When I was young I was always the kid who wanted to compare test scores with my peers. You know, the annoying one who asks, “So…what’d you get on the math test?” I was competitive, and I wanted to make sure my grades were at least on par. If I came up short, I often got mad. And jealous.
Truthfully, I haven’t changed all that much, except now I’m a big kid, and my competitiveness shows up not in weekly arithmetic and spelling quizzes but in my career as a writer. My question isn’t, “What’d you get on the grammar test?” but “How many books did you sell this year?” Or “How many Facebook followers do you have?” Or “Who is endorsing your book?”
I don’t always verbalize these questions out loud, but more often than not, I’m thinking them in my head. And if I suspect I am coming up short in comparison, I often react the same way I did as a kid. I get mad. And jealous.
This, of course, is not only infantile, shallow behavior, it’s also short-sighted. When I focus on my accomplishments, or lack thereof, compared to someone else’s, I lose sight of the big picture. I supplant God’s vision of his kingdom here on earth with my own self-interested goals and desires.
God has a clear vision for what his kingdom on earth should and will look like, and he has a job for each one of us to help bring this vision to fruition. In God’s plan, the specifics of who is doing what don’t matter nearly as much as the fact that we are working collaboratively toward one common goal.
Paul put it this way to the Corinthians:
“It’s not important who does the planting and who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together for the same purpose.” (1 Corinthians 3:7-8).
In other words, in my little world as a writer, what’s important isn’t how many books I sell compared to her, or how many Facebook followers I have compared to him, but that I am working together with my peers for the same purpose: to help God grow his kingdom on earth.
I know how easy it is to get caught up in the comparison game. I know how quickly we can tumble into the pit of insecurity, resentment, and envy. But I also know that training our gaze on our own successes and failures compared to those of our peers does nothing to help further God’s kingdom.
Maybe your job is to plant or to water. Maybe it’s to till the soil, spread fertilizer, pull weeds, or harvest the bounty. Considered in and of itself, your contribution may seem small and unimportant, but remember this: God is using your work to grow his kingdom here on earth.
Only God can take the life within the seed and bring it forth into blooms and fruit, but your small piece – your planting or watering, your tilling or fertilizing – is an important and necessary part of that process.
Let’s not lose sight of our greater purpose. Together, my hand in yours, our hands in God’s, we are helping him grow something beautiful.