The BIG IDEA:
God is pleased when we understand who we are and look to him to find our value and affirmation instead of comparing ourselves to others.
Comparing ourselves with others can lead to discontentment, discouragement, and jealousy if we think we compare negatively to others, or it can lead to pride and self-righteousness when we think we compare favorably.
Look to God to understand who we are – that we are created uniquely for his purposes and that he alone is the standard to which we should compare ourselves.
How tall are you? How much do you weigh? What kinds of grades do you get? This is how we often measure ourselves; how measure our value. For many of us, the number on the scale tells us if we are good enough or not.
- What I want the group to know and understand: Comparing ourselves to others can rob us of our joy, and cause us to miss out on what God has for us.
- What I want the group to experience: Peace and contentment instead of jealousy or envy.
- How I want the group to respond: By living out of our identity in Christ — choosing to find our worth in what God says is true about us, not in comparing ourselves to others.
The SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TOPIC:
In our culture, people tend to determine their value/worth by how well they stack up to other people in areas like looks, talents, money, and intellect. God says he is the only standard. Comparing can rob us of joy and contentment. Comparing can lead us to make unhealthy decisions.
1) Have you ever taken one of those online quizzes? Like “20 questions that will tell you how long you’d survive on a desert island” or “Which Disney Princess Are You?” Why do you think these quizzes are so popular? If you do these quizzes, do you ever post/share the results with friends? Why or why not? In what ways does social media contribute to comparison?
- Or –
2) Arm wrestling competition – Have your guys arm wrestle each other. See who is the strongest. Make it fun and get everyone involved. Say, “Whether we’re arm wrestling, competing for grades, or trying to look good on social media, we are always tempted to compare ourselves to others. Why is that?”
Let’s look at a couple of passages in the Bible where people compared themselves
1. Read Luke 18:9-14. What is happening in this story? What does the person doing the comparing think about himself?
Allow the group to make observations and discuss. Note: there are two people and groups of people doing the comparing — the people Jesus is talking to, and the Pharisee (religious leader) in the story. The people Jesus is talking to think themselves better than everyone else. The Pharisee is proud that he is a rule-follower, so he judges others.
2. What are the results of comparison in this person’s life?
For the people Jesus is talking to, he calls them out on the attitudes of their heart and lives, and tells a story to make his point. Jesus says that the Pharisee in the story is not the one who is justified before God, but that the one who humbles himself (has a right view of self) is.
3. Read 1 Samuel 18:5-9.
– What is going on in this passage?
– Who is doing the comparing?
This takes place after David killed the giant Goliath in the war with the Philistines. People are celebrating the army’s return from the battle. The people are singing about the victories, but Saul focuses on the fact that they give David more credit than him and becomes angry and jealous.
4. Read more of the story in 1 Samuel 18:20-29.
– According to verses 5-9 and verses 20-29 what are some of the results of comparison in King Saul’s life?
– What other thoughts or observations do you make?
Allow the group to discuss. Some thoughts might be, in a time of celebration, Saul misses out on the joy because he is focused on his jealousy of David. It leads him into sin as he becomes consumed with plotting murder. And it leads to fear. It’s interesting to note that Saul is the king and appears to have everything, yet he can’t enjoy what he has because he is so focused on what he doesn’t have.
5. The last passage mentions that Saul became jealous of David. According to Proverbs 14:30, how does jealousy affect a person?
It can affect a person physically as well as emotionally. The verse says jealousy or envy is like cancer to the bones.
6. What are the similarities between the people in the Luke passage and the 1 Samuel passage?
– How are those similar to the way we compare ourselves to others today?
In both cases people were looking at another person and comparing what they had or did with their own situation. In the case of the Pharisee they thought they compared favorably which led to pride and self-righteousness. In the case of Saul and David, Saul thought he was compared negatively which led to jealousy. Both situations were comparisons, and both led to an attitude of sin. Both also had consequences. Allow the group to discuss similarities they see with today.
7. In what areas are you most likely to compare yourself to others? (ex. body/looks, athletic ability, money and possessions, intelligence, street smarts, etc.)
Allow the group to discuss.
8. When you compare yourself to others, are you more likely to be tempted toward pride and self-righteousness (the result of thinking yourself better than others) or envy and jealousy (the result of thinking you lack what others have)?
Allow the group to discuss.
9. The following quotes are from the Dove Self esteem Project. Read them together as a group and talk about the ways that you can relate to them…
“You think, ‘I’ll just have a quick look!’ – and you’re there for ages. You look at everyone else’s posts and you think: ‘They’re so pretty. Their life is so cool.’ It can make you think everyone is having a better time than you. It can make you feel not good about yourself, because you think: ‘What’s wrong with me? Why aren’t I having that sort of time?’ And what you have to remember is: people post their best moments. No life is high point after high point. Who posts their fat pictures, or their bad hair days? Yep, that’s right – no one.”
“I kept seeing all these cool parties on social media websites, and I was thinking: ‘Wow, they’re just so much fun. Why are all the parties I go to so dull?’ And then I realized: I am AT those parties. They’re dull because they’re full of people just looking at their phones and taking pictures.”
Allow the group to discuss the quotes. You might ask your group if they relate to what these students are saying. You can also ask, “What are the observations that these students are making about social media?” to help them uncover the fact that often the image or idea we are comparing ourselves to is a distortion of reality or only partial reality. Even the images we see on websites, TV, or in magazines aren’t realistic depictions of the people we see there, yet these often lead to unhealthy comparisons.
10. How can knowing the truth about who you are and what God says about you in his Word help guard you from the traps of comparison?
– What are some examples of these truths you can remember when you are tempted to compare yourself?
Allow the group to discuss. Often the reason we compare ourselves to others is because deep inside we are dissatisfied with what we have and who we are. Whether the results of comparison are making ourselves feel better or worse, we do it because of a heart issue inside of us. Many of the things we compare are superficial and surface things, when instead God has given us greater things. If we belong to Christ, we can rest in the fact we have been given a whole new identity. We are part of the family of God, have a new standing and a new destiny! Think about it — God has given us every spiritual blessing in Christ! We don’t need to compare. It’s helpful to remember what’s important and lasting. Most of our comparisons tend to be toward outward things, but God’s word tells us “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7) (If you want some specific verses dealing with truth in specific ways we might compare ourselves, consider 1 Corinthians 1:26-30, Matthew 6:25-33, Romans 12:3, Philippians 1:6, 2 Corinthians 12:9, and many other verses that express truths of our identity in Christ.)
11. What is one truth from this study you want to remember?
Allow the group members to share.
To explore further:
Some other passages in the Bible where comparison plays a role:
What ideas do you have that could improve this study? Are there creative things you do to bring this topic home to your students? Please share with the community clicking the FEEDBACK button or leaving a comment below.