(Summary of the sermon from September 24, 2023)
In last Sunday’s reading, Jesus told a parable (a teaching story) about a guy who owned a vineyard. He went to town at 6 a.m. to hire day laborers for his vineyard. He offered them the standard wage, which is paid with a coin called a “denarius.” The workers agreed and went to work. The owner of the vineyard went back to town at 9 a.m. and hired more workers, telling them that he would pay them fairly. He did the same thing at 12 noon, at 3 p.m. and even at 5 p.m., an hour before quitting time. When it came time to pay the workers, the owner paid a full denarius to the workers who only worked an hour. The workers hired at 6 a.m. got excited because they figured that they would get more. But the vineyard owner paid them exactly what they agreed to — a denarius. After that, they were mad.
Here’s the question: would the workers hired at 6 a.m. have been angry if there were no other workers to compare their wages to? The answer is clearly, “no.” It is simply the comparison that robbed them of the joy they would have had for getting a full day of work.
Comparison is the thief of joy. You’ve experienced it. You know it. But how do you stop comparing your life, your car, your vacations, your kids, your whatever with those around you in a way that diminishes your joy?
Comparing can lead not just to unhappiness but to bad behavior and consequences. Cain killed Abel because he was comparing himself to his brother. Even the temptation of Adam and Eve can be looked at through the lens of comparison. “You will be like God,” Satan told Eve.
Here are 3 things to keep in mind to move away from comparing yourself to other people.
- EMBRACE GRACE. In the parable, everyone in the vineyard was there by the invitation of the owner. In the Christian church, we are all here by God’s grace. Nobody has earned a place or will keep a place by their works. For everyone, everywhere, at all times, our welcome in the family of God is purely by God’s mercy through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul writes that it’s either grace or it isn't. There’s no in-between. "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise, grace would no longer be grace." (Romans 11:6 (ESV)) Comparison leads to either self-righteousness or self-pity. If it’s all grace for all of us, then comparison is out the window.
- LOVE LIKE JESUS. Jesus told us the mark of his disciples would be that we would love others as he has loved us. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that “love is not jealous.” Jesus said that if we want to be children of God, we should love like rain. God doesn’t discriminate on who gets rain. It falls on everyone. And so should our love.
- EMBRACE THE IDEA OF GIFTEDNESS. So often our comparison has to do with the individual gifts we have been given or not given. You can certainly take pride in a job well-done that you worked hard on. But that is not in comparison to others. You didn’t choose your place or family of birth. You didn't choose your natural talents. You have no idea of the internal or external struggles of other people. In the end, there is simply no comparison between two people… between any two people. It’s always apples to oranges.
So, in the end, the Bible tells us that God loves everyone and showers grace on everyone. You are uniquely gifted. So let go of the comparison. It is the thief of joy. You be you as a forgiven, beloved, and uniquely gifted child of God… because that is who you are.