“BUT WE URGE YOU, BRETHREN, THAT YOU INCREASE MORE AND MORE; THAT YOU ALSO ASPIRE TO LEAD A QUIET LIFE, TO MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS, AND TO WORK WITH YOUR OWN HANDS, AS WE COMMANDED YOU, THAT YOU MAY WALK PROPERLY TOWARD THOSE WHO ARE OUTSIDE, AND THAT YOU MAY LACK NOTHING. 1 THESS 3:10 –12 “
How beautiful an instruction it is to work with one’s own hands. Whether spoken from King Solomon or Paul, this proverb has spent millennia enjoining its readers, the believers and saints, to remove themselves from all that which distracts from the Kingdom of God and to occupy themselves, instead, with that which builds it. To work with our own hands is to sow the land that God has entrusted to us; it is to nourish the land and be faithful workers submitted to the cause of a faithful Father.
Our greatest call and commission should not fall to the wayside merely to be replaced by the fruitless deeds and habits of the world. We as saints, with perpetual thankfulness, experience how light the burden and easy the yoke of Jesus is. But we nevertheless understand the eternal weight of the task given us by God: to walk properly toward those who are outside. How can we even begin to enact this commission to walk toward others when we are consumed in an endless frenzy of looking at others. We cannot drop our guard and allow ourselves to fall prey to the widespread culture of comparison. As saints a holy vigilance is required of us. A responsibility is on our shoulders to ensure that we are taking the utmost care of our spiritual wellbeing, and tending with great detail the land which God has given us so as to be effective workers in a ripe harvest.
As convenient as it would be to simply blame technology for all of our modern shortcomings and then move on, proud of ourselves for figuring out the problem — we cannot. Comparison is not only as old as Facebook or Instagram. Comparison and its consequences have been around as long as being around could be around — just ask Adam and Eve.
Therefore this culture of comparison cannot be pandered to. It is not effective to feel sorry for ourselves, and if we ignore it, it will not just go away whether from ourselves or our communities or the world. Comparison needs to be dealt with for the mission of God is too great and exciting to do otherwise.
Confronting this culture begins with spiritual diligence concerning ourselves and our communities tending profoundly to the matters of God. We are called to be city on a hill. We cannot look to the world to solve this problem. Instead, the onus is on us, the saints, to live a life worthy of the calling we have received and watchfully protect ourselves from comparison and exhibit the goodness of God to a watching world.
We need to work faithfully in ensuring a Godly environment in which ourselves and our community can be found constantly growing in spiritual maturity. If we see in ourselves a proclivity for comparison it is a branch in dire need of pruning. Paul explains to the Galatians how the saints are to examine themselves first and foremost, and assume responsibility for their own actions. We are to be an example to the world around us so as to win the respect of outsiders. It is in the outworking of our everyday experience that working with our hands proves vital, like leading a quiet life and being concerned with the matters of God and those tasks which He has laid out before us.
With that said, let us earnestly fight the comparative whims of the culture which surrounds us, both in our own lives and our communities, instead aspiring to be a bright light in the world. And may we each concern ourselves with the tailored purposes of God on our own lives, and rest assured in the knowledge that God’s plan for us is far greater than anything worth comparing to.
By Jordan Bell