I know that I have written many times about the sin of pride being expressed by the sin of comparison. One of the best examples of this in all of sacred Scripture is found in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.
The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” (Luke 18:11-12)
This Pharisee is the perfect example of what we are not to do in relationship with others. Instead of praying up to God, he was looking down on others—all others. But there is a time when comparing yourself to others is NOT a sin: that is when we follow the example of the apostle Paul.
“Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me; to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:8)
Paul looked around, and everywhere he looked he saw himself as “less than the least of all God’s people.” Paul was expressing the depth of his absolute amazement in the God who would call him to be an apostle. Paul knew he was an apostle only as a result of God’s unmerited, undeserved favor. In Paul’s eyes, everyone else would have been a better candidate. And so he readily acknowledged that his ministry was simply because of the grace of God that had been poured out into his life.
Paul expressed this grace two other times in the most remarkable ways. In 1 Corinthians 15:9 he stated, “I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle.” Later, he wrote to Timothy, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).
So . . . how do you see yourself in comparison to others? Can you compare yourself to others and not sin, because you see yourself as the least of God’s people—perhaps even as the chief sinner? To be sure, this humility is a wonderful grace from God, and it is available to every one of us if we understand that God’s grace is sufficient for our insufficiency and inadequacy.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!