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Comparison Always Leads to Carnality

From the series God's Wisdom for Building Great Relationships

This message is Principle #6 for building great relationships - Comparison always leads to carnality. Chip tells us there’s only one possible result and two possible consequences when we compare ourselves to others: We become judgmental and then we feel superior or inferior. Chip helps us understand that if we will break ourselves of this habit, our hearts and our attitudes become incredibly liberated!

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Message Transcript

Someone asked me recently if I would just step back and say, “You have been a Christian a little over three decades now. Just in terms of simplified principles. If you were just going to sit down with someone over a cup of coffee and say, ‘What are the biggest life lessons you have learned about doing relationships God’s way? Doing relationships in a way so that how you relate to one another around the Word of God and the Spirit of God would actually allow both of you to become more like Christ.’”

And so, I sat down and put my feet up and got a cup of coffee and prayed and said, Lord, what is it? And so, a number of different ones. I started with: it all begins with God. That was my first principle. I realized that everyone in the world wants to tell you how to do relationships.

And I realized God has laid out in His Word: This is how you do relationships. And then I began to think of other things. You can’t impart what you don’t possess. I can’t give to another person in relationship what I am not getting from God. I have learned over the years that everyone behaves in a way that makes sense to them. That has transformed my life. It helps you step back so that you don’t get engaged in something where you respond emotionally.

And then another principle for me is: everyone is desperately insecure. And some people show their insecurity with strong reactions and powerful and they tell you what they have done and what they have accomplished and how much money they make and who they know and what they drive and on and on and on and on.

And they do that because they seem really big and you seem really small and that creates distance. And that distance makes them feel safe. And other people are insecure with weak reactions. What they do is they look at their feet and, “I’m a nobody and I could never do anything and my mom was a nobody, my dad was a nobody and I haven’t done this and I haven’t done this.” And they withdraw from relationships and it creates distance. But it’s rooted in the same thing. Once you realize everyone is desperately insecure, we just show it in different ways.

Well, principle number six for me is that comparison always leads to carnality. Comparison always leads to carnality. And what I have tried to do with these little principles, I just thought, God, help me be really simple. A principle, a passage, and then some practice. What is the principle? Comparison always leads to carnality.

Who is the fastest? Who is the smartest? Who is the prettiest? Who is the sexiest? Who is the best looking? Whose kids are the brightest? Did you go to this school or that school? Who has the nicest clothes? What kind of car do you drive? Where do you live? What is your zip code? People magazine – who is the most famous? Forbes magazine – who is the richest?

When you pull up at a stoplight, unconsciously, if there are two or three lanes, you will tend to look to your right and you will tend to look to your left. And you will unconsciously go through a series of things. You will look at what kind of car they are driving; you will make observations about how the gal is wearing her hair, not wearing her hair; how much jewelry she has, what it looks like.

If it’s a BMW and has number 7-something with an “i” in the back you make certain observations and conclusions. If it’s a VW van with a peace sign and the guy has multiple tattoos and Rastafarian hair, you make certain conclusions. And you unconsciously begin to ask, “Where do I fit?”

And you gravitate like I gravitate in your humanness to either feel superior or inferior. Or judging, You know what? I’ll tell you what. Look at all those rich people and what a waste of money to have that much jewelry and the poor could have been fed. And you know what? You know what? I think and Audi would be okay, but a BMW, that is totally out.

Or, You know what? Why doesn’t that guy get a bath? That’s his whole problem. You know something? That hair stinks and there is lice in it. And that’s the problem with this world. The ‘60s is over. Why doesn’t that guy get a life?

And what I can tell you is you don’t know anything about either of them. You don’t know anything about either of them. And neither do I. But it’s habitual.

I made a list. I went from car to home to clothes to jewelry. I noticed, now, have you ever found out, like, when you get engaged and then when you get a wedding ring or an engagement ring and, ladies, do you all – please don’t look at me – but have you ever tried to compare the size of the diamond that someone else has with when you got engaged?

Or when you are newly married, do they own their house or rent their house? Or what school did you graduate from versus what school someone else graduated from? Is it weird that, as parents, we want people to know our kids’ SAT scores? Like that really changes the world!

We compare our kids, our schools, our education, our IQs and all I want to tell you is, every time you compare yourself with other people, whether it’s your insides or your outsides or your possessions or your position, it always leads to carnality. And by carnality I mean sin.

The passage I would like to give you is 2 Corinthians [chapter] 10, verse 12 and I would like you to go ahead and open your Bible and look at that. And the apostle Paul is in a situation where he is being compared. He is being compared with these so-called super apostles and the Corinthian church is saying, “You know something? We – you act like a real big shot when we get these letters but we are not really that impressed with you.”

