“For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” (1 Corinthians 10:12)
It wasn’t too long ago that I shared about my sense of inadequacy as compared to my African counterparts. So it was nice to be walking and chatting with two women the other day, comparing our native countries, and have one of them say,
“So in America you use some machines for farming. Some have said to me that they do not see you out working the shamba (farm), but it is because you need to practice with the jembe (hoe). Anyway, I tell them that I see you being very busy, doing your own wash and schooling all your children. You are not like many American women here.”
I was tempted to pat myself on the back–and actually, I suppose I did. It’s true–many mzungus here live in gated communities in houses with lots of amenities–even running water and flushing toilets! These things we are happy to do without. Likewise, for many mzungus the cost of a day laborer to wash, cook, clean, and go to market is so cheap (about $1 per day) that, why wouldn’t you hire help? And certainly it is a blessing to the woman who now can put food on her family’s table. But for the moment, I indulged in comparing myself to “other mzungus” and it was nice to feel like I was actually adapting well to a much different style of life and standard of living.
As well, I could easily compare myself to myself. I also recently blogged about how much busier I am here than in Amercia. In that regard, as well as others (such as being content with less and engaging more in the work of the ministry), I compare very well to “myself” of, say, just six months ago. So all the way around, I suppose I have a lot to feel good (self-righteous?) about.
But it didn’t take me long at all to remind myself that neither my “old self” nor others are my true standard of measure. The example of Christ is, and His teachings are. And didn’t He say,
…”you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Yes, we are works in progress. Yes, we need (and receive) much grace. But let us not forget that the purpose of God’s grace is to help us grow in holiness (see Titus 2:11-13). When we compare ourselves with others or even with our own selves, it is easy to make something of our spiritual progress. But if our standard is Christ, of course we fall woefully short. I don’t know about you, but my response to that feeling of inadequacy is to strengthen my resolve to persevere in glorifying my Savior, who is more than worthy of my best effort.