Bible Study: Do You Ever Fall into the Comparison Trap?
Written by Jenn Arman | April 11, 2013
The story of the prodigal son, found in Luke chapter 15, is one of the stories most often preached about from the Bible. I couldn’t even begin to tell you girls how many sermons I’ve heard on this parable; then one day, I heard a sermon that talked about the other son, the “good” son.
Let’s briefly go through the story:
A rich man has two sons. One day, his younger son comes to him and says, “Hey dad, I don’t want to wait until you die. I want my inheritance money now, so let’s say that you’re dead to me already.” The father agrees, and the younger son takes the money and leaves home. The older brother stays with his father and continues to do everything his father asks; he is the “good” son, obedient and faithful.
The younger son travels around, spending his money on whatever he feels like. He spends all of his money on things that would make other people think he was cool.
After the younger son had spent all of his money, a severe food shortage came over the land. When a food shortage happens, the price of food goes way up because people are still trying to make the same amount of money by selling less food. To do this, they have to make the food more expensive (this still happens today).
Well, the younger son had no money to buy food, so he went to work for a pig farmer, where he slept with the pigs and ate what they were eating. I don’t know a lot about what pigs eat, but anything that’s referred to as “slop” can’t be very appetizing.
Finally, one day the younger son realizes that his father’s servants are treated better than he is living. So, he picks himself up and goes back home. He gets home, asks for forgiveness and asks if he can be a servant in his father’s household. The father, who is overjoyed to see him, throws a huge party for his son who has returned. Remember, this is the same son who basically told his father, “You’re dead to me; give me my inheritance money now.”
That’s all great, and it shows God’s heart for those who are lost and His joy when the lost come to know Him. Now, for the other side of the story.
Remember the older son? The “good” son? The faithful and obedient son? Nobody’s throwing a party for him. His younger brother broke their father’s heart, took half his money and ran off to act like a fool. He left his father and older brother with all of his responsibilities and never gave them a second thought until his life hit rock bottom.
Now the older son who’s out in the fields working, as always, hears music and celebration. He learns from a servant that his brother has come home, and instead of being furious, his father is throwing a party!
Does that seem fair to you?
The Bible says that the older brother refused to come to the party. His father begged him, and the older son said,
Look! For so many years I’ve been serving you and I’ve never neglected a command of yours; and yet you’ve never given me a young goat, so I might celebrate with my friend; but when this son of yours came, who’s devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him (Luke 15:29-30).
Don’t we feel like that sometimes? Doesn’t it sometimes feel like God is showing more love and honor to someone who used to despise Him, while those who’ve been faithful their whole lives struggle and work hard?
When we compare ourselves with others, it can make us bitter. The older son didn’t come to the party because he was too busy comparing his faithfulness to his brother’s unfaithfulness. What he should’ve been thinking about was how great it was to know that his brother was safely back, ready to be part of the family again. He couldn’t share in the joy that comes from thankfulness because he was stuck in the bitterness that comes from pride.
It’s important not to compare our relationship with God to others’ relationships with Him. If we do that, we may get competitive and miss out on sharing joy with those we’re supposed to love.
Girls, do you ever compare your walk with God to others’ relationships with Him?
And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found’ (Luke 15:31-32).
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