Ask people if they'll go to heaven after they die and many will say, "Yes." If asked why, they often say something like, "Because I'm a good person, and I try to do good."
It's just possible that, much of the time, a person may look pretty good in comparison to some others. But other comparisons are not so favorable.
Ask Christians how to please God, and you're likely to get a similar answer. But how good is good?
The problem of comparisons
Comparing ourselves to others is an inherently weak and futile effort. Though you may find favorable ones, unfavorable comparisons are inevitable.
[bctt tweet=" Comparing ourselves to others is an inherently weak and futile effort" username="tkbeyond"]
Of course, when we compare ourselves with God, we lose every time. Think not? Try comparing yourself to Jesus, the Son of God. It shouldn't take long to see your dilemma.
A common Christian test is inserting your name in place of "love" in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
We're told by the Bible, mentors, psychologists, and talk-show hosts, not to compare ourselves with others. But try as we may, we still make comparisons to see how we measure up.
"Am I better looking than... smarter than... thinner than... kinder than...?" And on it goes. We seem powerless to stop it. As the apostle points out, it's an unwise thing to do.
We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. (2 Co 10:12 NIV)
Trying to measure up
Not long ago, I did a home inspection that had height measurements marked off with dates on a wall. This helps answer the question, "Am I growing taller?"
But how do we measure ourselves when it comes to spiritual growth? If we compare ourselves to others, it's only a matter of time before we don't measure up in some way.
Trying to measure ourselves on the basis of behavior or habits, or any similar metric, is also futile. Why? Because we're using the wrong metric.
Evaluating a person's moral behavior is not a measurement of their spiritual growth. As the common saying goes—it's like comparing apples to oranges. Morality is based on performance, while spiritual growth can only be measured by eternal qualities.
So, how do we determine spiritual growth? Perhaps a better question is, why do we need to measure it at all?
[bctt tweet=" Why do we need to measure spiritual growth at all?" username="tkbeyond"]
Beyond our reach
A young, wealthy man came to Jesus with a question about how to inherit eternal life. He addressed Jesus as, "Good teacher (rabbi)..." (Mark 10:17-25).
Jesus asked back, "Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone" (Mark 10:18 NIV).
True goodness is out of reach for us mere mortals. It is an eternal quality.
So, should we just give up on all of this? Yes and no.
We need to give up measuring and comparing ourselves when it comes to spiritual growth. But we need spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is the indicator we have that spiritual life is going on within us, but how do we gauge it?
In the story with the young wealthy man, Jesus instructs him to leave all his wealth to become one of His followers. This young man claimed to have kept the Mosaic Law since childhood.
Jesus didn't debate Him on this, but went to the core of what the man trusted in—himself and his wealth.
Even if we claim to be righteous in a moral sense, we still fall short of God's goodness (Rom 3:10-12).
Some good news
Thankfully, no one needs to obtain moral perfection to gain entrance into God's presence. Jesus did this with His life on earth and through the cross—His death and resurrection (Matt 5:17; Rom 10:4; Heb 9:11-14; 10:10). This message of redemption (the gospel) is echoed throughout the Scriptures.
But... how do we know if we're growing spiritually?
As pointed out before, we don't need to measure spiritual growth, but we need to grow spiritually. But, how can we tell if it's happening?
The answer is pretty simple. If we go back to the story of the young rich man (Mark 10:17-25), we see what Jesus said to him—to sell all he had and follow Jesus.
Many messages based on this story focus on what the man was to give up, but this misses the main point. Jesus was inviting this young man into relationship.
When we enter into a genuine relationship with God, spiritual growth comes naturally (John 15:5-8).
[bctt tweet="When we are in relationship with God it will be obvious to others" username="tkbeyond"]
We don't need to make comparisons, we need to continue in a personal, fruitful relationship with Jesus—the Vine (John 15:1). Then our spiritual growth will be natural and evident, even to others.
This is a revision of an earlier post a couple of years ago, as a follow-up to last week's post—What Does It Mean to Flourish?