the burden of measuring ourselves against other human beings.
Now, why would we want to do that?
I can hardly think of any good answer to that question besides having a way to esteem ourselves.
Surely, if I have more of this than another then my life is of greater value… right?
That must be so.
But then…what if I have less?
Now I become the person of lesser value.
That doesn’t make me feel good about myself…
Ultimately, that’s what we do when we look at others and compare who we are to them.
We begin to look at ourselves in terms of more or lesser value when the truth is that none of us are more or less important than anyone.
If you say that you’ve never thought of yourself as being more important than anyone else I know that that is a lie.
If you say that you’ve never thought of yourself as being less important than anyone else I know that that is a lie too.
THE PARABLE OF THE TALENTS
For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and made five talents more. So also he who had the talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Matthew 25: 14-18 (ESV)
What we would probably do is get caught up on why the master gave both of the servants more talents (money) than he gave us. And then we’d probably go pout in the corner or better yet, maybe we would do just what the servant with one talent did– choose to do nothing with it.
If we read further into this passage we’ll notice that for each of the servants who brought back a return on the talent the master had given them, the reward was the same. The master said, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” That was the master’s response to the servant with ten talents and the servant with four.
The master didn’t consider any one of his servants more valuable just because he gave some more than others. If he did then he would’ve given one a greater reward than the other.
But somehow we’ve been inclined to believe that just because someone has been given more that he (she) is more important or more valuable. Thus, putting ourselves in a position of being less important.
WHAT WE VALUE
We have come to value ourselves by external things. We value ourselves by talents, who’s doing what, and what we’ve obtained in the process. Then comes the comparisons. We look at those around us and we begin to measure our success and accomplishments by theirs. We take the highest of achievements a person has accomplished and measure ourselves against them. We weigh ourselves, our importance, and our value by what it is that they have done.
Then we ask ourselves, where do I fall on this scale?
If the ranking is high, we feel pretty good about ourselves. If the ranking is low then sometimes our esteem is too.
It becomes difficult to see beauty in our own value because our value is defined by outward appearances.
Do not let your adorning be external– the braiding of hair and putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear– but let your adoring be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 1 Peter 3: 3-4 (ESV)
I love this scripture. It’s one of my go-to’s. And while this scripture speaks expressly of women in context, I think that both men and women alike could learn a thing or two from it.
“The braiding of hair…” the “jewelry…” and the “clothing” are all external things– things we use to “adorn” ourselves and look beautiful. In the same way, we “adorn” ourselves with more accomplishments, more accolades, more achievements and success to make ourselves become more attractive.
If we lose everything that we’ve worked for, everything that we’ve accomplished then who are we?
These are things that can become perishable. They can fade away. When (or if ) they do, we’ll be left with nothing if we chose to measure ourselves by what we’ve obtained and what we have, especially against other people.
WHAT WE ARE REALLY SAYING WHEN WE COMPARE
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are thy works; my soul knows it very well. Psalms 139:14 (ESV)
How can we be praising God for the way that He made us and comparing ourselves to other people at the same time?
It’s one thing to point out differences and similarities in another person just for the sake of recognizing the things that you have in common (or a lack thereof). But it’s another thing to point out those same differences and similarities to find ways of measuring and valuing yourself.
When we begin to weigh ourselves by other people, we are not praising God for the “works” that He made in us.
Our soul does not know very well the wonderful works that God made.
What we are really saying when we compare ourselves to other people is why did you make me like this? Why couldn’t I have been made that way?
It comes off as being very unappreciative of the way that He has made us. We don’t think that his works are “marvelous”–at least not the work that He has done with us.
It’s not until we begin to realize that we are fearfully and wonderfully made that we will understand why there is no need to compare ourselves to those around us.
UNDERSTANDING WHAT GOD VALUES
What we value and what God values is different. If we valued the same thing that He does then we would not always be looking at ourselves in comparison with other people.
We value the external. And as much as we like to use the phrase “it’s what on the inside that counts” I don’t think that we believe that. We don’t understand that it is the same when it comes to God and the way that he views us.
As with the master in the parable of the talents, God often gives some of us more than others. But He doesn’t look at what he gives one to be of more value than the other. It is us who place the emphasis on talents (gifts) that we see others utilizing. We look in comparison to those that appear to be accomplishing more or displaying more talents and then we look at ourselves. We become burdened by what we don’t have because we believe God made the other person with more value, more importance, more significance, and that is simply not true. Whether He has given one more than the other or not, He only expects for both to recognize what they’ve been given and make a return on His investment. The reward will be the same.
We get so caught up in looking at what God has given our neighbors that we don’t recognize the value in what He has given us. In contrast, because we place so much emphasis on the external we forget that God searches the heart. We forget that God cherishes the “imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” This is not a man or woman thing, it is a people thing.
When our spirits are gentle that means that we are loving and kind. That means that we are generous towards our neighbors. That means that we aren’t arrogant and proud and puffed up. Likewise when our spirits our quiet, that means that we aren’t wrought up or disturbed about anything, including what our neighbors have and what we do not have. We display a level of confidence in God knowing that He has made us all fearful and wonderful. We aren’t jealous and covetous of the gifts and talents our neighbors possess.
This is what the Lord finds precious.
When we understand this, we understand that there is no need to compare. He doesn’t give one more than the other because he finds him more valuable. Instead, He values what He’s given man and the return, the same. He values what’s on the inside. What’s not important is how much you’ve been given– what’s important is what you bring back.