Comparison and Covetousness
With the ability to see what is happening in any other person’s life almost instantly, every day can become a subconscious battle with comparison. The newest iPhone comes out, and it seems like everyone has one except for you. New dances are trending on TikTok, and you are slow and awkward to learn them. Your old high school friend gets engaged and you’re still single. On a spiritual level, it could be seeing the boldness a church member has in evangelism, and you struggle to step outside of your comfort zone. Comparison happens naturally, and the act of comparison itself is not a sin. But can comparison become sinful? And if so, when does it?
The Webster’s dictionary definition of comparison is “an examination of two or more items to establish similarities and dissimilarities.” Daily, my thoughts compare and contrast the realities I face. Though I do not purposely set out to compare my physical appearance to others, it undeniably happens. The same goes for social media. I curiously scroll past countless posts, stumbling on one person after another showing off something of their own, presenting where they are in life, or picturing themselves off on an elaborate vacation. Meanwhile, I am sitting on my living room couch eating leftovers and my sink is full of dishes.
In the moment, this causes me to question my own happiness; I am not where they are, and that looks so much better. I question my own circumstances; my place in life does not look like theirs. Ultimately, I close the app feeling drained. When I allow my joy to be dictated by my circumstances because they do not look like someone else’s, I am setting myself up for failure. And this is where the sin comes in.
When Comparison Turns into Coveting
My comparison led to a discontentment in where the Lord has placed me. My comparison led to me coveting my sister in her recent marriage because they look just so darn happy in her post. My comparison led to me viewing my God-given physical appearance negatively because my brows do not fit the objective standard. My comparison led to me viewing my circumstances, appearance, and place in life as not as “good” as someone else’s.
We are constantly, in American society, put in situations where our disordered desires can be conceived and give birth to sin. In his letter, James writes that we are tempted when we are enticed by our own desires.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
These desires we have often lead us to fall into sin. When engaging in an environment like social media, where we constantly see what is going on in other people’s lives, the temptation to compare our own situations, achievements, and overall well-being is unrelenting.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not telling you to delete the app and cut yourself off from it all. There is nothing wrong with wanting to genuinely keep up with your friend from high school. There is nothing wrong with getting cool ideas from a DIY page or learning new hairstyles. The problem is when we allow our comparing to give birth to something greater, like the sin of covetousness. When we allow the healthy desire to know how a friend is doing to turn into the ugly desire of covetousness, we reveal that our hearts have deceived us into idolatry (Colossians 3:5).
We hear throughout the scriptures how covetousness is sinful (Eph 5:5, Mark 7:21-23). We know the greatest commandment, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:36-38), and we fail daily to show this love when we put our materialistic, temporal, earthly desires before the Almighty God.
How to Move from Covetousness
When the Bible clearly defines what sin is, we should repent and turn from such sin. We should never take what is identified as sin lightly, because sin is the very thing that separated us from God in the first place. We are called to no longer live according to the flesh, but walk in a manner worthy of the Lord (Romans 8:5, Colossians 1:10). It is a glorious reality we have been made new in Christ, but despite our new hearts, we still reside in this “body of death” (Romans 7:24). We are naturally sinful human beings that the Lord has graciously saved. We have natural tendencies to desire things of this world over exalting Christ because of our natural inclinations toward sin.
With this being the reality, and with temptation that can feed on our heart’s natural desires being all around us, we must be watchful. As the body of Christ, may we analyze our daily habits and inclinations. May we ask the Lord to bring to light all of our desires. If anything mentioned above is something you struggle with then I challenge you to address it because our God, through the Scriptures, has commanded us to. We are commanded to put to death covetousness (Colossians 3:5). And I don’t know about you, but to me the command to put something to death does not sound like a light treatment.
Repent and seek the Lord and align your desires to His. The realities of being a millennial in this society is what you and I must face daily. We must turn to Scripture and prayer to be filled with all knowledge and discernment, to test what is excellent (Philippians 1:9-10).
Think of the great joy comparison can bring when we compare our lives to the lives of others in light of God’s grace. If your circumstances are seemingly negative in light of others’ lives around you, may all glory and praise be to God! If your situation seems to be going great, all glory and praise be to God! May any of our similarities or differences lead us to draw closer to Christ. In any comparison we make of our lives against another’s, rest in where you are, for the Lord has appointed you by His sovereignty and no matter what circumstance you are in, you are called to praise His Holy Name because He is Good (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Psalm 34:8)! May we rejoice in the God given differences we have between one another, and may acknowledging these differences bring you to a satisfaction that only Christ can bring.