And Paul really hates to do it, but defends his apostleship and talks about some amazing experiences and different things he has had. But in verse 12, he gets to the core of the issue about relationships. It says, “For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves, but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.”

And is that graphic? We are not bold to compare ourselves with some of those. Paul says, “I’m not comparing myself with other people.” Why? “When they measure themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.”

In your notes, if you want to, you might jot down 1 Corinthians 15:10, where the apostle Paul does just the opposite. And I remember the first time I read this, and I never opened the Bible until I was eighteen so I’m probably eighteen and a half now, I’m a Christian about six months, I’m reading through the New Testament for the first time.

And when I first read this verse I thought, This guy is really arrogant. I can’t believe he said this. “I am what I am by the grace of God. And His grace did not prove vain toward me, but I labored more than all of them,” speaking of the other apostles, “yet not I, but the grace of God in me.”

And when you really study that, he’s not arrogant at all. He has an accurate assessment of himself. “I am what I am by the grace of God.” The brains I have – grace of God. The looks I have – the grace of God. Position I have – the grace of God. The money I have – the grace of God. The talent I have – the grace of God. The parent I have – the grace of God. I am what I am. God made me! And God placed me in this family at this time, with these gifts, with these strengths, with these liabilities, with these experiences both wonderful and difficult by His grace.

And then it’s interesting, what does he do? “And His grace didn’t prove vain toward me.” I didn’t compare myself with other people; I saw who God made me and where I am and what I have been through and then I labored. I labored. I worked. I took what God gave me and who He made me and this is a time where he does have a little comparison. He goes, “More than all of them, yet, not I. Even my labor, even my energy, even my passions, even my desires – not I but the grace of God.”

And so, all I am saying is in relationships and this is a habit that is so hard to break, is if you can begin to say to yourself, I am going to break the habit of comparing myself with other people, I am telling you, it will liberate you.

When you can go through the checkout stand, ladies, and see the front of Cosmopolitan and US and all the magazines and how you’re “supposed” to look and realize the genetic pool of which is drawn is the upper one or two percent of all the women made in all the world and they have airbrush, surgeries, and money like you don’t have and they are – can you imagine having, the only job you have is to look pretty?

I remember them interviewing one lady who is noted, I won’t mention any names, who is noted not only for her beauty but for her wonderfully articulate bodily shape. Can I say that in the right way?

And she talked about five and six hours a day, the regimen she went through to keep different parts of her body looking the way they needed to look so she could get in front of the camera and make millions of dollars.

Now, I don’t know about you, but how many of you have five or six hours a day to do buns of steel or whatever? And yet, that picture flashes and you have been told ever since you were a little girl.

Or, guys, when you look at Men’s Fitness, and you see that guy with those rippled abs. They don’t have six-packs, they’ve got twelve-packs. But you know what? If you’ve got five hours – now, should you be in shape, take good care of your body, all the rest? Of course.

But that’s a full – a twelve-pack – that’s a full-time job. You’ve got to be in the gym for hours and hours and hours.

But these images of these pictures and we compare ourselves both up or down. And the moment we do it always leads to carnality.

The principle: comparison always leads to carnality. The passage: 2 Corinthians 10:12. The practice: let me give you three things that I think will really help you break the habit. Number one, habitually choose to view others the way God does. And jot down: 1 Samuel 16:7. Habitually choose. It’s a choice. You won’t naturally do this. Habitually choose to view others the way God does.

1 Samuel 16:7 – God is looking for a king. He says to the prophet, “Go over to Jesse’s house. He’s got a lot of boys. One of those boys is the king and I’ll show you.” All the boys line up, the prophet looks at them all and he goes, “Hey, we’ve got a problem here.” And one of them especially is strong and mature and good looking and big. And the father is going, “It’s him, right?”

The prophet says, “No. Do you have any other sons?” And basically all, there’s the little guy. He’s young. And so David comes. And do you remember what the prophet says? “For God sees not as man sees. For man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord weighs the heart.”

And I don’t know about you, but God has been so gracious to reprove me so painfully that I am habitually in the practice of choosing to look at people the way God does.

I’ll never forget my greatest reproof. I was preaching in California and there was a guy who came, sat on the front row, had long Rastafarian locks, had what appeared to be a dress on or a robe with a multi-colored coat, and a funky little hat. And he sat, I always sat on the front row and I was six or eight rows away. And the aroma of his life on the streets was reaching me six or eight rows away.

