Let’s say you step on an elevator. You need to get to the top floor, so you hit the button expecting to get to where you want. As you travel up, the elevator makes several stops along the way. Soon you are joined by a nun, a mother carefully looking after two little ones, some sort of criminal accompanied by an officer, and a guy appearing to be completely down on his luck and clearly running away from some issues. You look around, being careful not to make any direct eye-contact, making your own judgments and assumptions of the company that has now crowded the area. The nun makes you think of the different religious activity that you’ve been involved in. You think back to memory verses, Sunday school classes, and service projects with great fondness. You enjoyed those good things and are reminded to get back to them again. You watch as the children begin to fidget. You hope that they stay in line and don’t make this ride any more uncomfortable than it has to be. You know that you aren’t the best parent around but you better believe that your kids knew who was in charge. “Not like kids today,” you think to yourself. As you continue on your ascent, you feel a sense of gratitude that you’re not one of these individuals and pride for who you are when suddenly, “CRACK!”, the cords to the elevator snap. For a moment, everything is suspended in the air but then reality sets in as your stomach seems to shift into your chest and the elevator car plummets downward. Now, let me ask you a couple of questions, in this scenario who is going down and will anyone be exempt from what awaits at the bottom of the elevator shaft? The answers are simply, everyone is going down and no one can escape. In that moment, there’s no comfort in how each person compares to the other – the same is true in our salvation.
Jesus told a story about a Pharisee who tried to find comfort in comparing. He viewed others with contempt and when he prayed, he said things like, “God, I thank You that I am not like other people…” (Luke 18:11). He trusted in the things that he did and how well he stacked up to those around him. His mindset was, sadly, much like the attitude and approach of many today, “As long as I look better than those around me then I’ll be alright.” One truth that Scripture makes clear is, goodness is not relative. There is only One that is good. He is the Lord (Mark 10:18). There’s no other standard that we can go by but Him and when we measure ourselves by Him, we find that “there is none righteous” and “there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Romans 3:10, 12). We also see our need as the other character in Jesus’ story did when he cried out, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Luke 18:13).
The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done, we are all headed to death for our sin. Rather than looking for comfort in comparing, we need the true comfort that comes in Christ. The promise of the gospel is that when we trust in Jesus, we have His righteousness. We are covered by His goodness, His works, and His person to the point that God looks at us as He does His very own Son. The only answer for our sin is not seeing how it compares to others, it is confessing it to the Lord and trusting in what Jesus did to pay for and deal with it at the cross. May you find comfort in the goodness of Christ and the rescue that He is!