The Comparison Game

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Yesterday, I tried to draw our attention to the way we play the blame game.

Today, I want to draw our attention to another game we play: the comparison game.

If we understand ourselves to be ‘sons of Adam’ and ‘daughters of Eve,’ we ought to pay attention to the story about their children in Genesis 4 (link).

Both Cain and Abel bring offerings to God. The text says that God had a special “regard” for Abel’s offering, but for Cain’s he had no regard. It doesn’t say that God despised Cain’s offering, or rejected it. It simply says that, in that moment, God favored Abel’s.

Nevertheless, Cain grew “very angry” and his face fell (sounds a little bit like shame, no?).

God sees Cain’s response and to paraphrase, says this: “You need not be angry. … that thing that’s happening in your heart right now, that’s the beginning of sin. Don’t let it get ahold of you.”

Unfortunately, he is unable to resist. He lures Abel out into the field and kills him.


The comparison game is not part of God’s original design.

As has been said … “compare and despair

In other words, once we start playing this game, we start devolving into an ugly combination of envy, anger, anxiety, depression, self-criticism, and shame. We become like Cain and allow this shame cocktail to fuel ungodly behavior.

Part of what it means to be our “brother’s keeper” (Genesis 4:9) is that we don’t play the comparison game.

That’s exactly what Peter learns in John 21. Shortly after having breakfast with the resurrected Jesus, Peter is redeemed by Jesus, and then told, in no uncertain terms, that his death would glorify God. After hearing this, Peter then points to John and says, “Lord, what about him?” And the gist of Jesus’ reply is, “If he lives longer than you, what is that to you?” (John 21:23)

I think we could summarize Jesus’ response in this way: “Don’t worry about his role in my purposes. Concern yourself with your role. You’ve been put in your context with your gifts for such a time as this (Esther 4:14). You’ve been given your own experiences and strengths (and limitations) so that you might contribute in your own unique way to the Father’s purposes. (1 Cor. 12). Fulfill your role and be glad your role.”

Of course, all of this is easier said than done. But of course, that’s why we’re here—we’re here to trust that if anyone can help eliminate this tendency, it is the Vine-grower. Once He prunes that branch, the Vine (Christ) can provide the grace and strength we need in order to live into a different way of life. Lord, have mercy.


TODAY’s PRAYER: Lord, give me the strength to acknowledge the moments where I start playing the comparison game and better yet, prune me in those moments. I don’t want to despair. I want to be content in you. I want to trust your plans for me and for all those around me. Help me to live into your design and bear fruit for your Kingdom.

If you want even greater insight, you should listen to the other 30 minutes of that podcast interview I referenced yesterday. In it, they talk about one of the most pernicious effects of social media; namely, that social media fuels the comparison game—it’s like nitrous — listen online or on Apple podcasts

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