The Comparison Game

Pastor and best-selling author Max Lucado was interviewed in the Summer 2011 issue of Leadership Journal. Because I feel called to both pastor and write, like Max Lucado, it’s a great temptation to give in to the sin of envy when I think of Max. I suspect his grocery list would sell well. Yes, I have wished I could write like Max Lucado.

In the interview Max said, “Some pastors, like Tim Keller or John Piper, are different than I am, and they excel at reaching those deeper thinkers. I listen to their sermons, and they’re just at a different level. And I think that’s phenomenal. I’m so grateful for people like that. I speak to folks who don’t dwell at that altitude.” (p. 26) Max Lucado is no Tim Keller or John Piper, and he’s OK with that.

Come to think of it, I’ve been tempted to envy the speaking, writing, and pastoral ministries of both Tim Keller and John Piper (both of whom I regularly read) as well as that of Max Lucado! I confess that I can be quite a mess at times.

In the same issue of Leadership Journal Eugene Peterson, another favorite pastor/author of mine, was interviewed. The article includes an excerpt from his book, The Pastor (which I’ve read – excellent!) In the excerpt Peterson writes, “Along the way, I want to insist that there is no blueprint on file for becoming a pastor. In becoming one, I have found that it is a most context-specific way of life: the pastor’s emotional life, family life, experience in the faith, and aptitudes worked out in an actual congregation in the neighborhood in which she or he lives – these people just as they are, in this place. No copying. The ways in which the vocation of pastor is conceived, develops, and comes to birth is unique to each pastor.” (p. 53)

When I’m tempted to play the comparison game I have to remind myself that it’s a game the Lord never calls me to play. When I do I never win in the long run! I’ve struggled with this enough that I did a sermon series on the topic, then self-published the material in a book called, interestingly enough, The Comparison Game.

One of my favorite scriptures to use as an antidote against the sin of envy in the ministry is found in a statement Jesus made to Peter. It occurred after Jesus’ resurrection, when He was walking with Peter and had hinted at how Peter’s life would go in his final days. Peter then asks Jesus about John, who was walking behind them. What would happen to him? Jesus said to Peter,“What is that to you? You must follow me.” (John 21:22)

When I start comparing my writing ministry and/or pastoral ministry to someone else I remember Jesus’ words to Peter, and own them for myself. “What is that to you? You must follow me.”

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