Have you ever been with a friend who is sharing his or her current challenges, worries or even accomplishments and you tune out and start thinking instead of listening, planning for your turn to say “Oh, that’s nothing compared with what I’m going through”? It’s human nature to connect through sorrow, through joy, through good things. But, sometimes we’re selfishly rehearsing what we’re going to say and we miss the majority of our friend’s conversation. We are about to burst to “top their story”. There is a gift to listening without having to interject any personal tidbit or rant whatsoever. Very few of us are able to do this all of time. Pride joins the conversation. We start to compare our lives to theirs and we come away feeling less than, feeling like life’s unfair, we don’t get what we deserve, and frighteningly, that God is being unfair. If comparison is the thief of joy, surely pride is its partner in crime. When we go from connecting to comparing, then we venture towards discontent and pride. Pride, we know, is destruction.
I’m thinking of Mary and Martha and the excitement of Jesus coming to their home for a visit. The story of Mary and Martha and their reaction to Jesus is a short but mighty story, covering only five verses in Luke, Chapter 10. Verse 38 begins with Martha opening her home to Jesus. Mary greets Jesus adoringly and is, I believe, overwhelmed by his presence. She worships at his feet while Martha is flitting about in the house trying to impress Jesus with all of the preparations she has made and has yet to complete. In verse 40, Martha is so outdone by her sister Mary, she asks the Lord “Don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself. Tell her to help me!” Jesus, of course, gently tells Martha that “few things are needed”, in other words, there is no need for pride, no need for you to outwork or impress me, and I just need your heart, your worship. Imagine having Jesus on the other side of your front door and then to enter into your home; just the thought overwhelms me with hope and a sense of peace. Sadly, imagine Martha angrily telling Jesus “to straighten Mary out”! How then, did Martha so easily go from blessed to bitter? She took her eyes off the blessing of Jesus’ gift of a visit and turned her focus to self. She went from feeling blessed to being bitter in the same way we so often do. She compared her situation to another’s. She kept an account of her effort versus her sister’s. She was prideful.
Be careful when comparisons lead to conflict, when discontent leads to discouragement, when bitterness leads to betrayal. Pride is the path that obstructs the view of grace and of gratitude. Pride blurs the glory of God, of his presence in our everyday. So, next time you have the chance to hear about the good things a friend or one of her children (this is my thorn) has been blessed by God to receive, remind yourself not to compare. Remind yourself not plan how you can get just as much as more or why good things never happen to you even though you work so hard. Remember, comparison is the thief of joy and pride is its partner in crime.