“Never compare your journey with someone else’s. Your journey is your journey, not a competition.” (Unknown)
Competition and Comparison
Everyone has some degree of competitiveness in them. For some, the competitiveness shows through during sports or card games. For others, in grades, awards, and recognition. Still others through the way they drive and even “fight” for the best parking spot at the grocery store.
In that competitiveness inherent in our human nature, we also usually see comparisons at work. It’s the idea that we did something that someone else didn’t, or vise versa, which resulted in the recognition or victory.
We like to get what we think we deserve, and often we determine this based on what we think others deserve or don’t deserve. If the result fails to reflect what we feel fits our expectations and assessment of the situation, we feel cheated or slighted and say or at least think those infamous words, “It’s not fair!”
The story of the vineyard workers in Matthew 20 shows how this fairness mentality really involves a worldly way of thinking. It’s the idea that we should get something simply based on time served (e.g., seniority). But God considers quality over quantity. When we fall short, his grace steps in to more than make up the difference.
When we begin to compare and make assessments based on our views, this story can help us remember that:
- Salvation is all about grace.
“…even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for ALL those who believe; for there is no distinction; for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-24)
- Expectations kill attitudes.
“When those hired earlier came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested…” (Matthew 20:10-11)
- Fairness mentality robs joy.
“He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take it and go. I wanted to pay the last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my own money? Should you be angry because I am kind?’” (Matthew 20:13-16)
Without comparisons, we often would be perfectly content with what we received. Because we compare and calculate based on our finite knowledge, we too often discover dissatisfaction and lose joy. We end up steeling other people’s joy along the way when we crab about their generosity.
Focus on Grace and Mercy
Jesus ends this story in Matthew by saying:
“And so it is, that many who are first now will be last then; and those who are last now will be first then.” (Matthew 20:16)
This indicates a lack of seniority in God’s Kingdom, and it also shows that anyone at any time can enter God’s Kingdom regardless of past history. In other words, man’s idea of ranking and placing and deservedness doesn’t exist in God’s way of thinking.
This statement also contains a directive that can reshape our way of thinking. Instead of looking at others and determining what they or you deserve based on comparisons, can we instead focus on the kindness of the giver? Can we look at the grace and mercy at work in the situation? When we change our focus in this way, I think we can better live in the joy of the Lord.