Looking Good By Comparison
So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. (Romans 14:12)
The second refuge of lies is trust in other people’s badness. Some people make their their boast in their own goodness; others make their boast in the badness of others. When you urge someone like this to come to Christ, he says, “No, I don’t pretend to be very good, but I am just as good as a lot of other folks who are your church members.”
Does it satisfy your conscience to say, “Well, I am not very good, but I am no worse than somebody else?” If it does you must have an insensitive conscience. Is trust in other people’s badness making you a better person? I have known many people who talked much of other people’s badness, but I have yet to find anyone who was made better by the practice.
Show me a man who is always talking about the faults of others, and I will show you a man who is rotten at the heart. Show me a man who calls every man a thief, and I will show you a man you can’t trust with your wallet. Show me a man who thinks every other man is impure, and I will show you an adulterer. Show me a man or woman who is always talking about other’s faults, and I will show you a man or woman who you cannot trust. It never fails.
Will you stand the test of the Judgement Day? Face-to face with God who knows you, will you look into His face and say, “I have never been good, but I am no worse than others?” Never! God tells us distinctly, “Each of us shall give account of himself to God.(Romans 14:12)
Some years ago while working in textiles, the principle of comparison to others became vivid. We were working for the government producing military uniforms. Our first process was to produce samples that complied with the strict requirements of the military standard. Sizes and stitch count were measured to exact standards. This first set of garments were used to measure every production garment and the production garments were to meet the standard with a very small percentage of variance. No garment could be compared to anything other than the sample standard.
As a builder I learned that if you were cutting boards it was imperative to use the measured board as a standard. In other words you couldn’t measure the next board by the last one cut. The width of a pencil mark would grow and each board would get longer and longer. Everything had to come back to the original standard.
So it is in life, especially the Christian life. Far too often we try to measure ourselves by the standard of another human being. This is a false standard for every human falls short of the standard of Christ. We cannot measure ourselves against another Christian, whether they are a fellow Christian, a church leader, or even the pastor. Our standard is none other than Christ Himself. Many live as though God grades on the curve. I remember while in college there were times when we all scored so bad on a test that the professor would give us mercy and grace on the curve. He would take the highest score and make that score the perfect score and then adjust everyone else’s grace accordingly. I suppose that if we were to be compared with each other, God would find Himself grading on the curve as well.
It is foolish to compare ourselves to others, whether we see them as examples we want to be like or whether they are justification for our continued sinful conduct.
When my children were growing up one of their attempted justifications was the phrase, “everybody else is doing it.” My response to them was, “So if everybody else was a thief or a liar, would that make it right?”
We find a story on the Bible told by Jesus that shows the fallacy of comparison to others. There is no refuge in such comparison as this story shows.
He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves and were confident that they were righteous [posing outwardly as upright and in right standing with God], and who viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple [enclosure] to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood [ostentatiously] and began praying to himself [in a self-righteous way, saying]: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of men—swindlers, unjust (dishonest), adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing at a distance, would not even raise his eyes toward heaven, but was striking his chest [in humility and repentance], saying, ‘God, be merciful and gracious to me, the [especially wicked] sinner [that I am]!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his home justified [forgiven of the guilt of sin and placed in right standing with God] rather than the other man; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself [forsaking self-righteous pride] will be exalted.”
It is easy to point out the open sins of others, but God see the heart. At the end of the day the actions and deeds of others will not determine your eternal destiny. Yours will.
I’ve learned over the years to build my relationship with God around Christ. I’ve seen many Christians fall and fail. There have been times that Christians have hurt, disappointed and wronged me, but I’ve learned to keep my eyes on Jesus. The church is not and never will be perfect for it is made up of imperfect people and we ought to give grace so we might receive grace. One of the verses that I live by is Matthew 5:7:
“Blessed [content, sheltered by God’s promises] are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
Like the tax collector, I have no goodness on my own merit. My whole trust is in the grace of Jesus. I know that He is the standard for my conduct. What a relief and blessing when we look to the true standard rather than attempting to compare ourselves to others.
If the deeds and actions of others are causing you to stumble, or worse, give up your faith and walk with God, lift your eyes upward.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work]. Just consider and meditate on Him who endured from sinners such bitter hostility against Himself [consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Dr. John Thompson