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Facebook and the comparison game

June 5, 2012 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

This past Sunday, I preached on Galatians 5:26-6:10, focusing to a large extent on 5:26, which reads: “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” Paul was reminding the Christians in Galatia that because they were justified (made right with God, given eternal worth, deemed important and valuable) by faith in Jesus and not on the basis of their performance, they were now free from the comparison game. In other words, they no longer needed to base their self-worth on whether they were better or worse than other people. It no longer mattered if they were more religious, or more successful, or a better parent, or had more money, or were better looking than those around them; they no longer needed to look to those things to justify themselves, because they were already justified. Conversely, it no longer mattered if they were less religious, less successful, a worse parent, had less money, or were uglier than those around them; they no longer needed to look to those things to condemn themselves, because they had already been justified by God. And as a result, they no longer needed to be conceited – to think of themselves more highly than they ought – or provoke or envy each other, looking down in superiority or looking up in anger at others.

As I reflected on that reality, that as Christians we are free from the comparison game, I thought of the beast that is Facebook. Has there ever been anything that so feeds the comparison trap? The majority of posts, pictures, and shared items on Facebook express the more positive aspects of people’s lives – the things they love, their accomplishments, their favorite pictures, and the things that will lift others up. More negative posts tend to be awkward, leaving many people unsure how to reply. The reality, of course, is that our lives are filled with negative “status updates” – fights with our spouse, trouble at work, experiences we’d rather forget – as well as pictures where the kids are not smiling but trying to strangle each other. But since most of us keep those moments private, the result is that Facebook can inevitably become a place we go and end up feeling miserable about ourselves, as we look at pictures of smiling married people, adorable children, and read about the latest incredible achievement of some guy we haven’t seen since the 7th grade.

I am not saying to necessarily quit Facebook, or that we should post intimate, negative details of your life for all to see. I am saying how timely Paul’s words are in Galatians to our modern situation, and how wise we would be to take a hard look at how much of our self-image is driven by comparing ourselves to others, especially to the polished and scrubbed profiles we see on Facebook. Once we have confessed our enslavement to the comparison game to God, we can begin to listen to what He means when He declares that we are not justified on the basis of what we have done or haven’t done, what we look like, how successful we are, how are children are doing, how much money we make, or even how many “friends” we have. Rather, we are justified because God loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for us when we were His enemies, that we might be adopted as His children, receive the Spirit of God inside of us, and be seen as perfect in His sight. Find your identity in Christ, and let yourself be freed from the comparison game.

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