The Comparison Game always get us in trouble. ALWAYS. From the very beginning, if you consider it this way (as I have so you should also) that Adam and Eve started out with a comparison. They thought I can continue in peaceful perfect bliss with what I already have in the Garden, which is way more than I ever need and a rich relationship with God and my partner… or I can eat this here fruit. They compared what didn’t turn out to be apples to apples but more a willful disobedience acting out on distrust of their Creator and His intentions for them. They thought they knew better and second guessed what He gave them for what they thought they could get.
You can then see comparisons in the story of Cain and Abel. Cain’s sacrifice was less than what Abel’s offering was and he grew bitter and stingy, eventually killing Abel out of hatred and frustration. It started with what the other person is doing and Cain gave in to the contempt. “Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Cain didn’t. He let it eat his heart away.
We see it throughout the stories of the Old Testament, particularly among women. Not that only women do the comparison thing, but it does seem to be a common trait among us. Women without children wanting children. Women with children taunting the childless women. Women jockeying about for position and status, deeply wounding each other if not physically, mentally and emotionally, so that their child will be more important in the family or to the community.
Women is nuts. Well, we all are. We let envy and comparisons eat our hearts. We let petty jealousies grab hold of us and get a firm grasp on our minds and consume us. I want what you have, or I want to hold on to what I have at great cost to everyone around me.
It starts out pretty young too. I watch kids make comparisons – it’s like you can see them calculating in their heads. Hey my brother got 12% more ice cream than I did! No fair! We watch them get older and see how much or how little time their siblings or friends get to spend watching TV or studying. I have to study twice as hard to get good grades. No fair! And then we get to college and we start seeing our friends pair off and soon after get married, have kids, buy a house, get a new car, and the Comparison Game gets upgraded to a whole new edition complete with a real cash bank and shot glass player markers!
Comparing gets complicated. It’s where our justice system gets complicated – two individuals commit the same crime and get different sentences. It isn’t cut and dry, is it? There are so many aspects of individual experience and influences, we cannot possibly line up the two in a fair way.
And there’s that fair word again. It’s always about being “fair.” But what does that mean? Who determines “fair” and inequity? Who gets to say what we deserve, what we’re entitled to?
We have to go back to the Garden of Eden for that. We have to look at where we all started, where we were given the gift of life to begin with. There are some that say we are born blank slates and are added to as we grow, but there is plenty of other evidence that this simply isn’t true. Child development studies show time and again that children are born with personalities and proclivities. It’s why one of your kids will gravitate without any prodding from any one else toward climbing a chair, while another would rather look at a book, the same book, all the day long. We are born very much with needs and wants. Many of our needs are the same. And many of our wants seemingly become needs.
This is where the troubles begin. We start to feel deprived. No one at the table NEEDS ice cream. Not even Aunt Robin. Do we want it? Sure do. And that 12% larger scoop happened to fall to that one kid and those paying attention get upset. Maybe he was the first to say please and thank you. Or maybe he didn’t deserve it at all. Maybe he didn’t even finish his dinner. Egad. But even in this simplistic example, you can see how we have this overdeveloped sense of entitlement that necessarily says all things need to be equal.
Equality is this uniquely American thought. We live and die by it. We equate equality with freedom (see what I did there?) and we think that we aren’t free unless we are all on the same “level” whatever level you think is the right one to be on.
But dial it back a few thousand years and you find yourself struggling to make equality fit into the pattern Jesus himself adapted to real life. You struggle to find a place where you can compare his life – the GOD man – to whatever it is that you have. You will be hard pressed to discover ways that he claimed his rights or a sense of fairness, where he belittled what others had or conversely what he had. He didn’t complain about having to sleep on a rock. He wasn’t looking over the palace wall and dreaming about being Prince Aladdin and marrying the beautiful Jasmine. He didn’t have an air of disdain around the poor, dirty rotten scoundrels all around him who dared to even touch his clothes. He was entitled to all these things. But he didn’t demand them, he didn’t mourn their loss, he didn’t do whatever it took to gain them.
He was on a mission. And that mission was focused on you and on me. That mission demanded all his mental energies and all his being. That mission didn’t have time to covet his neighbor’s things. That mission didn’t leave room for jealousy to enslave him to insecurity and fear. Ain’t nobody got time for that, as the kids would say.
For me, it comes down to what I’m going to spend my brain power on. Am I going to spin my wheels like a hamster on what I don’t have, what I want and how all these silly undeserving people around me seem to get it? Or am I going to focus on what I do have, all the beautiful things around me, the people in my life, all the little gifts I get every single day? Am I going to lay down all I have (and not in a martyr like way so that everyone knows it and FEELS it when I am having a martyr moment) willingly and freely knowing all the while that it isn’t “mine” to start with? This life is not my own. This life is a gift. I have been given all I need and a promise to always have all I need.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not by any means saying I have a hold on this. I get jealous. I get worried at times about all kinds of things that on the face of it may seem super silly. I sometimes let my mind get caught up in the what if game and become despairing about things that haven’t even happened yet, if they will at all.
But it’s in those moments that I pray to always remember the Eden story. I am questioning God’s goodness. I am allowing myself to consider that He is withholding from me or that He is dangling something in front of me that He has no intention of giving me. I begin to wallow in self pity and pride, thinking that I know better or that I would be happier in someone else’s shoes, forgetting that I have been given MY feet and they are beautiful when walking with God. Even if they are short stubby and wide. They are the feet He gave me, they are not yours, and they are perfect.
Sin is always crouching at our doors. It desires to have you, but you must rule over it. Take hold of your hearts and minds, friends. And walk humbly with our God.