And I later learned his name was Dan he became affectionally called Dan-Dan-the-Hippie-Man. And I was preaching and I’m wondering, Man, where is this guy coming from? If I had seen him on the streets alone, it would have been like ball my fist here, he’s a drug addict. I wonder where he’s coming from. And if he’s not a drug addict he’s a nut.

And so, I get done preaching and I notice he is really paying attention. I think, That’s good. He’s probably coming off drugs and the meth or the heroine or the cocaine has got him wired up or something.

And I get done and when I get done, we had these steps and I would go down these little steps. And he just came up to me like this. He goes, “Pastor! It’s so good to be here! I could just feel the presence of Jesus!” And then he goes like this and this guy gave me a bear hug. And not one of those polite Christian little hugs where we all know it’s got to be quick and man-to-man.

And he is hugging me like I just gave out silver dollars and he got nine of them. And he gets to – and then he looks at me like this, he goes, “I am so glad God brought me here.” And I’m thinking – and then I talked to him. This guy is in the Bible every day, he had a radical conversion. I later learned that he came for a few weeks and he said, “Well, I’m back on to God’s calling.” And he went on the road and he was purposefully a homeless person sharing Christ.

And then he actually made his way about halfway across the United States and got involved in a cult. And I got this long letter about all these weird people and I don’t know much about the Bible. He was only a Christian about six months.

So, I write him a letter and he said, “This is where you can contact me.” And I gave him information about the cult and I said, “I love your heart. You need to get some training.” He came back, walked all the way back and hitchhiked back to California, went to Bible school, later married another girl and their ministry – boy, their wedding was wild. And he ended up, he was quite a flute player. Ended up on our worship team. And I’m telling you, if I have ever met someone who was Jesus to people that other people won’t give the time of day, it was Dan-Dan-the-Hippie-Man.

We even were a part of getting him in Bible school. And he got training. And you know something? Isn’t it easy to look on the outside? Oh, look at that hairdo. Look at her nails. Those nails. That’d be sixty-five dollars. I wonder if they are fake or not. Or, Look at those shoes. Look at that bag. You know what? I wonder if that’s one of those bags where the imprint really is the Louis-whatever it is or is it just a knockoff. Look at that, look at that, look at that, look at that, look at that.

People’s luggage coming off of racks, we make observations. How they sit, how they talk, where their accent. He talks like this, he has a slur, he must be from this part of the country. He looks like that. He or she must not be very smart.

Comparison always leads to carnality. Habitually choose to refuse to view others in any other way than God does. And you will be pleasantly surprised.

Second practice is: habitually choose to evaluate yourself the way God does. Or to look at yourself. If you’ll open to Psalm 139, some of us, as the apostle Paul says, think too highly of ourselves. My experience is most of us think too lowly of ourselves.

You need to habitually go into practice, go into training that when you look in the mirror, rather than looking at yourself the way you do, begin to look at who you are the way God does.

Here’s how God looks at you. Psalm 139, verse 13. David is sharing his heart, inspired by the Holy Spirit. He says, “For You formed my inward parts and You wove me together in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works and my soul knows it very well. My frame,” literally, my skeleton, my structure, “was not hidden from You when I was made in secret and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Your eyes have seen my unformed substance,” literally, the idea: Your eyes saw my embryo. “..and in Your Book they were written all the days ordained for me when as yet there wasn’t one of them.”
Here’s a God who knows you. You have DNA like no one else, He created you exactly the way He wanted to create you, with the color of eyes, with the personality, dropped you in the family that He would – now, it doesn’t matter whether you had a good dad, a bad mom, if an absent…God loved you so much that He knew He needed your mom and your biological dad’s DNA to make the unique you. And when He looks at the unique you, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are valuable. You are unique. You are precious. You matter. Not if you were taller, not if you were smarter, not if you were more outgoing, not if you were better in this or better in that. You!

He is describing you. They hadn’t learned to talk yet. This is God’s view of you before you did anything. It goes on to say, “How precious also are Your thoughts, God, toward me. How vast is the sum of them? If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.”

God views you as something that matters, that is precious; He thinks of you all the time. He loves you and cares for you just the way He made you. Now, do you have a stewardship with your body to make it the best that it can be and be healthy? Sure. Do you have a stewardship with your mind? Of course. Do you have a stewardship with your gifts and your talents? Yeah!

But I’ll tell you what, most of us have bought into a culture where we find someone a little bit better than us and we envy them because we compare ourselves with them. And then we find someone a little bit lower than us and we compare and we are either self-righteous if we do it spiritually, or we feel superior and arrogant because what really happened is we don’t view ourselves rightly.

