If we’re completely honest with ourselves, I’m sure we’ve all fallen into it before. In our human weakness, it’s not uncommon for us to sometimes look at other people and secretly wish that we had some of their talents, skills, success, blessings or _______ (you fill in the blank). And if it’s any consolation, even some of the heroes we read about in the bible were guilty of it too. But there is a reason why this kind of behavior can be dangerous, especially in the Christian walk.
The Apostle Paul teaches us that we are all members of one body, and we all have unique functions and gifts. (See 1 Corinthians 12:4-13 and Romans 12:4-8). To some God gives the gift of serving, to others He gives the gift of evangelizing, to some He gives the gift of encouragement, to others He gives the gift of teaching, to some He gives the gift of vision/creativity, to others He gives the gift of music/singing, etc. There are so many different gifts that God bestows upon His children, and all of them are just as equally important and purposeful as the others. No one is better than any other, and no one is more important that any other either. We all have a contribution to make. But we can’t be effective with our contribution if we are unsatisfied with the gifts we have been given, or if we desire other people’s gifts that were not made for us to have.
Take Miriam for example. In Numbers chapter 12, there is a story about Miriam that reveals some of the dangers of the comparison trap. Miriam was secretly jealous of her brother Moses’ unique leadership position over the Israelites and his special face-to-face relationship with God. Although God had given Miriam her own unique gifts and talents (she was a prophetess and a spokesperson whom God was using in great ways after the Israelites’ freedom from slavery in Egypt) she fell into the comparison trap. Instead of being grateful for the ways that God was already using her, she let her jealousy take over and tried to cover it up as disapproval of Moses’ wife. Although this may have been a true concern of hers, the real deeper issue was that she wanted what Moses had, and she felt like she deserved more credit than she was getting. We see later in the story that when she actually spoke up against Moses and tried to assert her authority, God immediately came down and dealt with the confrontation. And as discipline for her behavior, God struck her with leprosy and she had to be segregated from the camp for 7 days.
Now keep in mind that God’s discipline of Miriam was to draw her nearer to Him, and to strengthen her relationship with Him. Just as a parent must discipline their children when they act out or disobey, God must do the same with His children. His discipline is always for our benefit and protection. God does not like to see division among his people, and when we begin comparing ourselves with others or become envious of what others have, we take our eyes of what we already do have and the unique gifts that He has bestowed on us. I believe that Miriam learned her lesson that day and was humbled as a result of it. And we must learn the lesson too. Just imagine how much more beautifully the church could function if we were so busy uplifting and one another and using the unique gifts that we have been given to serve, that we had no time to pick each other (or ourselves) apart. Now I believe that is exactly the kind of church that Jesus wants to come back for!