The Comparison + Self Conceit Trap

 So often, we compare our lives with others- placing ourselves higher or lower in our own personal mindset. In today’s society of social media, the desire to display the best version of ourselves only adds to chances of falling prey to the comparison and self-conceit trap.  After all, the more attention gained, the better one may feel about theirselves, which adds fuel to the fire. My hope is that within the following message you are reminded of the mindset and heart posture our Father longs for us to have as His sons and daughters.

Luke 18:9-14
Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Here are a few points to take note of regarding the Pharisee’s misguided agenda:

  1. He stood and looked around which represents his pride, self-righteousness, egocentric nature.

  2. The Pharisee prays with himself vs. praying with God from a sincere heart.

  3. He says “I” five times and brags on his own ability.

  4. He uses the comparison phrase: “Not like other men…”

  5. He lists his religious duties: I am good & I am religious, I fast, I tithe, I pray, I adhere to oral tradition and the law, I have piety, I adhere & believe the law, I have national pride, I hate our enemies, etc.

From these points, we are made aware that comparison and judgmental prayers are always misguided. Jesus never taught us to pray or live our lives this way. This is pride and arrogance at its finest. Thinking you’re “good” to the point of having full confidence in yourself, so much so, that anyone or anything that doesn’t compare or “match-up” to your life is less than, and therefore becomes a disdain to you. And to top it off, this type of person truly believes they’re justified and has God on their side. The comparison trap: measuring your success and ability based on the success and abilities of others.

Now lets look at some points regarding the Tax Collector’s Agenda:

  1. The posture of his heart is “I’m not good enough”.

  2. His posture: Standing afar off with head bowed low, representing a picture of humility, shame, sorrow & brokenness.

  3. He beats his chest.

  4. He makes the confession: “I am a sinner”.

His posture and humility are the sacrifices that pleases God. (Psalm 51:17).  We have two choices when evaluating ourself. We can compare ourselves to others and the notion of being good, or we can compare ourself with God’s word and what He says to be true. We should all be aware of our desperate need of God’s mercy in our lives just as the tax collector was. This is a great representation of the posture & position of humility that brings us to justification in God’s eyes. The tax collector beating his chest is a picture of the hatred of self and his willingness to decrease, so that God could increase in His life. Again, humility at it’s finest.

Jesus’ final reminder to humble ourselves:

“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

As I meditate and reflect on this passage of scripture I am reminded of a few things.

We must live at the cross.

Living at the cross means that we are dependent on Him.

As true disciples we must “die daily” meaning it becomes a little less about us and a little more about Him each day.

It is not about being good, measuring up, or fulfilling our religious duty as a Christian.

Growing up, I always had such a guilty conscience and only wanted to do the right thing at all times. In fact, if I knew of anything my sister was up to that was no good, I would lay awake all night until I eventually woke my parents to tell them. Yes, I was that kid. But, I never knew the importance of true relationship with Him, only the importance of doing good and saying a prayer at night. But, God doesn’t want us to be good and complete our religious duties, He wants us to be spiritual. He wants an authentic relationship with us.

In Galatians 6:8 we are reminded to sow to the Spirit instead of the flesh.
“For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”

In Galatians 5:22-23 the fruits of the Spirit are listed.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

For me, the list of the fruits are a way for me to check myself. If the majority of the fruits aren’t evident in my daily life, I know I need to sow to the Spirit. I am reminded of my need to make time for Him, to spend time alone with him, praying, listening and reading His word.

Doing good is something that naturally flows from an authentic relationship with Him, not from striving to measure up or please Him. After all, we never come to a place where we “arrive.” So, lets not fall into the comparison trap of measuring our success and ability based on the success and abilities of others. God made no two people alike. We are all called to do things and do them in ways that are different than others. So, do what He is calling you to do without measuring it to another’s calling. It will look different for a reason.

For after all, Mercy always triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13)

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