Paul’s secret for escaping the comparison trap

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you. (2 Corinthians 10:12-13)

We’re in a series exploring four biblical ways to escape the comparison trap—our tendency to weigh ourselves against others until we feel improperly superior or inferior to them.

We’ve already explored two ways to escape the comparison trap. First, confess your pride. Second, thank God for the goodness he has shown to you and to others. 

Today’s passage shows us the third way to escape: Ask yourself if you’re even playing the same game as the person you’re comparing yourself to.

The context of today’s passage is that the Corinthians were comparing Paul to some false preachers (see 2 Corinthians 11:5). Commenting on this passage, one theologian explains that apparently, “Compared to secular orators, Paul was not as entertaining, dramatic, or engaging.”

But Paul refused to compare himself to those other preachers. Why? Because he wasn’t even playing the same game as they were. They were there to preach “a different gospel” (see 2 Corinthians 11:4). Paul was there to preach the one true gospel of Jesus Christ. And so, he said, he would “confine [his] boasting to the sphere of service God himself [had] assigned to [him].”

You and I do the opposite of Paul all the time. Let me give you just one personal example.

My friend Cal Newport writes incredible business books like Deep Work and Digital Minimalism. And he writes for a very broad audience—for Christians and non-Christians alike. 

A couple of years ago, I found myself falling into the comparison trap and growing jealous of Cal. By God’s grace, I realized how ridiculous this was, because “the sphere of service God himself has assigned to” me is far narrower than Cal’s. 

I am called to help Christians connect the gospel to their work. And so, my total potential audience is way smaller than Cal’s. So it makes absolutely zero sense to compare myself to him! Because we aren’t even playing the same game.

Lebron James wouldn’t compare himself to Tiger Woods. Similarly, you and I should realize the foolishness of comparing ourselves to others with different callings.

If you’re comparing yourself to someone else today, Paul shows you one way to escape. Ask if you’re even playing the same game. If you’re not, knock it off. If you are, access some of the other escape routes we’ve already explored in this series or the final one we will unpack next week.


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