Having a sister that’s only 19 months older than me meant that we were subject to a lot of comparisons growing up. Like many other siblings it wasn’t unusual for someone to say to us, “Well your sister did this….” assuming that would be the same for the other one. It was a natural disposition – we were two people, close in age from the same family. It would make sense that people would look for common ground, seeking to understand one of us from what they knew about the other.
Sometimes my sister and I were tempted to make the comparisons ourselves. We would say to my dad or my mom “But she got this” in an attempt to justify why we should get our desired outcome. As we grew older, my mom was fond of telling us that “Things aren’t the same, but they are fair” My sister and I may not have gotten the same gifts, the same privileges or the same circumstances, but my parents were committed to treating us justly in the midst of differing situations.
The tendency to compare doesn’t just happen between siblings though. Much like my sister and I were tempted to compare how my parents are treating us, we are tempted to compare how God is treating His children. We wonder why one person gets good things, when we are in the midst of a hard time. We shake our head as another’s sin seems to go unpunished, while we experience the hard hand of discipline. Some of God’s people get fame while others seem to labor in obscurity. We compare the path that God has placed us on, with the road that He’s asked someone else to walk.
It’s not a new temptation. In John 21:21-22 Peter wants Christ to tell Him what’s happening with another disciple. He wants the inside scoop as to what the other’s life will hold, presumably so he can compare it to his own. But Jesus makes it clear that what Peter needs to worry about is what He’s asked of him. As Christ stated earlier (Matthew 16:18) and reinforced here – Peter was to be used as God’s instrument to build the church. He didn’t need to be focused on what God had planned for John – but to get busy on what God had planned for him. And so should we!
Instead of using our time to compare our lives to another we should be using our time to pursue what God has planned for us. Let Him worry about what the other person’s life will hold – He’s much better at orchestrating the details anyway!