sure. While comparing what we have and don’t have to others is always problematic, it can be downright dangerous when it comes to our faith life. We see others who seem to have a better mastery of the Word than we do or have a prayer warrior ability we don’t seem to or a pearl of biblical wisdom just when it’s needed. When we do this, we’re displaying the same dangerous emotion that I was with the loaner van: envy. A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)
There is nothing wrong with desiring to grow in our faith lives if the goal is to grow closer to Christ. But if we simply want to pray more impressively than someone else, or recite more verses than someone else, or preach from the pulpit more effectively than someone else, then envy is present. And envy driven behavior will push us away from God, not move us closer to Him. And just as dangerous as finding ourselves inferior to another believer is to find ourselves superior to another:
Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:10-14 (NIV)
The Pharisee felt he compared very favorably with others, including the tax collector nearby. The tax collector saw himself as an unworthy sinner. Jesus warned his audience that those who exalt themselves will be humbled, while the humble will be exalted. Here’s an effective measure of your faith walk: do you desire to obey God more today than you did yesterday? Do you love Jesus more today than yesterday? Do you love other people more today than you did yesterday?
I’ve decided not to worry about whether the vehicle I drive is any better or worse than anyone else’s. Avoiding envy and pride always pleases God. Especially when it comes to our walk with Him.
This post is republished with permission from Oakbrook Church, De Pere, WI.