You’ve got to look yourself in the mirror and say, God, thank You. You are all-wise. You could have made me 6’2”. You could have made me 5’7”. You could have given me blue eyes or brown eyes. You could have, You could have…

And all the answers to God said, Wait a second. I have not made any mistakes ever. Ever. Not even a small one. The wisdom of God is that God brings about the best possible results by the best possible means for the most possible people for the longest possible time. Not only what He has done could not be done better, but how He does what He has done could not be improved upon.

And that’s who you are! And when you embrace that, all of a sudden, you know what? It doesn’t matter what they drive. It doesn’t matter what their test scores are. It doesn’t matter if they went to this school or that school or whether they can shoot it or kick it or play it or paint it better than you. Because God is not comparing you with any of them. You are His unique masterpiece. Comparison always leads to carnality. To break it, habitually choose to view others the way God does.

Secondly, habitually choose to view yourself as God does. And third, habitually choose to measure your performance and success by answering the following questions. This is really quick, but I literally, I do this all the time. You know I’m kind of nutso with those little 3x5 cards and all that stuff.

I actually ask myself these questions about my performance, okay? My performance as a father, my performance as a husband, my performance as a pastor, my performance as a friend. We all perform. We do things, right? And the question is: well, are you successful or not? We all want to be successful.

And by the way, that word in Hebrew in Joshua, when it talks about meditating on His law in order that you can be successful, the word means prudent. To look into something in order to do your life in a way that is aligned with God’s will or wisdom.

And so, success, real success is figuring out how God has orchestrated life and doing life His way. And so, how do you measure your success? Three questions. Question number one I ask is: did I give my very best effort? Did I give my very best effort? And I have – I always have a verse with these, sorry. Colossians 3:23. “Whatever you do, do heartily as unto the Lord and not unto men, for it is God who is going to reward you.”

Did I give my best effort? Am I giving my best? Is the best shot I have as a dad? Is this my best shot as a husband? Is this my best shot on this message? Is this my best shot in this difficult situation? Did I give my best effort? Not: how did I do compared to someone else who does the same thing?

I don’t want to compare myself to Chuck Swindoll and Andy Stanley and all these other – I’m not them. I don’t want to compare myself to other people that are these amazing fathers from amazing…I’m not them! The question we need to ask is, first, did I give my best effort?

Second, who am I seeking to impress? Who am I seeking to impress? Am I seeking to impress my wife? My kids? What people think of my kids? Am I seeking to impress other people? It’s an audience of one. The only way you break the grip of comparison is to know success is: I gave my best effort, number one; number two, I did it unto You.

I love the little song by Sara Groves. It’s called This Journey is My Own. If you’ve never heard it, it’s on her Conversation album. It’s an awesome song. And she has this little song where she says, “This journey is my own. There’s a day I’m going to stand before the Lord.” And she says, “This journey is my own.” It’s not what anyone else thinks. And then she has this great line, “Why should I waste my life or lose my life trying to please people,” basically, “that I’ll never be able to please, instead of God?”

Third question is this: Am I fulfilling my God-ordained potential? And you can jot down Matthew chapter 25:14 through about 30. Matthew 25. See, sometimes we get really excited and we think, Wow! I did great! Because you compare it to this person or this person or this person. And I will tell you what you’ll do naturally, because you want to be successful. We all find someone worse than us. If you’re a ten-talent person and you score a seven, you don’t get an A. But if you score a seven and most of the world is a four, the whole world can think you’re a winner, you are doing great, you are awesome, what a mother, what a father, what a worker, what a friend.

But if God – the issue is not: how are you doing relative to any other person? The issue is: how are you doing relative to who God made you? And are you extracting the potential? Because when I get before God, He’s not going to ask me, Well, these other speakers and other pastors, man, they were better than you. He’s only got one question. I deposited a certain amount of gift and talent in you, Chip. How much of it did you extract? How much of it, like the apostle Paul, “I am what I am by the grace of God,” and you went for broke and you disciplined yourself and you were diligent and you did it unto Me and I gave you this much and you really used this much. You didn’t coast on gift, you didn’t compare yourself with other people. You became all I designed you to be.

Because at the end of the day, that will be the measuring stick. Comparison always leads to carnality. The key verse: 2 Corinthians 10:12. The habits are three and they are simple. Habitually choose to view others the way God does, habitually choose to view yourself the way God does, and measure success not by how you do with others, but compared to who God made you to be, and are you fulfilling your potential?

That little principle has been transformational in relating to people in the kind of relationships that I think helps us be like Jesus.