A huge pitfall for all people is the comparison game. Some compare their physical appearance to others, some measure their bank account against others, and some compete mentally over spiritual maturity with friends.
Whatever your chosen trophy, it is always a losing game. If you are better than most people, you’ll become proud and condescending. If you think you are worse than most, you will be filled with despair and self-loathing. We must be set free.
Matthew 25 tells a parable of a master giving different talents (like money) to servants. This parable is full of truths to set us free from being consumed with comparison. It helps to read the parable imagining yourself as the two talent servant.
There always are those around that seem to be ahead of me who have more, like the servant with five talents. There always are those who seem to have less, like the servant with one. The temptation to compare myself to those above me in despair and those below me in arrogance never goes away until heaven.
A helpful application of this parable is to get our eyes off ourselves and onto Someone much greater. The answer for self-consumption is not to just tell yourself “Stop it!” That never really works. We must worship Someone truly greater than ourselves so that we lose our self-centered world view.
GOD GIVES MUCH
The Master in this parable represents God. The first thing Jesus teaches is our God is radically generous. He loves to share good gifts with His children. Yes, some servants get more than others. But all of God’s people get gifts. None can rightly complain that God has been stingy with them.
Gifts are freely given. They are not earned, deserved, or merited. The Master freely gave gifts to these servants, to me and you. The next time you are struggling with comparison, take your eyes off others and start literally writing down the blessings God has put in your life. Start with the most basic things like air and water that we take for granted. Do not forget things like the Bible and the internet that provides access to truth, etc…
The generosity of God to us sinners ought to stun us into silence. We ought to be amazed at His goodness. We should be shaken out of the comparison game.
GOD EXPECTS MUCH
A central theme of this parable is that God hasn’t given us great gifts so that we can be lazy. Whether we are thinking about our physical traits, financial wealth or spiritual gifts; God’s plan is that we get to work, not for our glory but for His. He invests in us so we can go and do business with all He has entrusted to us. He wants us to be busy about His business in the world.
To the degree that we feel a sense of urgency to use all God has given us for His kingdom, there is just less time to spend on evaluating ourselves compared to others’ performance. If our hearts are truly centered on serving our generous King, we won’t have energy to meticulously add up our score card in comparison to those beside us. Serving the Lord with the right motivation is incredibly freeing.
HE REWARDS MUCH
Next, this parable tells us that to the degree that we are faithful, we will be rewarded. We don’t earn or merit these rewards. Even our best deeds are filthy rags in the courtroom of the universe. But our sincerity in faithfulness to Christ pleases His heart (Colossians 1:10).
Our main motivation for obedience ought to be our love for King Jesus. But He is so gracious and generous that He loves to throw in extra rewards and motives. He doesn’t have to reward us for our service but He delights to.
He also knows how weak and fickle we are. We often start well in serving Christ and then grow weary and need aid. One of the ways He does this is by promising rewards to aid us in our weaknesses with extra motivations.
One of the most helpful things in this parable is the way the Master responds to the first two servants. The first used his five talents to make five more. The second used his two talents to make two more. But the Master’s response to both was literally word for word identical!
God didn’t smile more on the five talent man than the two talent servant. He delighted in both men’s faithfulness in proportion to their gifts. This should free us from the constant comparison of who has more potential. We should be consumed with entering the joy of our Master. Pursuing joy in Christ frees us from all sinful concern about how my neighbor is doing in comparison to me.
HE FORGIVES MUCH
The last part of this parable can be terrifying, but even here, there is a note of grace. The sinfully lazy servant was fearful because He didn’t know the good heart of his Master. He thought of Him as a terrifying task master. But note His gracious words.
He is not demanding perfection. He is so kind and merciful. He essentially says, “If you had taken the least step of faith towards me, I would’ve been merciful to you.” God loves to show mercy. But we must trust in His grace.
Jesus is the true ten talent man who came and lived a life of full trust in the Father. His faithfulness frees the Father to forgive us. The cross shows us that the heart of God is not to demand, but to give graciously.
Become fixated on the great grace and generosity of such a Savior. Then you will live a life full of faith, free to invest all God’s given you to serve others. Be awed by your Savior. Delight to serve your gracious Master. Then you won’t have any time or energy to participate in the comparison game.