You’ve probably heard the expression “Keeping up with the Jones.” If you haven’t, it’s a term used to describe people who constantly compare what their neighbors have (boats, cars, additions to the house, etc.), and so seek to live a comparable life. I remember watching neighbors spend thousands of dollars doing just this when I was growing up: when a person got a boat, someone else would get one. When that neighbor did improvements to their house, the other neighbor would do similar. I’m not sure what ended that rivalry: neighbors moving away, or running out of money, but even as a child I thought that this sort of thing must be exhausting.
Throughout my ministry, I’ve seen many preachers and Church leaders compare themselves to other church leaders, ministers, and compare their congregations to other churches and ministries. I have had people even compare their ministry to mine, or their life to mine, or their expectations to my results with their own life and ministry. I understand that, on one hand, many do this is to improve oneself or congregation or ministry, as well as to set goals and aspirations, but on the other hand a follower of Christ has no reason to compare themselves to another Christ follower.
Loved ones, if we follow Jesus, let us then compare ourselves to Him. Even Paul, who said to follow godly example, said “Follow me AS I follow Christ” (emphasis, mine), or, in other words, imitate me only as I imitate Christ. Jesus should be our first example, His life and ministry should be our desire. What He valued, we should value. Jesus is the model of what humanity was designed to be, in seeking God, love, and service, and compassion. He is the only one who got it right, and knew how to live life according to God’s standards. Doesn’t it stand to reason, then, that Jesus should be the only one we compare ourselves to? In doing so, yes, we will find deficits in our character and quality. This side of heaven, we won’t get it 100 percent right. But in striving to be like Jesus, we will see His beauty and glory, not just in our own lives, but in the lives He has us cross paths with. Who do you compare yourself to? For me, I seek to be like Jesus.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.