Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people – even eating with them!
– Luke 15:1-2
We humans love measurements and comparison. Height, weight, dollars, report cards, test scores… There are so many ways that we can fall prey to measuring against others to seek “our place,” or identity in the world:
- I am not the smartest in the room, but probably rank in the 75th percentile…
- I am not that organized, but I am better than so-and-so…
- I don’t read my Bible every day like my friend, but I read it more than my other friend…
Measurements and comparisons typically pop up when we are feeling an underlying dissatisfaction with ourselves in some way. Instead of looking to the source of our value and identity, our Loving Creator, we seek ways in this world to feel better about ourselves.
The Pharisees won all their comparisons. In their own eyes, they were holier, more knowledgeable, and closer to God than Joe Israelite. Paul teaches us, “When they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding” (2 Cor 10:12, CSB). Jesus saw this—the Pharisees lost their true, God-created selves, and took on an identity defined by their perception of their place in the world.
Take an imaginative journey with me for a moment:
Imagine yourself in a space where you are alone. Now imagine that God, Jesus, and God’s Holy Spirit are there with you. Picture God creating you—intentionally selecting just enough of each and every part of you. He assigns you a purpose, declares you “Very Good” (Genesis 1:31) and gives you Jesus to shower you in grace for the rest. No one else is on His mind when He creates you, so He isn’t measuring your strengths or weaknesses against another’s—His giddiness as He gazes at you is because He loves you exactly as He made you—warts and all. You are His child.
Know that every time you enter His presence, this is how He sees you and feels about you. Rest in this Truth for a moment.
Our identity is eternal and reaches far beyond our time in this world. Note that each of the parables in Luke 15 shows the celebration of finding something lost—a sheep, a coin, a son… Now imagine the joy of the Lord when after being lost in worldly comparison, we find our true selves!
The next time you discover that you are comparing yourself with another, try entering God’s presence and allow Him to see you as His delightful child—warts and all. Knowing He intentionally wove all of your traits into you, ask His Holy Spirit to help you learn to see yourself as He sees you and love yourself as He loves you. Thank Him for how He created you.