The Comparison Trap: Luke 15:11-32

Focus Passage: Luke 15:11-32 (NIV)

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Read Luke 15:11-32 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Comparing ourselves to others is a temptation we all face sooner or later. In our world today, it is hard not to compare what we have, such as our house, our car/truck, our income, or any number of other things to what others have around us.

It even gets trickier when we compare our relationships to other people’s relationships. Comparing my marriage to your marriage, or my relationship with my daughter with your relationship to your children is only a losing scenario.

But perhaps the most subtle comparison trap we can fall into is comparing our relationship with God to someone else’s relationship. There are no winners with this sort of comparison.

And that is what brings us to our passage for this journal entry. In one of Jesus’ most famous parables is hidden a truth regarding the dangers of the comparison trap. While reading/studying the Prodigal Son parable, I could find only two examples of comparison present.

The first place is in verse 17: “When he [the younger son] came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!’

This first example of comparison is internal. While technically it is comparing, the younger son realizes how the lowest servants were treated by his father. They probably were doing the same type of work he was doing, but the environment was way better. His Father treated them with respect.

This first comparison isn’t looking up or down on someone, but instead looking at the present circumstances we are in. It is only by objectively and honestly looking at where we are in life that we will ever choose something different – and that includes repenting and moving closer to God.

The second comparison is not at all like the first. It is found near the end of the parable in verses 29 and 30: “But he [the older son] answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

This second example of comparison is directly comparing a relationship: The older son is comparing his relationship to the father and how He was treated to the younger son’s disrespect, rebellion, and now celebration. The older brother is mad, not because there was a party happening, but because the reason for the party slams into the comparison game he had been playing all these years, because after all, he was the son who stayed.

But this brings us to God’s subtle truth in this parable: God wants a personal relationship with each one of us. The Father personally welcomed the younger son home, and the Father personally went out to talk with the older brother who would not enter the party. God is seeking a unique, personal relationship with each one of us – with no comparison games present.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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