They say, “comparison is the thief of joy.” I’ve been hearing this quote all over the place recently and it’s no wonder why – God is trying to teach me something… isn’t it funny how he does that?
Put me in a room with other women and my mind goes wild with comparisons. I slip into a long, drawn-out thought process of who I’m better than and who I don’t measure up to and how I can be better. Make this a room of Christian women and the comparisons escalate from the physical to more “spiritual” things.She’s much wiser than me. She’s better spoken about the Bible than I am. She’s a better discipler than I am. I disciple more people than she does. I probably have more Biblical knowledge than her.The envy and comparison that takes over my mind produces a sense of rivalry in my heart, like it’s me against all these women. I have to be – or at least appear – better than everyone else. My flesh desires to have more wisdom, more giftings, more love, and more knowledge (all good things!) than everyone else – not for God’s glory, but for my own (not a good thing).
I’m guessing (and maybe even hoping, for my own sake) that I’m not the only one. I was recently struck by this verse in Philippians: “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry…out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment” (Philippians 1:15, 17).
The apostle Paul writes that there were those who preached Christ with ulterior motives to cause him trouble. I’ve always wondered what this looked like practically. Were these people actually believers? Why did they want to afflict Paul? Was their selfish ambition obvious to all or was it well hidden? While considering these questions, I realized that I have seen this before in some way — in myself. I’ve preached Christ out of envy, rivalry, and selfish ambition. I’ve preached Christ with ulterior motives. I’ve shared the gospel, discipled people, shared words of wisdom, shown my Bible knowledge off, even confessed sin not for the glory of Christ or the edification of the church, but for the glorification of myself, to appear more spiritual than others. The comparisons that plague my mind lead me try and try to out-spiritualize others, and I become just like the people Paul talks of in Philippians 1.
Yuck, y’all, the heart is deceitful. So what am I to do when the sin clings so closely? What response does Scripture give to this problem? In the very next chapter of Philippians, Paul writes:
“…complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:2-5).
Philippians 2 describes living a life contrary to one of envy, rivalry, and selfish ambition; it commands us to live a life of unity, of humility, and of selflessness. A few thoughts stuck out to me in response to these verses:
We don’t have to compete against each other because we’re on the same team.Rivalry can be described as “competing for the same object or goal…[trying] to equal or outdo another.” Yes, we as believers in Christ have one goal – to bring glory to Christ (Isaiah 43:7), but we don’t compete against each other to reach that goal, we work with each other. Sisters, we have the same goal and we’re on the same team, or in Paul’s terms in Philippians 2, we are “of one mind.” Let us think of each other as teammates instead of competition.
Humility is not to be confused with self-deprecation.Not only are we to recognize we are on the same team as all other believers, but we are also to have an attitude of humility. But, we must be sure not to confuse humility and “count[ing] others more significant than yourselves” with false humility, merely putting yourself down. We often mistake the opposite of pride for insecurity or self-deprecation. In reality, that is not any less prideful because it’s still focused on “self.” Timothy Keller explains, “The essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.” May our minds be transformed to be more God- and others-focused, while maintaining a godly and true thinking of ourselves.
Take heart, we have Jesus as both our example and our power to overcome envy, rivalry, and selfish ambition.Perhaps the most encouraging part of these verses to me is Philippians 2:5: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” WHICH. IS. YOURS. IN CHRIST JESUS. God has been reminding me over and over again that it is not of my own volition or will that I overcome sin. He is the God who saved me and He is the God who sanctifies me (Galatians 3:3). As I fix my eyes on Christ, “the author and perfecter of faith,” He freely gives me His power, His strength, and His grace, and His mind that I may ever grow to look more like Him (Hebrews 12:1-2). Further, our beautiful Savior has tangibly shown us the perfect example of this attitude of humility, unity, and love. Jesus, who has existed for all time and created us, became one of us. Jesus, worthy of all our praise and honor and glory, served us. Jesus, now seated at the right hand of God, died in our place for us. He is our perfect example of this attitude seen in Philippians 2, a picture of what we strive to be. And, at the same time, it’s only in Christ we have power to overcome sin; it’s only through Him that we have this mind.
May we find joy as we set our eyes on Jesus instead of ourselves, and through His power live like His example.