The fourth grade teacher slowly made her way around the classroom with a stack of graded test papers in her arms. This was the moment I had been waiting for…this was the moment of truth. I had taken the English test on Monday, along with the 22 other students in my class. It was now Thursday, far too long to wait in my opinion, and we were finally receiving the results.
I stole glances at the eyes of my classmates who had seen their grades. Their reactions were a mixture of relief, satisfaction, disappointment, and fear. As the teacher came closer, I noticed that she was putting the graded tests face down on our desks. This was an unfortunate act, but one that I would just have to overcome. Finally, she reached the desk next to me, gave my fellow classmate his test, and then I received mine.
I slowly turned it over and noticed the “A” written in bold, red ink at the top of the page. It was a truly wonderful moment, but I had to do one more thing before I could enjoy it completely. Very carefully, I looked at the desk beside and noticed that student had a fairly satisfied, contented expression. To my great delight I was also able to see the “B+” also written in red ink, though not quite as bold as mine.
As I relished the thought that I had beat my classmate, a victory that was far more important to me than my grade, I had no idea I was developing a habit that would encompass far more than mere grades. This small act, though seemingly harmless, was only the beginning of my battle with comparing.
It is so very easy for us to find our glory in being better than someone else. We pour our energy into things such as being more popular, getting the best job, looking prettier or more handsome, and having the most intellect. Whether we realize it or not, comparing also creeps over into the “spiritual.” We make mental notes of how frequently someone goes to church, how much they tithe, how well they pray out loud, or how often they do devotions and then we tally up our own score to see who comes out on top.
Paul states in 2 Corinthians 10:17-18, “But he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.”
The commendation we give ourselves or get from other people is so fleeting. In fact, it leaves us empty and looking for another person to whom we can compare so we can feel good about ourselves again. However, true approval comes from the Lord. It comes when we practice humility instead of puffing ourselves up, when we seek for Him to receive glory for our accomplishments instead of allowing it to build up our own egos, when we seek to please God from the heart instead of acting for the praise of men.
“Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you up” (James 4:10).
“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
“For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).
Unfortunately, I didn’t learn any lesson from the escapade with the grade. It took many years and many more comparisons, over things far bigger, before I realized the sin I was committing. But God is so very gracious, and He is truly teaching me what it means to live out Galatians 6:14 “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
Copyright 2004 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.