“Comparison steals joy.” Have you ever heard that saying? How many times have you been content with where you are in life until you are scrolling through social media, and suddenly, you’re left feeling like you don’t have the right things? Or that you aren’t doing important things? Or that you simply aren’t enough? I know I have. It’s during these times that I must remind myself that rather than comparing myself to others, I have a specific part to play in this world that is unique. We all do. I am part of the Body of Christ. It’s taken me years to identify what my role within the church is, and to find contentment and purpose there.
I teach at a Christian school, and this year our theme was “Together as One.” Our yearlong focus was on Ephesians 4. It is in this chapter that Paul reminds the Ephesian church to walk together in unity. He teaches that we are ONE body within ONE Spirit called to ONE hope in Jesus. And within all this “oneness,” we each have a role to play. Paul encourages us that we must “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.” We have each been called to a specific role within the body of Christ, and sometimes it can be hard figuring out exactly what that is.
Last year, my son was involved in a high school theater production. While he participated, many of us parents volunteered behind the scenes to make the show run successfully. I signed up to be a “worker bee.” My job was to help where needed, to run errands, and do odd jobs. Before opening night, I was in the bustling dressing room beneath the stage. I watched a handful of other parents as they pieced together costumes that needed last-minute help. They were so creative. Their mind’s eye knew what the costume should portray, and they were crafty enough to create it. Upstairs, busy hands finished painting the sets, and others worked on the lights and the sound. Intermission snacks for the actors were being prepared, the ticket booth readied, and the concession stand prepped. I loved seeing how the musical came together by everyone doing what they are good at—and enjoyed doing—including the actors and the director. It was a beautiful thing to observe. The show could not have run without all hands on deck. When deciding where to volunteer, I had to consider that I am not super crafty or creative, nor am I great with my hands, but I am good at getting things done when someone needs a task completed. And that was why I volunteered to be a runner and not a seamstress. While there are skills that I know I can learn, some things come naturally to me because I am made that way.
In the book of Ephesians, Paul exhorts and encourages the church to walk in unity. In Ephesians 4:7 he says, “to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (NKJV). Each Christian is given a particular gift of grace to benefit the church. Each one of us! A “spiritual gift” is defined as “an ability to express, celebrate, display and so communicate Christ in a way that builds up and strengthens the faith of other Christians and enlarges the church.”1 It can also be classified as loving, practical helpfulness. Often, we overcomplicate this. We think that because we aren’t the pastor teaching the Scriptures, or the worship leader guiding us in song, that we don’t have a specific role to play in the church. But God says he has given us each a way to contribute so that the church can move the kingdom of God forward. So, what is yours? Is it making food? Encouraging others with your words? Setting up for an event? Organizing outreach events? Typing up programs? Having lunch with a younger friend? Being a listening ear? Each of these gifts are necessary to making the body of Christ successful in looking beautiful to the world around it. Paul says, “every part does its share, causing growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16 NKJV). Some may be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, or teachers.
Why should we discover and live out our role within the body of Christ? Paul answers this question in Ephesians 4:12-16: “for the equipping of the saints . . . that we . . . may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (NKJV). Believers are not given gifts for their own benefit. No one can mature in their faith in isolation. We are given gifts to contribute our part to the church so that we can build one another up and move the kingdom of Jesus forward together.
Just as the human body has many parts and all parts were created to work together perfectly, the same goes for within our churches. No one role is more important than another because they all have specific roles to make the body work. We can’t all be pastors and worship leaders. We need people to make the coffee, greet newcomers, organize small groups, and to teach the little kids. We need encouragers and mentors. Let’s stop comparing and find our place within the body. There is so much freedom in figuring out if you are a seamstress or a worker bee. Discovering our role helps us to cheer on the people running beside us rather than comparing ourselves to them. When we root for our teammates, encouraging and cheering them on, we will move the kingdom forward together.
So, is it true? Does “comparison steal our joy”? Yes, it does. It’s okay to look left and right in order to root for our teammates and spur them on, but the second we start comparing ourselves to them, we forget our divine purpose within the body. Let’s run side by side in our own lanes with arms linked for the same purpose. When we do this, God’s kingdom purposes move forward, and we experience true joy.
Reflection and Application
- Do you know that God has given YOU a gift? If not, take some time to consider this truth. He has not left anyone wanting. He has a specific reason for gifting you in a particular way. Start by thinking about what you are naturally good at. What do you like to do? Often our gifts are hidden within our natural desires and pleasures. What brings you joy?
- How can you use your gift to build up the body of Christ? How can you love and serve others with your gifts?
- Take a minute to look left and right. How are your friends’ giftings different from yours? How can you encourage them to grow and share their gifts with others to benefit the Body of Christ? What are some ways that you can link arms with them and root them on?
A Note from the Editor
The staff at Lifeway has created a helpful spiritual gift assessment tool to help you discover your gifts and where to serve. Take the survey to discover your gifts here.
1 Knox Chamblin et al., s.v. “Spiritual Gift,” New Geneva Study Bible: Bringing the Light of the Reformation to Scripture : New King James Version. (United States: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), 1867.
Photo credit: Emilee Carpenter
Amy is a Cincinnati native. She met her husband in high school, and married young. They have four kids: one in college and three teenagers busy at home. Teaching has always been one of her passions, so she spends her days with 4th graders teaching them to find their voice through writing. She loves Jesus with all of her heart and knows that her calling in life is love God and love others well. Amy loves colorful food, coffee with friends, being in nature, and playing music with family.