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To whom do you compare yourself?

May 11, 2021 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

One of the podcasts I have listened to on occasion over the past few years is called The Happiness Lab. In this podcast, a Yale professor named Dr. Laurie Santos looks at the science of happiness, often exposing how our minds are lying to us about what will really make us happy. One of the memorable episodes, called “A Silver Lining,” examined why it is that Olympians who come in third place tend to happier about their finish than those who come in second place. The reason, according to Dr. Santos, is that our perspective on life is largely affected by what we are comparing our situation to. Those who win silver medals look at how close they came to winning gold, and come away disappointed. Those who win bronze medals, by and large, are just happy to have won a medal, as they compare themselves to everyone behind them who missed out.


Understanding this reality can have profound effects. I remember as a child returning from a family visit to The Breakers, the mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, and being convinced that we lived in a very small house. We didn’t, but by comparison to The Breakers, we certainly did. Conversely, one of the selfish reasons to go on a mission trip or to do service projects with your children is to see firsthand the challenging life circumstances of other people, in the hopes of increasing your children’s gratitude for what they have.

In Ephesians 2, Paul tells his readers that they were DEAD in their sins, under God’s wrath, without hope of saving themselves. But God, in His great love and mercy, made them alive in Christ. Paul tells them, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). What is the perspective that Paul encourages us to take on our situation? We were spiritually dead, rebels against a holy God, incapable of saving ourselves, without hope, and deserving of eternal punishment. But God, in His love for us, rescued us, restored us to a right relationship with Himself, and has given us eternal life. Paul calls this grace, which is best understood as “an undeserved gift given by an unobligated giver.” God owes us nothing good, and we deserve nothing good, and yet God has given us a remarkable gift.

What would it mean to adopt this perspective? What would it look like to not compare yourself to other people you see on social media or in the movies (which typically leads to depression or bitterness), but instead to compare your situation in life to what you deserved as a rebel against a holy God? What kind of joy, gratitude, and praise might well up within you as you adopt that Biblical perspective? Every second, every breath, every possession, every relationship is an undeserved gift of God’s grace. Thank you, Lord, for your amazing grace.

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